“I always knew that this is a very complex issue and that I don’t want to go for the easy victory. And I think this is what you can very much see in the structure in how we run Germany Close Up.”
— Dr. Dagmar Pruin
Every year Germany Close Up brings 250 Jewish Americans to visit Berlin and get a close up look at a country that plays an outsized, terrifying role in their history. Learn in this interview with Dr. Dagmar Pruin about the experiences that led her to launch Germany Close Up in 2007, how over 2500 participants have added complex nuance to her views of German-Jewish relations, and the critical role this program plays in a time of fraying transatlantic ties.
“Let us not kid ourselves: These 22 volunteers alone are not going to transform the transatlantic relationship. And yet! Through their individual relationships that they build here, through the experiences that they get here, they are hopefully learning about discrimination, they are hopefully learning about political action, they are hopefully learning about the importance of intercultural communication and this transatlantic relationship that we’re talking about, and they’re taking it back to Germany, where they become part of a pool of people who share those values.”
— Mark McGuigan
Mark McGuigan is the US Program Director for Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, an organization formed in 1958 so that Germans could offer volunteer service as a means of atonement in countries affected by Germany’s role in World War II. Mark and I discuss the history and significance of Action Reconciliation Service for Peace on the occasion of its 50th anniversary of volunteer service in the United States.
“Listen and do your best to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That trait is the thing that has saved lives. It’s when people cut themselves off from that recognition of the other person as a human being — that is what gets degraded when we move toward mass atrocities: one of the first steps is to remove the humanity of the other person. And so that’s a little act of resistance right there . . . to look across and see that humanity in the people around you.”
— Kate English
Kate English is the executive director of the Educators Institute for Human Rights. EIHR is an organization made up of teachers, most of whom are in the classroom full-time, who work to heal communities such as Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia in the wake of mass atrocities. Learn in this episode how we all benefit from teachers focusing on human rights, genocide prevention and holocaust education.
“It’s important to listen both to understand the details of what happened, because remembering the victims and accepting the truth is important to survivor communities, and it’s also important just to make sure people feel heard. Sometimes it’s important for closure, sometimes it’s important as part of a process, sometimes it’s important for reasons that I’m not really sure of. But it is a very small thing we can do and it is meaningful.”
— Arthur Traldi
Arthur is a war crimes prosecutor who has worked on the international criminal tribunes for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. In November of 2017 the international criminal tribune for the former Yugoslavia obtained a conviction for war crimes and genocide case against Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić. In this conversation you will learn how a genocide case is built and why it matters that we prosecute them.
"I always like to say 'Stay vocal, stay local,' that focusing on the issues in your most immediate community . . . it never seems to get the recognition it deserves but it's always the most transformative role that we can play in our society."
Albert Cahn serves as the legal director for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Albert's work recently resulted in his being barred from speaking at the temple his family has belonged to for generations. In this conversation, we speak about why it matters to civil society that interfaith relations make an effort to stretch well beyond what most people consider safe.
Everybody's going to have to do tax planning now. At least for the first year or two — to see what, if anything, they can do to reduce their tax obligation. Even if they're going to get a savings automatically, just from being who they are with the tax laws the way they're going to be, there may be additional opportunities for them to save even more.
— Richard Chisholm
Richard Chisholm is a partner with tax law firm WardChisholm, P.C. In this interview we discuss the implications for taxpayers and society of the 2017 tax reform.
A democracy cannot function if you basically have a political civil war: The sense that politics is a zero-sum game, where one side loses everything and the other wins everything, and it's all about winning against the other side. That can bring you political wins for a certain amount of time, but it doesn't stabilize democracy itself and it doesn't lead to more what in Germany we call sozialer Friede — 'social peace,' a sense of togetherness.
— Bastian Hermisson
Bastian Hermisson is the executive director of Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, a political foundation affiliated with the German Green Party. In this conversation, we discuss the origins of German political foundations and the work they do to foster an engaged citizenry.
"Take a look at the mirror. Reflect on the values and the traditions that have brought what I would call the Transatlantic Civilization into existence as a civilization that has ensured individual rights and liberties and economic success to billions of people around the world."
— Dr. Aykan Erdemir
Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In this episode we discuss the intersection of religion and politics, focusing on what happens when political elites use religion as a pretext for personal enrichment. This phenomenon has recently been named kleptotheocracy. Find out how to spot nascent kleptotheocracy in your midst and what you can do to prevent its spread.
One of the things that will be incredibly important this year, in 2018, is everyone's action to vote. And to vote out the people who don't support our issues and vote in the people who do. Because this year has really shown people that politics touches your life, whether or not you like it. It is so important to use your vote and civic responsibility to have it touch you in a positive way.
— Bettina Hager
Bettina Hager is the COO and DC Director of the ERA Coalition. A near-total majority of Americans believes men and women should enjoy equal protection under the constitution. Paradoxically, the greatest obstacle to the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment that would enshrine this equality in the U.S. constitution is the mistaken belief, by over 80% of Americans, that this protection is already guaranteed. Learn about the history of the Equal Rights Amendment and find out what you can do to ensure its passage in our time.
We couldn't have a clearer case for action to address the plight of the Rohingya, because of the level of persecution, because of the concerns of genocide. There is so much moral and legal clarity to do something. But what we can actually do, and the scope of it, seems nebulous and complicated in this particular context. But, that being said, it shouldn't paralyze us into doing nothing.
— Katherine Southwick
Katherine Southwick is a Visiting Scholar at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She focuses on rule of law, ethnic conflict, and statelessness. In this interview we discuss the political conflict in Myanmar with a spotlight on the Rohingya minority.
"It's not like there's a Latino voice, or Latino voices and Jewish voices. You have in front of you people who are the combination of the Jewish with the Latino and the Latin American. So it's not like we put on a hat, 'and now we're speaking Latino,' and then we put on another hat, 'and now we're speaking Jewish.' . . . That orchestration is done by bridges: By being bridges and by building bridges."
— Stephanie Guiloff
Dina Siegel Vann and Stephanie Guiloff lead the American Jewish Committee's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. We discuss the fluidity of American identity, the richness that this fluidity engenders, and the power we wield when we unite the many facets of our American identity in the political arena.
Ajla Delkic is the executive director for the Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this conversation we discuss the Council's work advocating on behalf of Bosnia's inclusion in NATO as well as countering genocide denial and the revision of history.
Mohamed Abubakr is the president of the African Middle Eastern Leadership Project. As modern life chips away at the distances between countries, Mohamed sees grassroots activists from Africa and the Middle East as the people best equipped to inform U.S. engagement within their countries. His work with the African Middle Eastern Leadership Project is to connect these grassroots activists directly to U.S. policymakers.
Peter Weltman is an activist sommelier with a vision for borderless wine. In pursuit of this vision, Peter challenges us to venture outside of traditional wine regions, discover less known viticultural gems, and spend our money on wines whose production makes the world a better place.
John K. Glenn is the director of policy at the US Global Leadership Coalition. In this interview we discuss how the aims of US foreign policy have evolved from the Marshall Plan in the late 1940s, through the end of communism in the 1990s and the response to 9/11 throughout the 2000s, and the advent of polarization that makes it so hard for people to talk to each other today.
There's nothing more important than being true to your community, knowing how you fit in to your community, and what your responsibilities are to your community.
— Anka Lee
Anka Lee is a senior director at the Albright Stonebridge Group. In this interview we discuss how pivotal events like the Great Depression, the Vietnam War and the September 11th attacks have the power to shape the mindset of an entire generation. Questions we cover: What are the long-term policy implications of these formative events? How do different generations who see the world through very different eyes engage each other on the political stage? What does it mean to be an American?
Today survival — peace, nonviolence — really depends not just on the internal communities you belong to but the communities we can form that are global communities.
— Justin Hefter
Ammoun Dissi and Justin Hefter discovered that people on opposite sides of the same conflict, in regional conflicts around the world, are more likely to be playing the same computer games than gamers in other parts of the world. Recognizing an opportunity to exploit this common ground their company Bandura Games develops cooperative gaming platforms that enable gamers who might otherwise view each other as enemies to come together as friends.
The History of Japanese-American incarceration in the United States is, I think, one of the clearest examples of what happens when we ignore the United States Constitution.
— Rose Masters
Rose Masters is a Park Ranger specializing in oral history at Manzanar National Historic Site. In this interview Rose talks about the conditions that led to the signing of Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the eviction of ethnically Japanese Americans from the Western United States and the incarceration of nearly 70,000 American citizens.
Learn how this episode destroyed a pioneering American agricultural community and what we can do to avoid repeating in the future what President Gerald Ford called a "setback to fundamental American principles."
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We brought a leadership group together that wants to get things done. We quickly decided to be very pragmatic. And people from other countries don’t get this. I promise you, they don’t get this — I don’t care whether they’re from the Middle East or from Europe: They think that we have to discuss, as a first matter, and solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, otherwise these two communities can’t get together. And that turns out to be false.
— Bob Silverman
Bob Silverman is the American Jewish Committee's U.S. Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations. In this interview Bob discusses the doctrinal similarities between Judaism and Islam, his work forming the national Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, and concrete actions you can take to build and maintain strong and useful interfaith bridges in your own community.
Throughout our conversation Bob underscores the power of pragmatism that allows people who may hold strong differences of opinion on one set of issues to nevertheless cooperate on separate issues of shared concern.
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Immigration affects every aspect of American life. How and where does impact you? What are the implications of US immigration policy on your life?
Varsha Kayi and Lindsey Wilkes, managing partners of immigration law firm Kayi & Wilkes, discuss two sets of executive orders: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States and Border Security and Immigration Improvements, both issued January 25th, 2017, as well as the Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, issued January 27th, 2017.
Find out what you need to know and what actions you can take to lend material support to immigrants in your life — people that you may not know need your help; people that it may be remarkably easy to help in ways that — no exaggeration — will change their life.
What role does Social Security Insurance play in holding together the fabric of society? How does it benefit children and the disabled? Why is it constantly under attack on Capitol Hill? *
Discussing these questions for this episode is Alex Lawson (@alaw202). Alex is the director of Social Security Works, an organization dedicated to protecting and improving the economic status of disadvantaged and at-risk populations. Alex details concrete action steps that you can take to defend Social Security Insurance against existential threats. *
In this interview, Alex recommends reading the book Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All: http://amzn.to/2hK0tHX *