Welcome, L.A. Heart

The first ever L.A. Heart block party was held this Sunday, 3 November, on Vermont Avenue between 4th & 5th. The Koreatown-based party was a joint effort by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Interfaith Council, NewGround alum Hedab Tarifi, and an abundance of community-based organizations from around our city to bring together Angelenos of all faiths, backgrounds, and ideologies to mingle, get involved in the community organizing scene, and enjoy food and entertainment side by side.

From left to right: Alma Lujan, Khalil Rasheed, Hedab Tarifi, and Capri Maddox

NewGround was one of the many community-based organizations that partnered with L.A. Heart for the event. Our own Aziza Hasan, who helped coordinate the effort as part of the City Attorney’s Interfaith Advisory Council, also attended. Organizations and coalitions that sponsored the event alongside NewGround included our own L.A. Human Relations Commission, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, L.A. Voice, Islah L.A., and the Los Angeles Bah’ai Center; our gracious hosts were the staff of the Islamic Center of Southern California.

Dr. Guibord, A Giant in Our Community

Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord was one of NewGround‘s first friends, because she was one of those who possessed knowledge about the absolute need for community building. She knew it was a prerequisite to a pluralistic society, and she had faith that Los Angeles would become just that.

Dr. Guibord was correct in her projections. Los Angeles is increasingly showing its communal, interfaith colors, and she was a key player in the the process. She attended press conferences, supported interfaith events, and protested injustices alongside her fellow Angelenos. She founded The Guibord Center as a means to organize around her pluralistic ideals, and made her mark on our City through dedication to them.

NewGround thanks Dr. Guibord for everything we have learned from her. She is survived by her partner, Dr. Lo Sprague, and her legacy, which lives on in The Guibord Center.

April 2, 2019 Comments are off admin

Ralph Fertig z”l.

NewGround has been informed that the beloved Ralph Fertig z”l has passed away.

Aziza shares:

When I was in graduate school, I fell in love with the Civil Rights Movement in American History. As I read the accounts of what unfolded, I found myself in awe of the people I was reading about. These people made a conscious decision to take the higher road when provoked, to embrace love in the face of hate-filled actions, and to organize around a future where all are equal and all belong. Through my work with NewGround, I met Ralph and I heard his story about joining the Freedom Rides and almost losing his life as a result.

I was again struck with awe — taking that kind of a risk when he was already a father. I look at my own kids and meditate on these questions: Can we bring out our better angels and be committed to love and inclusion in the way that Ralph and so many others dedicated their lives? Are we up to the task of carrying that mantle in a long journey where many have already given so much to embrace love? 

I invite you to take a few minutes to listen to a sliver of Ralph’s story that was shared on the NewGround stage in November 2018. May we lift up his memory such that his courage may inspire us as we navigate the world ahead. 

Ralph passed this weekend in Los Angeles. You can read his obituary on the L.A. Times. We hope to see you at his Memorial, which will be on April 7th at Leo Baeck Temple at 1PM.

March 22, 2019 Comments are off admin

Christchurch, New Zealand

On March 15, 2019, a white supremacist killed 51 people across two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and was apprehended on his way to a third. We have been left shaken, angry, saddened, and disillusioned. We have also been left needing one another even more than before.

Our hearts, minds, and strifes are with those affected by these attacks. We are always with you and we always here for you. We would like to voice our love and support for the Muslim community everywhere and the people of New Zealand. Our program co-directors, Andrea Hodos & Tasneem Noor, have some words to share with you:

Amid the intensifying conversation taking place on Representative Ilhan Omar… We felt it important to host an event for our alumni to come together and share how they were feeling about the controversies surrounding  Congresswoman Omar’s comments. In these times, it is often easier to avoid the hard conversations, so it becomes essential to reconvene and keep ourselves from splitting off from one another.

We figured perhaps ten people would join us; it was last minute, and the middle of the week. We ended up with over 20 participants, barely fitting in the living room we were hosted in. At the moment when it might have been easier to avoid the conversation, our alumni came together to listen deeply to one another.

In the midst of our conversations, one of our alumni checked her phone and realized what was happening in New Zealand.

As we begin another week here at NewGround, our team is thinking of the families mourning in New Zealand. We are also thinking about how our emphasis on understanding and plurality becomes more relevant by the day. As Aziza reminds us, “Our destiny is intertwined and we should act like it.”

This work will not be as fast as we want it to be. It never is. Still, we are grateful that even in the midst of it all, our connections and solidarity are stronger than the forces of hatred, fear, and violence. 

Please take care of yourself, and know that your NewGround family is here for you. Please continue to reach out to others, and reach out to us, as well.

Ilhan Omar, Dialogue, and Democracy

After a series of comments concerning her position on particular manifestations of support regarding Israel, freshly sworn in Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has become the unintentional public face of the rapidly intensifying debate around dialogue and public discourse, as well as the conversation about U.S.-Israel relations.

While her comments brought to the surface a thread of national commentary on antisemitism, the very response to her comments also brings up questions of communicative efficacy, cross-ideological understanding, and the politics of the Israel question.

Here at NewGround, we do not shy away from difficult conversations; indeed, it is a way for us to further understand one another, learn how to effectively address issues that we disagree on, and ultimately grow in the process.

NewGround executive director Aziza Hasan addressed these themes, and more, in a series of articles released by the Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Stars & Stripes, and the Independent, among others. Aziza emphasizes:

“Being able to talk through and seek deeper understanding with integrity and honesty, with respect, isn’t in fashion—it’s literally … not expedient. My biggest worry is that if we are so focused on winning all the time, where is that going to lead us…? …We’re going to be a minority-majority country here pretty soon, and we need to figure out how we’re going to interact in society.”

You can read her full comments by following the links provided above.

Wrapped: Trailblazer 2019

It is that point in the year once again, at which NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change selects three exceptional Change-making parties across the Muslim and Jewish communities to honor at the annual Suzy & Wally Marks, Jr. z”l Trailblazer Awards Ceremony.

This year’s Trailblazer Honorees and the reasons for which they were chosen can be characterized by the tireless and intrinsically motivated efforts that they have put toward their work in interfaith circles. This year, it is our pleasure to present the Trailblazer Award to Dr. Reuven Firestone, Regenstein Professor of Medieval Judaism at Hebrew Union College, Shiza Shahid, co-founder of The Malala Fund, and the Change-maker alumni project “Two Faiths, One Prayer.”

This year’s Trailblazer Honorees and the reasons for which they were chosen can be characterized by the tireless and intrinsically motivated efforts that they have put toward their work in interfaith circles. This year, it is our pleasure to present the Trailblazer Award to Dr. Reuven Firestone, Regenstein Professor of Medieval Judaism at Hebrew Union College, Shiza Shahid, co-founder of The Malala Fund, and the Change-maker alumni project “Two Faiths, One Prayer.”

We are also excited to announce that Palestinian-Mormon comedian Aron Kader will be joining us on stage for the Luncheon. Aron is an organizer of the Axis of Evil comedy tour and has been part of the fabric of Los Angeles comedy for years. This year, though, we look forward to sharing not only a city but a stage with him.

More details on tickets, sponsorships, and the luncheon itself can be found on the event page. Join us in celebrating these three hardworking parties and renewing our communal dedication to Change.

PBS NewsHour on Halim Dhanidina

On December 30, 2018, PBS NewsHour aired special correspondent David Tereshchuk’s feature on Los Angeles Justice and NewGround board member Halim Dhanidina. Composed in part by David’s interview with Halim, and in other part by footage from NewGround’s recent Spotlight Storytelling event, the feature addresses the mixed responses that come with being the highest-ranking Muslim judge in the current United States, as well as the importance of diversity, interfaith work, and social understanding between Los Angeles communities.

You can also watch the whole feature, with full transcripts provided, on the PBS NewsHour website. NewGround is proud to be supported by board members who consistently seek to better our city of Los Angeles.

Interfaith Acceptance Video

NewGround is proud to be led by executive director Aziza Hasan, who is engaged in more than one of Los Angeles’s many civic spheres.

Recently, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Office of the Superintendent released a video on Interfaith Acceptance and the beauty of the diversity in Los Angeles’s public schools. Aziza contributed to the making of this short video.

You can watch the whole video below, or open in a new window here.

A Wrap on Spotlight!

It’s been many years, and counting, that the NewGround community has successfully crafted and contributed to a lovely and experientially rich Spotlight event. This year was no exception.


Showing up for Pittsburgh

Anytime a tragedy affects our community we all feel it. This past weekend our hearts broke as we learned of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Our thoughts are with the families and communities impacted by this horrific act of violence. We remember Melvin Wax, Irving Younger, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, Rose Mallinger, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Joyce Fienberg, and Dr. Richard Gottfried. May their memories be a blessing.