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Samia and Brenda Tectonic Leadership at the Samia and Brenda at the Holocaust Memorial Center 2014 First Tectonic Leadership Retreat 2011
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In February 2009, Brenda Naomi Rosenberg, former fashion executive, an American Jewish peace activist, called her friend and teacher Debbie Ford, to share her concerns over deteriorating relationships in the Middle East.  Debbie suggested she calls Samia Moustapha Bahsoun, an American Arab woman, of Lebanese Muslim descent, born in Senegal; “She is a telecom executive, who shares your passion for change, and creating peace in the Middle East.” What Ford may not have recognized is that her two students were faced with an ideological barrier, insurmountable to many; Brenda, a Jewish Zionist, and Samia, pro-Palestinian anti-Zionist. Brenda’s Jewish Zionist identity and inseparable connection to the people and land of Israel conflicted with Samia’s entrenched belief that Zionism is an expansionist, terrorist ideology and the cause of the conflict.  Underlying the tension, the Holocaust, and their first conversation. Samia, who lost her grand-mother and grand-aunt to Israeli raids on Southern Lebanon in 1982, asked the question: “Why can’t the Jews give up the Holocaust story and move on?” Brenda, whose Jewish identity is inseparable from her fear of annihilation, replied: Why would you ask me to give up the Holocaust? Samia: “because of the pain it has caused and continues to cause the Palestinians and Arabs in the region. Brenda responded: “We need to remember all the damage of the Holocaust; the death of six million Jews and millions of others by Nazis. We need to remember that almost a million Arabs became refugees and almost a million Jews became refugees from Arab countries. We must never forget. Samia: “How can we then use the Holocaust to heal Humanity and prevent future genocides?” Thirty days later, on Monday April 20th, 2009; Yom Hashoah Holocaust Memorial Day, Brenda and Samia meet in person for the first time. Filed in Brenda’s briefcase: a name, and a prayer. At the same time in Geneva, at the United Nation’s Conference on Human Rights, Elie Wiesel, the Nobel peace prize winner and Holocaust survivor is verbally abused, called a “Zion Nazi” and Ahmadinejad, in the opening speech of the conference, is a sentence short of denying the Holocaust. On that same morning, in New Jersey, at the middle of a circle of Jews, Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians gathered for an international peace conference at Monmouth University, Samia, an Arab Muslim woman, lit a candle and began to read the prayer Brenda had brought with her from Detroit: “As I light this candle, I vow never to forget the lives of the Jewish men, woman, and children who are symbolized by this flame, who were tortured and brutalized”. Brenda added: “ May we take this time to pray for the Palestinians who lost their lives, loved ones and to pray for all those who have suffered by the cruel hands of others. Samia continued:  “Each person who perished had a name:  Dora Shklyan, age 70 died at Teofipol, in the Ukraine.” In the circle Dora Shklyan, came alive, her life forever intertwined with Samia’s grandmother Mariam, transcending the fear and the horror of what was, their memory and fate inspiring Brenda and Samia to create a Tectonic Leadership Center and become an instrument of peace and evolution for the Middle East and for all Humanity.
Brenda & Samia