2020 Winner AARP Purpose Prize
Highly respected interreligious relations leader for 30 years.
Founder & President, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding – go-to organization for combatting religious prejudice; education programs designated International Best Practice; pioneering religious diversity workplace programs and work with numerous Fortune 500 companies.
Founder, Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees – delivered more than $150 million of aid directly into Syria benefitting more than 1.2 million war victims; established ground-breaking partnerships between Syrians and Israelis.
Co-Founder, Global Covenant Partners – focus on delegitimizing the use of religion to justify violent extremism.
Served in the U.S. State Department Religion and Foreign Policy initiative’s working group on conflict mitigation, tasked with developing recommendations for the U.S. Secretary of State on countering religion-based violence.
Award-winning criminologist who developed Full Service Neighborhood Team Policing program – the subject of a two-day seminar at Harvard University, two national awards, and a $2MM national training and demonstration project of Law Enforcement Assistance Administration.
Founder and President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, Dr. Bennett is a sociologist by training who has spent the nearly 30 years advancing interreligious relations. She founded Tanenbaum in 1992. Under her leadership, it has become the go-to organization for practical, cutting-edge programs that combat religion-based hatred and misunderstanding in schools, workplaces, areas of armed conflict and healthcare settings.
She initiated Tanenbaum’s signature programs in all these areas. Its education programs were designated an International Best Practice and the Peacemakers in Action program has advanced the field of religion and conflict resolution. Tanenbaum’s healthcare programs have pioneered the religious dimension of patient-centered care. The Tanenbaum Center literally wrote the Medical Manual on Religio-Cultural Competency, which has been distributed to more than 100,000 healthcare providers in the U.S. and is also available electronically.
In 2013, Dr. Bennett founded the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, utilizing the moral authority of religious leaders to mobilize support for alleviating the suffering of Syria’s war victims. Today, there are over 100 constituent organizations in the Alliance and it has delivered more than $150 million of aid into Syria.
Dr. Bennett was also a founding Board member of Global Covenant Partners, the umbrella for the Global Covenant of Religions, where she served as Treasurer. GCR is made up of an international group of top interfaith leaders who are working to delegitimize the use of religion as a justification for violent extremism. In addition, Dr. Bennett served in the U.S. State Department Religion and Foreign Policy initiative’s working group on conflict mitigation, which was tasked with developing recommendations for the U.S. Secretary of State on countering religion-based violence. Most recently, Dr. Bennett joined the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, Inter Jewish Muslim Alliance, and the International Office of Jewish Partnerships.
Dr. Bennett is a 2020 recipient of the prestigious AARP Purpose Prize. In the previous year, she was honored by the New York University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with the Alumni Achievement Award and was awarded the Global Impact Award in from a joint initiative of the Society for International Development (SID) Israel, Walla! News, OLAM, and additional partners. Among many other honors, the Syrian American Medical Society recognized her for her work on behalf of Syrian refugees. During the same month, she was invited to give the inaugural lecture to launch the Faith Centre at the London School of Economics (LSE). Dr. Bennett’s presentations at LSE, Cambridge University, the Chautauqua Institute, and with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at New York University are but a few of the many distinguished venues where she has been invited to speak. Dr. Bennett delivered the keynote address at the 2015 NGO Conference at the United Nations, calling on NGOs and the UN to respond to the Syrian refugee disaster and a growing global migration crisis. Since the arrival of COVID-19 and the many civil changes it has wrought, Dr. Bennett has been speaking for numerous organizations on their virtual programs, including the Institute for Islamic, Christian, Jewish Studies and the 92Y.
An active philanthropist, Dr. Bennett focuses her personal charitable activities on conflict resolution and intergroup relations. She also serves as Trustee of the Polonsky Foundation in London, which funds higher education and the arts. The Polonsky Foundation provides lead funding for numerous projects that digitize rare manuscripts at institutions including Oxford University, Cambridge University, the Hebrew University, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the New York Public Library, the British Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and the Vatican Library, among others.
Dr. Bennett serves on the board of the Jewish Funders Network, where she is the immediate past Chair, former Vice Chair, Chair of the Membership Committee, and co-chair of the 2015 Annual Conference. She is on the board of Third Way and is an Overseer of the International Rescue Committee, where she was the lead funder of the refugee agency’s West Bank Healing Classrooms Project and services for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. She also serves on the Advisory Boards of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Jewish Theological Seminary, and the AJC Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council and Inter Jewish Muslim Alliance.
Earlier in her life, Dr. Bennett had an extensive career in finance. In the 1970s, she managed a $1.3 billion budget for the New York City Office of Management and Budget as the head of its Criminal Justice Task Force. She also served as a consultant to Chemical Bank’s (today JP Morgan Chase)Operations Division. In the 1980s she had a successful banking career, while earning a graduate banking degree with highest honors, as Chief Marketing Officer and head of the Private Bank for The First Women’s Bank in New York.
Dr. Bennett has previously been affiliated with the Center for Policy Research in New York and the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco. As a television and radio commentator, she was a Network Correspondent for NBC News and host of Walter Cronkite’s PBS current affairs series, “Why in the World?” She created three of her own syndicated radio programs and was a regular commentator for Fox-TV “10 O’Clock News.” In addition, she created stories for ABC “20/20,” CBS “60 Minutes,” PBS “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.”
She has also served as Deputy Assistant Director for Administration of Justice, New York City Office of Management and Budget; Coordinator for Training and Evaluation and Personal Consultant to the Police Commissioner, New York City Police Department; and on several university faculties, where she taught sociology, education, research methods, law enforcement and criminology.
A former faculty member of the City University of New York, Dr. Bennett taught sociology, criminology, evaluation, and action research, in addition to a broad range of other courses. She also taught in NYU’s School of Education.
Dr. Bennett is a Sociologist by training with a BA from Vassar College and Ph.D. from New York University. She also has an advanced Banking degree from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking.