David Elcott

Henry and Marilyn Taub Professor of Practice in Public Service and Leadership

212.992.9894
The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street
Room 3068
New York, NY 10012
By Appointment
David Elcott

David Elcott has spent the last thirty years at the intersection of community building, the search for a theory of cross-boundary engagement, and interfaith and ethnic organizing and activism. Trained in political psychology and Middle East affairs at Columbia University and Judaic studies at the American Jewish University, Dr. Elcott is the Taub Professor of Practice in Public Service and Leadership at the Wagner School of Public Service at NYU and faculty director of the Advocacy and Political Action specialization at Wagner. Over the past ten years, Dr. Elcott has worked to build a robust training program of community organizing and advocacy campaigns housed at Wagner to effectively address the pressing domestic and international issues we face. His goal is to offer year-round opportunities for NYU students to learn the skills, tools and theories of social justice transformation. He also co-directs the Dual Degree Program of the Skirball Center and Wagner.  

Dr. Elcott was formally the Vice-President of the National Center for Learning and Leadership, a think-tank tasked with training community leaders to rethink the nature of contemporary community and civic obligation. As Interreligious Affairs Director of the American Jewish Committee and as the Executive Director of the Israel Policy Forum, David has addressed a wide array of public policy issues, building interfaith and interethnic coalitions to address Middle East peace, immigration reform, civil liberties and criminal justice reform. He has mediated conflicts between and among religious communities in the U.S. and around the world, finding collaborations and solutions on issues as diverse as posthumous Mormon Baptisms, financing the World Lutheran Federation’s hospital in Jerusalem, the conflicts over The Passion of the Christ and Israeli-Palestinian issues with many members of the National Council of Churches and the Catholic Church while working with Israelis and Palestinians on non-violent activism. He also engages German and Jewish religious leaders on reconciliation. He led a major immigration action at the Arizona-Mexican border and helped organize national demonstrations for immigration reform.

His present research is focused in a number of inter-related areas: Launched with Ford Foundation grants, Dr. Elcott addresses how religious leaders can constructively affect civil discourse and democracy, searching for pathways for psotive religious involvement in civic affairs. He has published studies on how Christians across the political spectrum translate faith into policy and politics.  With colleagues, he is exploring the intersections of social identity, teamwork, marginalization and grit. With grants from the Meyerhoff and Taub Foundations, he seeks to mobilize the Baby-Boomer cohort for enhanced civic engagement and encore professional and volunteer careers in public service. He has written A Sacred Journey: The Jewish Quest for a Perfect World and numerous articles and monographs on religion and politics, power and war, minority civic engagement, and cross-cultural pluralism. He has represented the Jewish community in interfaith settings in Europe, South America and Asia. 

Dr. Elcott is editing a book entitled FAITH IN AN AGE OF POLITICAL FRATRICIDE: THE USE OF RELIGION IN THE ALT-RIGHT NATIONALIST ASSAULT ON LIBERAL DEMOCRACY

 

In 2013, Dr. Elcott received NYU’s Martin Luther King Faculty Award.

 

Community Organizing will provide an overview and introduction to the fundamentals of organizing to win, implement, monitor and sustain change in the private and public sectors. We will compare, contrast different forms of participatory community organizing and explore the linkages between community organizing and social movement building in the 21st century.  We will probe the moral values and priorities imbedded in different organizing approaches and cultivate or hone participants’ concrete skills in active listening, leadership development, strategic analysis, campaign design, research, coalition-building, mobilization, design and use of non-violent direct action, communication (including use of symbols and art), assessment, role of funders, monitoring and sustaining change.  While the principal focus will be organizing in the US, we will examine approaches taken by people’s organizations in Sri Lanka and Haiti and how these approaches can be adapted in the US context as well as how strategic international support for organizing can effect change in these countries elsewhere in the world.

Through readings, class activities, speakers, reflections, and a final organizing project, students will emerge with an enlarged vocabulary and set of models for organizing, the skills to catalyze and build organizations, and the ability design campaigns for the purpose of achieve and sustain change. 

Download Syllabus

Community Organizing will provide an overview and introduction to the fundamentals of organizing to win, implement, monitor and sustain change in the private and public sectors. We will compare, contrast different forms of participatory community organizing and explore the linkages between community organizing and social movement building in the 21st century.  We will probe the moral values and priorities imbedded in different organizing approaches and cultivate or hone participants’ concrete skills in active listening, leadership development, strategic analysis, campaign design, research, coalition-building, mobilization, design and use of non-violent direct action, communication (including use of symbols and art), assessment, role of funders, monitoring and sustaining change.  While the principal focus will be organizing in the US, we will examine approaches taken by people’s organizations in Sri Lanka and Haiti and how these approaches can be adapted in the US context as well as how strategic international support for organizing can effect change in these countries elsewhere in the world.

Through readings, class activities, speakers, reflections, and a final organizing project, students will emerge with an enlarged vocabulary and set of models for organizing, the skills to catalyze and build organizations, and the ability design campaigns for the purpose of achieve and sustain change. 

Download Syllabus

The position of minorities in the United States, an immigrant nation since its inception, remains a volatile topic of debate that touches the core of American identity. While we will review the history of minorities in America, we will focus on their status within the cultural and political framework and examine the ways that how we understand rights as either individually or communally derived informs policy decisions and shapes minority institutions. We will seek to define what "minority" status entails by studying how ethnicity, race, gender and religious identity, and cultural expression play out in the political sphere. Attention will then shift to minority community building - how public policies and leaders nurture or undermine minority identity, establish and sustain institutions, and create sustainable minority communities.

Download Syllabus

The position of those who collectively identify as a distinct group, generally seen as of minority status in the United States, an immigrant nation since its inception whose indigenous population was perceived as non-American, remains a volatile topic of debate that touches the core of American identity.  In this course, we will focus on the status of a number of groups that have been identified as “minority” (leaving the term minority itself in question) within America’s cultural and political framework, examining how the debate over rights informs policy decisions and shapes identity and institutions. We will apply a range of theoretical constructs, seeking to define what “minority” status entails by studying how ethnicity, race, gender, sexual identity, national origin and religious identities, and their cultural expressions, play out in the public sphere.  Attention will also be paid to community building - how public policies and leaders nurture or undermine collective identity and the communities they seek to build.

Download Syllabus

Management and Leadership is designed to empower you with the skills you will need to make change in the world; whether you care about bike lanes, criminal justice, prenatal care, community development, urban planning, social investment or something else.   Whatever your passion, you can only have an impact by leading and managing organizational processes.  Organizations are the way work gets coordinated and accomplished so knowing how they work -- and how to work within them – are perhaps the most powerful set of tools you can have.

In this course, you will enhance the technical, interpersonal, conceptual, and political skills needed to run effective and efficient organizations embedded in diverse communities, policy arenas, sectors, and industries.  In class, we will engage in a collective analysis of specific problems that leaders and managers face—first, diagnosing them and then, identifying solutions—to explore how organizations can meet and exceed their performance objectives.  As part of that process, you’ll encounter a variety of practical and essential topics and tools – from goals, structure, strategy and teams to diversity and inclusion, motivation, and negotiation.

Download Syllabus

Advocacy Lab is for those who could imagine working in national or local advocacy organizations that make change happen or anyone who wants to understand the art of issue advocacy as a theory and method of social change. An advocacy campaign attempts to impact public policy, most often through changes in regulations and/or legislation. There are a wide range of roles advocacy campaign workers, organizers, community leaders or think-tank experts can play from research and policy analysis to education, lobbying, public relations and organizing constituencies to reaching out to a wide range of influentials, legislative offices and other government officials. At the same time, the skills of public advocacy– listening, fund raising, finding areas of consensus and building on that consensus, finding ways to make change happen – are skills that can be applied to all professional and life settings.  

The course will provide an overview of and training in how to affect public policy through advocacy campaigns, legislative lobbying, issue branding, coalition building and community organizing in the United States with experts and practioners providing us real life scenarios and case studies.

Download Syllabus

Introduction to Community Organizing is for those who could imagine running national or local advocacy organizations that make change happen or anyone who wants to understand the art of community organizing. It will provide an overview of and training in contemporary community organizing practice in the United States. This includes defining what community organizing is and identifying its value base; exploring the strategies, tactics and activities of organizing; and thinking about marketing, language and evaluation. We also will examine the transformations of civic engagement and voluntary associations in the United States and the impact of these transformations on the ways Americans organize and advocate for change.

But there is a larger lesson here: The skills of community organizing – listening, finding areas of consensus and building on that consensus, finding ways to make change happen – are skills that can be applied to all professional and life settings. Through readings, class activities, cases studies, speakers and reflection, students will examine skills and techniques for effective organizing, including building a membership base, developing ordinary people as community leaders and running member-led issue campaigns. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on and strengthen their own skills as community organizers and advocates.

Download Syllabus

Introduction to Community Organizing is for those who could imagine running national or local advocacy organizations that make change happen or anyone who wants to understand the art of community organizing. It will provide an overview of and training in contemporary community organizing practice in the United States. This includes defining what community organizing is and identifying its value base; exploring the strategies, tactics and activities of organizing; and thinking about marketing, language and evaluation. We also will examine the transformations of civic engagement and voluntary associations in the United States and the impact of these transformations on the ways Americans organize and advocate for change.

But there is a larger lesson here: The skills of community organizing – listening, finding areas of consensus and building on that consensus, finding ways to make change happen – are skills that can be applied to all professional and life settings. Through readings, class activities, cases studies, speakers and reflection, students will examine skills and techniques for effective organizing, including building a membership base, developing ordinary people as community leaders and running member-led issue campaigns. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on and strengthen their own skills as community organizers and advocates.

Download Syllabus

We enter any subject of investigation filled with learned viewpoints, opinions, and select facts that we choose to employ. This helps to make the task of uncovering what we mean by Jewish and Jewish community fraught with unusual difficulty. Whatever our background, it will be hard to shake preconceived positions. In addition, the Jewish community seeks to nurture purely voluntary association at a time of little support in the popular culture for sustaining communal norms, existing institutions or unenforceable obligations. Our study must also then be understood within the larger American context of voluntary associations.

The Taub seminar will wrestle with such issues as identity, communal organization, core and fringe, and the indices and litmus tests of institutionalized belonging. We will explore how power is defined, how leaders are selected and consensus determined. We will examine the wide range of communal institutions and organizations – philanthropic, educational, social, religious and social service – that place themselves within the orbit of the Jewish community to uncover how they define their missions, establish authority, make decisions, recruit involvement and gain (or lose) loyalty and affiliation. As important, we will test the capacities of these institutions and their leaders to address the many challenges they face in an environment of waning allegiance and obligation.

Download Syllabus

The position of those who collectively identify as a distinct group, generally seen as of minority status in the United States, an immigrant nation since its inception whose indigenous population was perceived as non-American, remains a volatile topic of debate that touches the core of American identity.  In this course, we will focus on the status of a number of groups that have been identified as “minority” (leaving the term minority itself in question) within America’s cultural and political framework, examining how the debate over rights informs policy decisions and shapes identity and institutions. We will apply a range of theoretical constructs, seeking to define what “minority” status entails by studying how ethnicity, race, gender, sexual identity, national origin and religious identities, and their cultural expressions, play out in the public sphere.  Attention will also be paid to community building - how public policies and leaders nurture or undermine collective identity and the communities they seek to build.

Download Syllabus

Advocacy Lab is for those who could imagine working in national or local advocacy organizations that make change happen or anyone who wants to understand the art of issue advocacy as a theory and method of social change. An advocacy campaign attempts to impact public policy, most often through changes in regulations and/or legislation. There are a wide range of roles advocacy campaign workers, organizers, community leaders or think-tank experts can play from research and policy analysis to education, lobbying, public relations and organizing constituencies to reaching out to a wide range of influentials, legislative offices and other government officials. At the same time, the skills of public advocacy– listening, fund raising, finding areas of consensus and building on that consensus, finding ways to make change happen – are skills that can be applied to all professional and life settings.  

The course will provide an overview of and training in how to affect public policy through advocacy campaigns, legislative lobbying, issue branding, coalition building and community organizing in the United States with experts and practioners providing us real life scenarios and case studies.

Download Syllabus

We enter any subject of investigation filled with learned viewpoints, opinions, and select facts that we choose to employ. This helps to make the task of uncovering what we mean by Jewish and Jewish community fraught with unusual difficulty. Whatever our background, it will be hard to shake preconceived positions. In addition, the Jewish community seeks to nurture purely voluntary association at a time of little support in the popular culture for sustaining communal norms, existing institutions or unenforceable obligations. Our study must also then be understood within the larger American context of voluntary associations.

The Taub seminar will wrestle with such issues as identity, communal organization, core and fringe, and the indices and litmus tests of institutionalized belonging. We will explore how power is defined, how leaders are selected and consensus determined. We will examine the wide range of communal institutions and organizations – philanthropic, educational, social, religious and social service – that place themselves within the orbit of the Jewish community to uncover how they define their missions, establish authority, make decisions, recruit involvement and gain (or lose) loyalty and affiliation. As important, we will test the capacities of these institutions and their leaders to address the many challenges they face in an environment of waning allegiance and obligation.

Download Syllabus

Introduction to Community Organizing is for those who could imagine running national or local advocacy organizations that make change happen or anyone who wants to understand the art of community organizing. It will provide an overview of and training in contemporary community organizing practice in the United States. This includes defining what community organizing is and identifying its value base; exploring the strategies, tactics and activities of organizing; and thinking about marketing, language and evaluation. We also will examine the transformations of civic engagement and voluntary associations in the United States and the impact of these transformations on the ways Americans organize and advocate for change.

But there is a larger lesson here: The skills of community organizing – listening, finding areas of consensus and building on that consensus, finding ways to make change happen – are skills that can be applied to all professional and life settings. Through readings, class activities, cases studies, speakers and reflection, students will examine skills and techniques for effective organizing, including building a membership base, developing ordinary people as community leaders and running member-led issue campaigns. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on and strengthen their own skills as community organizers and advocates.

Download Syllabus

Management and Leadership is designed to empower you with the skills you will need to make change in the world; whether you care about bike lanes, criminal justice, prenatal care, community development, urban planning, social investment or something else.   Whatever your passion, you can only have an impact by leading and managing organizational processes.  Organizations are the way work gets coordinated and accomplished so knowing how they work -- and how to work within them – are perhaps the most powerful set of tools you can have.

In this course, you will enhance the technical, interpersonal, conceptual, and political skills needed to run effective and efficient organizations embedded in diverse communities, policy arenas, sectors, and industries.  In class, we will engage in a collective analysis of specific problems that leaders and managers face—first, diagnosing them and then, identifying solutions—to explore how organizations can meet and exceed their performance objectives.  As part of that process, you’ll encounter a variety of practical and essential topics and tools – from goals, structure, strategy and teams to diversity and inclusion, motivation, and negotiation.

Download Syllabus

Introduction to Community Organizing is for those who could imagine running national or local advocacy organizations that make change happen or anyone who wants to understand the art of community organizing. It will provide an overview of and training in contemporary community organizing practice in the United States. This includes defining what community organizing is and identifying its value base; exploring the strategies, tactics and activities of organizing; and thinking about marketing, language and evaluation. We also will examine the transformations of civic engagement and voluntary associations in the United States and the impact of these transformations on the ways Americans organize and advocate for change.

But there is a larger lesson here: The skills of community organizing – listening, finding areas of consensus and building on that consensus, finding ways to make change happen – are skills that can be applied to all professional and life settings. Through readings, class activities, cases studies, speakers and reflection, students will examine skills and techniques for effective organizing, including building a membership base, developing ordinary people as community leaders and running member-led issue campaigns. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on and strengthen their own skills as community organizers and advocates.

Download Syllabus

Introduction to Community Organizing is for those who could imagine running national or local advocacy organizations that make change happen or anyone who wants to understand the art of community organizing. It will provide an overview of and training in contemporary community organizing practice in the United States. This includes defining what community organizing is and identifying its value base; exploring the strategies, tactics and activities of organizing; and thinking about marketing, language and evaluation. We also will examine the transformations of civic engagement and voluntary associations in the United States and the impact of these transformations on the ways Americans organize and advocate for change.

But there is a larger lesson here: The skills of community organizing – listening, finding areas of consensus and building on that consensus, finding ways to make change happen – are skills that can be applied to all professional and life settings. Through readings, class activities, cases studies, speakers and reflection, students will examine skills and techniques for effective organizing, including building a membership base, developing ordinary people as community leaders and running member-led issue campaigns. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on and strengthen their own skills as community organizers and advocates.

Download Syllabus

We enter any subject of investigation filled with learned viewpoints, opinions, and select facts that we choose to employ. This helps to make the task of uncovering what we mean by Jewish and Jewish community fraught with unusual difficulty. Whatever our background, it will be hard to shake preconceived positions. In addition, the Jewish community seeks to nurture purely voluntary association at a time of little support in the popular culture for sustaining communal norms, existing institutions or unenforceable obligations. Our study must also then be understood within the larger American context of voluntary associations.

The Taub seminar will wrestle with such issues as identity, communal organization, core and fringe, and the indices and litmus tests of institutionalized belonging. We will explore how power is defined, how leaders are selected and consensus determined. We will examine the wide range of communal institutions and organizations – philanthropic, educational, social, religious and social service – that place themselves within the orbit of the Jewish community to uncover how they define their missions, establish authority, make decisions, recruit involvement and gain (or lose) loyalty and affiliation. As important, we will test the capacities of these institutions and their leaders to address the many challenges they face in an environment of waning allegiance and obligation.

Download Syllabus

The position of those who collectively identify as a distinct group, generally seen as of minority status in the United States, an immigrant nation since its inception whose indigenous population was perceived as non-American, remains a volatile topic of debate that touches the core of American identity.  In this course, we will focus on the status of a number of groups that have been identified as “minority” (leaving the term minority itself in question) within America’s cultural and political framework, examining how the debate over rights informs policy decisions and shapes identity and institutions. We will apply a range of theoretical constructs, seeking to define what “minority” status entails by studying how ethnicity, race, gender, sexual identity, national origin and religious identities, and their cultural expressions, play out in the public sphere.  Attention will also be paid to community building - how public policies and leaders nurture or undermine collective identity and the communities they seek to build.

Download Syllabus

The position of those who collectively identify as a distinct group, generally seen as of minority status in the United States, an immigrant nation since its inception whose indigenous population was perceived as non-American, remains a volatile topic of debate that touches the core of American identity.  In this course, we will focus on the status of a number of groups that have been identified as “minority” (leaving the term minority itself in question) within America’s cultural and political framework, examining how the debate over rights informs policy decisions and shapes identity and institutions. We will apply a range of theoretical constructs, seeking to define what “minority” status entails by studying how ethnicity, race, gender, sexual identity, national origin and religious identities, and their cultural expressions, play out in the public sphere.  Attention will also be paid to community building - how public policies and leaders nurture or undermine collective identity and the communities they seek to build.

Download Syllabus

2010

Abstract

In this report, David Elcott finds that most Jewish Baby Boomers see retirement as a time for work and service, not rest. But he argues that organizations are unprepared to tap this potentially huge influx of talent and experience. Based on a nationwide survey of 34 metropolitan Jewish communities conducted in July 2009, the survey elicited the attitudes of more than 6,500 individual Baby Boomer respondents about their future plans for public service and civic engagement. In addition to analyzing the survey data, Elcott offers recommendations on how the Jewish community can find substantial pathways that will engage Baby Boomers in communal institutional life.

2009

Abstract

"Discernment as the evaluation of one religious community by another is a critical question in contemporary interfaith dialogue theory and practice. How do the members of different religions judge the relative worth of other religious traditions? And how does this judgment connect with the complicated religious lives of modern people? The question of religious discernment has become much more pressing in an age of the globalization of religion along with economic and cultural exchange. What is so refreshing about these essays is that the authors do not shy away from the fact that every religious tradition does have ways of judging the relative merits (and demerits) of the religions of other people . . . As the Kongzi (Confucius) taught so long ago, we need to find harmony but not uniformity. These essays help us on this path

2008

David Elcott. "Testimonies from a Multifaith Hearing on Conversion". Lariano, Italy. ,May 12-16 2006

2007

Abstract

Writer discusses that Jews in USA support an Israel that seeks peace, reaches out in compromise, and cherishes the sacredness of human life over the sacredness of land. And as a religious minority,they  rightfully protest those who, in claiming a monopoly on knowing God’s will, tell them how to act or what policies Israel should promote — whether mainline Christian Protestants or Christian Zionists.

David Elcott. "Explorers of New Worlds: Building Community in a post-Modern Age". CLAC/UJC Revised 2007

2006

Abstract

Hussein Ibish, senior fellow, American Task Force on Palestine, and David Elcott, executive director, Israel Policy Forum, have given their views on the US support for Israel. Ibish believes that the American approach to Israel and Palestine is fundamentally flawed, whereas Elcott believes that those who argue pro-Israel lobby has forced American governments to support policies detrimental to the interests or to the forces of peace are wrong.

2005

David Elcott. "Whats Jewish?". AJC, Spanish Version

2004

Beth Rosenthal, David Elcott. "Engaging America: A community Building Handbook". AJC

2001

David Elcott. "The New World of Civic Engagement". The Jewish Public Forum