Letter From The Director

Responding To The Crisis in Israel and Gaza

October 26, 2023

Dear Friends and Supporters,

In response to the violent terrorist attacks in Israel and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, I am drawn to the practice of lament—a practice from my own religious tradition and many others. To lament is to have a deep and passionate sense of sorrow and grief. We at the Boniuk Institute lament the loss of life in both communities.
To lament is also to humanize and to express a sense of care for the “other.” It is to acknowledge that no words or actions are adequate in the face of tragic violence. We want to acknowledge that in addition to intense strife—in action and word—there is the grief that accompanies ground-level work by health professionals and local religious and community leaders who are risking their lives to support their communities and bridge divides between communities.
Given our mission as a university research institute, we at the Boniuk Institute will continue to do our work, but with an even greater sense of purpose and immediacy. We will continue to do research on the underlying causes and consequences of religious violence and discrimination and to build inter-religious cooperation based on that research. We will continue to be guided by the imperative to shed light on points of stress in religious communities nationally and internationally. For example, our research finds that within the U.S. 62 percent of Muslim and 36 percent of Jewish individuals report sensing hostility from others due to their religion. And over 20 percent of Christians and Buddhists report religious hostility. Such experiences threaten our ability to work together to solve problems and care for each other. We expect that, unfortunately, instances of hostility and violence toward Muslims and Jews in the U.S. will increase in the coming weeks—and with several examples currently in the news—I note this with much sorrow.
We are also mindful of religious crisis and conflict in other places in the world. We at the Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance will remain committed to our core mission of studying the causes and consequence of religious violence and discrimination, and furthering scholarly and public discourse in the months and years to come.
We remain grateful for each of you.
Elaine Howard Ecklund
Director, Boniuk Institute