One America Movement’s Founder, Andrew Hanauer, is guest on Jewish Sacred Aging Podcast

Andrew Hanauer, director of the One America Movement, is the guest on this week’s Jewish Sacred Aging Podcast.  

The One America Movement’s mission is to heal growing divisions in American society, to build human relationships that can cut through the isolated “bubbles” that increasingly define our country.

One America’s goal is to transform the way we interact with and see each other and to counter divisiveness in our communities and in the public sphere. The group brings people together across religious, racial, cultural and political divides to participate in community service projects.

These service projects, and the shared meal and conversation that follow, are important vehicles for people of all backgrounds and beliefs to relate to each other as people and see beyond labels that divide us. One America was founded by Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders following the 2016 presidential election and launched with the support of the Jewish service organization Repair the World.

 

Read Full Transcript

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Rabbi Address: 00:00:08 Shalom and welcome to another in our ongoing series of podcasts here on JewishSacredAging.com. I am Richard Address and I thank you for joining us. And these podcasts are designed to focus on a variety of issues that are impacting Jewish elders, our families and the community. And we appreciate your comments suggestions to RabbiAddress@JewishSacredAging.com. And it is now with great pleasure that we welcome to our podcast the microphones. Andrew Hanauer the director of the One America movement which sounds really wild. So Andy thank you for joining us and welcome to Jewish sacred aging podcast series How you doing.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:00:50 I'm great. Rabbi thanks for having me.

Rabbi Address: 00:00:51 And you're in Washington right. Are you in Washington?.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:00:55 I'm in the Washington area. Yes.

Rabbi Address: 00:00:56 OK. So listen let's let's get right to this what is it? You're the director of the One America movement which is what is it sir.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:01:09 So we are a nonprofit. We were we were conceived of after the election by Jewish, Christian, Muslim faith leaders. Our work is around addressing the divisiveness and the polarization in our country. We're trying to bring people together from across religious lines political lines, racial lines to do good works together in their communities volunteer together and then sit down and share food and conversation together. And a lot of our projects are around bringing together Muslims, Jews and conservative Christians.

Rabbi Address: 00:01:44 So this began after the November 2016 election.

Rabbi Address: 00:01:51 Is this a political movement that you're involved with directing or is this a nonpolitical nonpartisan type of movement?

Andrew Hanauer: 00:02:02 We're certainly nonpartisan and we're certainly certainly nonpolitical in the sense that we are not advocating for a political agenda. What we want is for is for people of all backgrounds, including all political beliefs to get out of their sort of comfort zone and go out and meet people who think differently vote differently, live differently, and worship differently than they do. And I think a big part of that is because of what we've seen in our politics which is increasing divisiveness so much today seems to be focused on on yelling at each other over Facebook or arguing with each other and so we're trying to really change the culture in this country around how we how we live with each other and how we communicate with each other.

Rabbi Address: 00:02:47 Well you don't have to go very very far. I was just on an airplane two days ago and trying to get off the airplane and crowded plane and people had tight connections and of course everybody stood up as soon as we got to the gate. Even though the flight attendant is saying look there's people who have literally less than 15 minutes to get across the terminal. Nobody really you know it's tough and as one guy behind me muttered under his breath loud enough so that the two rows around him could hear him. He basically said "look there's no civility we've lost the ability to be civil to one another." I would imagine from listening to you that the one America movement part of it is designed to try to reintroduce a sense of civility in the culture. I know the website you have this phrase that one of your missions is to heal the growing divisions in American society and to build human relationships. That sounds great. And you just started. How are you doing this. And it's all volunteer right. And talk to me about it.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:03:51 Sure. Well I mean we are we're we're a funded organization. I'm a I'm a I'm paid staffers So we have you know we have professional staff. But yes it's become We're bringing people together around volunteer projects and so, so far I think it's going going tremendously. We are successfully bringing together as I said Jews and Muslims and Christians of different kinds including very conservative Christians. We're bringing together African-Americans and the police in one project and we are doing that basically getting people to do a service project together and then come to a space where they have a have a meal and have a conversation. I think what first of all what's really noticeable is that there's huge interest in this. And you mentioned how there's a feeling of the sort of lack of civility and I think a lot of people feel that way. But I think at the same time there's a lot of positive things happening that isn't being reported by the media. And I think also at the same time there's a lot of people who feel very strongly regardless of their political views or their religious views. They feel very strongly that we need to come together in some way and get people to just interact with each other in a respectful way. And so you know as we've gone around the country asking people to participate in these sort of projects, we've actually very rarely heard anyone say no. There's huge interest on both the right on the left and among Jews and non-Jews and I never ran from that when you read about it .

Rabbi Address: 00:05:33 You're in about six different cities according to the Web site. Talk to me about what you're doing in these cities. Just pick a city. You're talking about service projects. Walk me through what a typical you know activity of the One America movement is. Is it you build houses are you painting something. Are you cleaning up playground. What what what are the activities that you're sponsoring to get people together?

Andrew Hanauer: 00:06:02 Sure. So in Washington we clean up the grounds outside of a men's homeless shelter in one of the poorer sections of the city. In Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we have 120 people coming together from an African-American church a synagogue or a mosque and a sort of quote unquote evangelical church to do put together backpacks for for school kids who are below the poverty line. So putting together a backpack with school supplies and papers notebooks, etc. We also have projects that are planning to do work around hunger around feeding people at a food shelter, or food pantry excuse me and then also one where we're exploring different ways to support women who've been victims of domestic abuse. So you know really it is up to the local community that gets involved in this to determine what the need is in their local community and what what a good first project might be. But I think if you think about this in a longer term sense it's actually even more exciting because if you can get people who maybe disagree about abortion or other social issues or guns or anything else that are very important issues, but they disagree about the issues, if you can get them to still come together and work together to solve local solvable problems, that's a huge victory. That's a huge part of pushing back against the sort of divisive culture in our society.

Rabbi Address: 00:07:39 And in each one of these cities that you're operating in, you don't move into those cities you have staff people there you have somebody who's been hired to coordinate. Let's say the activities here in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:07:52 So, we're very new and so were still in start up mode. So right now it's a lot of coordination between myself my my other staffer and the people in those local areas. I think over time we just secured a lot of funding yesterday which is very exciting, which will keep us going for a while and I think part of what we want to do is really scale up and and hire people in all these places around the country so that we can really help people on the ground doing local work. That's certainly the longer term vision.

Rabbi Address: 00:08:24 Are you looking at a particular generation Andy or is this multi-, I mean is there a role for let's for the baby boom generation people in their 60s and 70s, may not be as mobile, maybe looking to give something back to the community, or is this really focused on millennials?

Andrew Hanauer: 00:08:43 No not at all. You know there's enough focus only on millennials. You know those guys they've got enough stuff. We're focused on everybody. We want to include everybody in one America. We believe in the idea of bringing everybody together. Everybody means everybody. It doesn't just mean this segment or that segment. We have, we've had folks of all ages at our projects so far, from teenagers up to folks who are retired. We are very open to designing projects that are inclusive to everybody. So there is a community service project that is not accessible for older folks. We want to create create models where we where we can welcome them. And so we're very interested in working with anybody of any age.

Rabbi Address: 00:09:34 And this is, to be clear, this is a volunteer movement correct. You're looking for volunteers in various communities to do these projects.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:09:47 Yes. I mean they volunteer they volunteer and then they sit down and you know we provide the food and the materials and we facilitate the conversation. And so folks you know they get a volunteer experience and then they get you know a meal and they have a conversation and then hopefully they build relationships that can last beyond that about one day. But yes I mean this is something that involves volunteer work for sure.

Rabbi Address: 00:10:14 You just mentioned something that the follow up because I think all of us have been involved in in doing this type of work at one point or another, and it's a wonderful experience and we come home feeling that we've really done something wonderful. But then that's it. There's no follow up. So my question really is, as you alluded to, and I think in some of your literature on the website and stuff alludes to, the real key of this is not necessarily doing the project of cleaning up the playground so to speak or putting the backpacks together. It's what happens in those hours and months after that project and who's coordinating, and who then steps up to say okay here's fifty six people who've done this project here in southern New Jersey. Now how are we going to continue these conversations. How is that being organized?

Andrew Hanauer: 00:11:07 Yeah it's a really good question and actually you know, in our work, we work with some neuroscientists, social scientists, some academic researchers, people who have done, you know, published studies on how you bring people together to really reduce prejudice or fear or bias or you know, divisiveness. And there's an open question as to whether whether one interaction is actually a transformative experience for people, if you meet someone from a different background who you've never met before or whether you need to have a much longer engagement. We want to build those longer engagements. I think that's important no matter what. But there I would argue that based on what we know so far even just that one afternoon can have a huge impact on people's lives, bringing them into contact with people they've never met before. Or who maybe they haven't had contact with them maybe even they had negative impressions. In terms of how we do the longer term engagement, you know we are creating an e-mail list, you know, Facebook groups as well, but also you know, creating activities that people come to afterwards to continue to be in contact with each other. So in Washington, for instance, our group of Christians Jews and Muslims who did the event together in May, they did another event together in June and then we are looking at doing sort of a social activity in summer just no agenda no no big thing to do but just let's get together and go bowling or watch a movie or or any number of other activities. So people continue to be in relationships with folks of other faiths and other background and beliefs. Yeah. We often go to a rabbi for instance that rabbi will say oh this is great you know we've got we've got 10 people in our social action committee or in our outreach committee who would love this and let me take it to them and then take it from there. So that's that's you know that's a major model for how we do it it's not universal but that's that's very much the case and in a lot of places.

Rabbi Address: 00:13:30 Do you have any you have any plans that you know I'd say a year from now, you'll have a track record let's say of several dozen volunteer projects around the cities or the country do you have any plans to then eventually to the annual or biannual bases bring a lot of these people together to share stories victory's relationships.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:13:48 Yeah I think that's a great point. We do think that again as we're in a startup mode right now where we're just testing these projects out and making sure that what we're doing is, is the most effective possible method for bringing people together. I think as we scale up and we get larger and we take advantage of all the interest there is in this work I think we will definitely be looking at ways to really bring folks together across these different geographic divides as well and share experiences and talk and really try to knit the country closer together.

Rabbi Address: 00:14:24 If somebody's listening to us eventually once they get in touch with what's the Web site what's the contact information for the One America movement.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:14:32 Sure. So our Web site is OneAmericaMovement.org. We are funded primarily by an we're we're we're a project of right now technically the Jewish service organization called Repair the World, so you can also find us through their Web site which is WeRepair.org. And you can reach us by e-mail as well. I think the best contact is my colleague Heena. So her e-mail is just heena@oneamericamovement.org.

Rabbi Address: 00:15:06 You write or in literature on the web site about bubble's quote unquote that define society what do you mean by the concept of bubbles?

Andrew Hanauer: 00:15:17 I think that increasingly a lot of Americans certainly not all of us but a lot of Americans find themselves living in communities where they are surrounded by people who think and vote and maybe even worship largely largely they do and I think there's there's benefit to that in some way. I think you know obviously we all we all seek out people who who share our values. And I think that's fine. The problem of course is that if if we don't ever make efforts to get out of our bubbles we're not going to understand where other people are coming from and that's where we start to get into the situation where we increasingly can't communicate with each other because we don't even understand where the other side is coming from. And I think if you look at any of those sort of horrible atrocities that have happened over the years from Nazi Germany to others a lot of the problem is that communities of different kinds have been able to be basically treated as outside of the mainstream of society. In other words, those people in whatever way you categorize them they are different they are other they are not one of us. And when when those people are in a bubble and when when the larger groups are in a bubble it's a lot easier to just think about the people on the other side of that bubble as as being you know, "other." And that's when bad things start to happen and I think we are seeing signs of that in our own country right now and it's really scary. And I think is really really important that all of us make an effort to understand people who don't think like we do. Because otherwise I think that the road ahead is very very dark.

Rabbi Address: 00:17:11 You talk about "the other," and there's been so much written in religious literature certainly but in other you know about the fear of somebody who doesn't look talk act worship whatever like us but you know you're trying to organize communities around breaking down these barriers. What's it what fears at the heart of what's driving these wedges. What are we in the United States of America. Here in the beginning of the 21st century. What are we so afraid of?

Andrew Hanauer: 00:17:49 Yeah, that's a great question. I think there's a there's a couple of different answers. I think one answer is that there are legitimate, there's legitimate pain and suffering in our country and for people who are suffering, it's a lot easier to find excuses for that suffering and point fingers at a specific group of people and there and there may even be legitimate fear of those people. Those people are taking our jobs. Those people are changing our culture. Those people are voting in presidents we don't like that sort of thing. And I think that that is if we can't address that pain and that suffering in our country if we can't address the fact that 20 percent of our children live below the poverty line, if we can address the fact that there are counties in America that have a life expectancy 20 years less than some of our wealthiest counties -- 20 years, that's the difference between Japan and Yemen -- life expectancy we have that gap within our own counties. If we can't address those issues, we're going to continue to see divisiveness and polarization and people blaming each other because there's there's real suffering. I mean when our country went through huge transformations at the end of the eighteen hundreds you know cities like Chicago grew from I don't know what the exact number was something like you know tens of thousands of people through a city of 2 million or something like that, that was when we saw the rise of the Klan. When we saw the rise of movements based on racism xenophobia anti-Semitism. These are fractures in our society and we're seeing very similar things right now with the opioid epidemic, with the poverty rate, with the life expectancy for white men without a college degree actually going down. These are the problems that we have to face and we have to solve because some of the fear comes from legitimate pain that people are feeling in our society. I think the other answer, though, is that we also fear having our beliefs challenged and people are increasingly feel they may take comfort in the rightness as they see it of their cause, and I think that they fear having those beliefs challenged in really meaningful ways because it's scary. I think that's that's part of what we're trying to do is get people to be willing to listen to another perspective even if it challenges their own perspective.

Rabbi Address: 00:20:35 You wrote an op ed piece if I'm not mistaken called, "Isolation won't save us." Is this part of that theme of that op ed that you know just to chart the necessity now in our society is to do everything in power to break down the barriers, to break, or get out of I guess the bubbles as you refer to it. Is that really the thrust of that, you know, of that op ed?.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:21:04 Yeah I think it is. I think I think that there are movements for isolation in the face of threats. And so it could be anything from you know Democrats in California suggesting that their state secede from the union to people who refuse to read any news that they think will disagree with their preexisting beliefs and so they only listen to talk radio or they only listen to certain one or one cable network. And I think ultimately you can do that and you can you can live in that world if you want. California can secede from the union if they want. But the decisions that are made by anyone in this in this world that is so interconnected and so global are going to affect all of us. Look at climate change. Look at the way our trade works internationally. And spiritually and morally. We are so connected and so people who want to isolate themselves and in many cases I understand where where the where the desire comes from. But as I said it's not going to save us.

Rabbi Address: 00:22:23 So let me just pose one last question to you because you just alluded to it and I've been playing around with it in my own brain a little bit too but just say for example some of the books that Tom Friedman who the new York Times columnist has been has been writing about the interconnectedness of the world, that the world is flat. A couple of books that he's written recently in the last five six seven eight years. Talking about this international or interconnectedness of economies specifically economies. Do you think in any way shape or form what we're seeing now is the last gasp, the last dying embers of the old nation-state mentality that nationalism et cetera et cetera as opposed to you know as this new global world takes over. I mean do you think there's any sense of that or I'll just throw that out to you?

Andrew Hanauer: 00:23:25 No it's a great question. I'm very hesitant to say anything is the last gasp of anything after the last election. We saw a lot of talk about how demographically this is the last gasp for you know that the Republicans would never win the presidency again. But I think clearly we should all have some humility before we make predictions on global scales. But I think that when we look at nationalism, I think again it's as I said earlier it is in some ways a legitimate response to this pain and suffering that people feel from from the impact of globalization. When it when it becomes especially ethno nationalism when it becomes white supremacy or anything else like that, it's obviously incredibly damaging and harmful. And I think that any sort of ideology that promotes one human being as more worthy or valuable than another human being is something that we have to be really careful about and really really worried about because that's the first step towards any process of making people human. So I think I think it's definitely a reaction to the impact of globalization. And I think if, if we don't take seriously the impact that globalization has on human beings and their families, divisive rhetoric and divisive ideologies will flourish as a result.

Rabbi Address: 00:25:11 So real fast before we conclude people want to contact you and One America what's the best way Web site e-mail. Give it to us again.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:25:21 Absolutely. Thank you. Web site is one America movement dot org. E-mail my colleague heena@oneamericamovement.org.

Rabbi Address: 00:25:36 Andrew Hanauer the director of one America movement this developing starting up the attempt to really slowly but surely through projects dialogue and food and volunteerism, break down some of the barriers and get people out of their silos I guess in the United States of America right now. So thank you very much Andy continued good luck. Thank you very very much. for being a guest here on our podcast.

Andrew Hanauer: 00:26:02 Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Rabbi Address: 00:26:05 And to all of you thank you for listening again to our ongoing series of Jewish sacred aging podcasts. We appreciate your time. And again remind you that you can contact us at rabbiadress@jewishsacredaging.com. All the podcasts are archived on our website, www.jewishsacredaging.com. And a reminder that these programs are recorded to the facilities of Lubetkin Global Media here in Cherry Hill New Jersey. I am Richard Address and I look forward to greeting you again on our next podcast. Thank you and shalom.


 

About the Guest

Andrew Hanauer is the Director of the One America Movement and the Director of Faith-Based Partnerships at Repair the World. Andrew is a frequent public speaker at houses of worship of all kinds, and at venues including the United Nations, the National Press Club and Congressional briefings. Andrew serves on the steering committee of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition and on the board of directors of Bridges of Promise, a non-profit that funds school fees for children in East Africa. Prior to joining Repair the World, Andrew was the Campaigns Director at Jubilee USA, directed green job training programs in low-income communities in California and ran an after-school homework center at a public elementary school. Andrew has a BA in History from Dartmouth College and an MA in International Studies from the University of San Francisco.

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