Debbie Almontaser Biography

Dr. Debbie Almontaser is an internationally recognized, award-winning educator, speaker and authority on cross cultural understanding. She is an influential community leader and the Founder and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group, Inc.

Dr. Almontaser was the founding and former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, NY. A twenty-five year veteran of the NYC Public School System, she taught special education, inclusion, trained teachers in literacy, and served as a multicultural specialist and diversity advisor. Currently, she is the Board President of the Muslim Community Network (www.mcnny.org). She frequently lectures, serves on panels, and facilitates teacher and public workshops on cultural diversity, conflict resolution, Arab Culture, Islam, Muslims in America, interfaith coalition building and youth leadership at schools, universities, libraries, museums, faith-based organizations, churches, synagogues, as well as national and international conferences.

Dr. Almontaser was a consultant for CAMBA, a New York based nonprofit, on The Diversity Project. She also served as the consultant and advisor for Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr. Muslim American Series; Independent Production Fund on the Islam Project (producers of Muslims and Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet PBS Productions); Islam Access Project (Channel 13 WNET); and Educators for Social Responsibility on cultural matters and the Interfaith Center of NYC on religious diversity issues.

Dr. Almontaser co-designed and developed curriculum for the Muslim Communities Project, Columbia University titled “Re-Embracing Diversity in NYC Public Schools: Educational Outreach for Muslim Sensitivity and for Educators for Social Responsibility/Metro, Arab Peoples: Past and Present.” Both curricula engage students to develop interpersonal and intercultural understanding based on respect for ethnic and religious diversity. They also engage students to become culturally sensitive and aware of bias and bigotry and how to combat such behaviors.

A member of the steering committee for A Community of Many Worlds: Arab-Americans at the Museum of the City of New York and on the Advisory Board for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan exhibit, America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far, Dr. Almontaser’s leadership and expertise are frequently utilized by both public and private organizations.

In 2005, Dr. Almontaser spearheaded the inauguration of Arab Heritage Week in New York City. She is also the “go to person” on cultural and religious diversity issues for Borough President Eric Adams, the Mayor’s office of Immigrant Affairs, New York Police Department and New York City Council members. She also sits on the Public Advocate Tish James’ Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh Task Force to Combat Hate. Dr. Almontaser is a founding board member of The Dialogue Project, Brooklyn Borough President’s New Diversity Task Force and board advisor for the Same Difference Interfaith Alliance. Dr. Almontaser served on the boards of Youth Bridge NY, Women In Islam, Inc., and Saba: The Association of Yemeni Americans. She is a co-founder of Brooklyn Bridges, the September 11th Curriculum Project, We Are All Brooklyn, and Women Against Islamophobia and Racism (WAIR).

She currently sits on the boards of Emerge National, Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee National, American Muslim Women PAC, and The Therapy and Learning Center Preschool in Brooklyn.

Dr. Almontaser was a featured speaker at the 2016 National Democratic Convention and has been featured on the front page of the New York Times and profiled in Time Magazine, Newsweek, NY1 and Daily News.

Dr. Almontaser received a BA from St. Francis College, a MS from Adelphi University and Ed.D from Fordham University. She is a Revson Fellowship Scholar and alumna of Columbia University’s Revson Fellows Program.

Since September 11, Dr. Almontaser and her family have opened their home to people from across the country to have a social exchange that lends itself to developing an understanding of Arabs and Muslims in New York City. She also organized numerous interfaith and cultural events to develop cross-cultural understanding across New York City, such as the Children of Abraham Peace Walk. This work has led to travel in order to share her peace-building work nationally and internationally in Canada, Russia, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Denmark, Netherlands, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kazakhstan, and Portugal.

Publications

TIME: My Muslim Faith Makes Me an American Patriot
August 2, 2016
ProQuest: School Leadership Against the Backdrop of Political Spectacle: Exploring the Lived Experiences of American Muslim Principals after September 11
May, 2016
NY Daily News: Celebrating Eid, defeating Islamophobia: A mission for Educators
September 24, 2015
Starting Up: Critical Lessons from 10 New Schools, 2012, “Khalil Gibran International Academy: From Dream to Nightmare.
Guardian: The NYPD’s ugly history of Racial Profiling
January 30, 2012
Huffington Post: ‘All-American Muslim’ is as American as Apple Dessert
December 2, 2011
NY Daily News: A tough decade for Muslims: Ten years after 9/11, we still struggle to prove our patriotism
September 9, 2011
Monthly Review: The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy, Volume 63 Issue 03
(July-August) 2011
Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities, 2011, “The Khalil Gibran International Academy Lessons Learned?”
Forever After: Teachers on 9/11, 2006, “Testifying to Our Existence: Exploring Religions and Cultures Through Mural Painting”
Colorlines Magazine, Applied Research Publications 2005, Finding My Religion
APPLESEEDS Magazine, Cobblestone Publishing 2003, Living as a Muslim in the Untied States Today
Fellowship Magazine September 11th 2002 Anniversary Issue, Fellowship of Reconciliation, “Bridge-builder: Birth of an activist”
Gotham Gazette: Rebuilding New York City, Summer 2002, I Symbolize the Coexistence of Two Worlds”
The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11 2002, “Growing-up Arab-American”
Columbia University’s Muslim Communities Project, Re-Embracing Diversity in NYC Public Schools: Educational Outreach for Muslim Sensitivity (Co-authored) High School
Educators for Social Responsibility/Metro, Arab Peoples: Past and Present. (Co-authored) Grades 3-6

Honors/Awards

  • Emily’s List, We Are Emily Award May 2017
  • Auburn Seminary, Lives of Commitment Award April 2017
  • New York City Council, Shirley Chisholm Women of Distinction Award March 2017
  • NYC Comptroller, New York, Advocacy for Justice and Tolerance in Education April 2015
  • NYC Council, New York, Teaching Tolerance July 2014
  • ADC National, Rose Nader Award, Commitment to Values of Equality and Justice June 2012
  • Muslim Leader of Tomorrow by the American Society for Muslim Advancement Oct. 2008​
  • Pax Christi Metro New York, Local Peacemaker Award Mar. 2008
  • Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Risk-Takers Award Oct. 2007
  • Mayor of the City of New York Proclamation, Arab Heritage Recognition July 2005
  • Brooklyn Parent for Peace, Multi-Cultural Educator/ Peace Builder Award June 2005
  • Affinity Health Plan, Faith Leaders Award Community Service Award April 2005
  • Arab American Association of NY, Community Service Award Dec. 2004
  • Brooklyn Borough President Proclamation, Educator/ Bridge Builder Award Nov. 2004
  • Brooklyn Ethical Society, Peace Builder Award May 2004

Professional Affiliations

  • Teaching Tolerance
  • Facing History and Ourselves
  • Educators for Social Responsibility National
  • Educational Leadership
  • The Museum of New York City
  • American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee
  • Arab American Institute
  • Children’s Museum of Manhattan

Featured in Documentaries

  • The Yemeni Bodega Strike, 2017
  • American Promise, 2014
  • Intifada NYC, 2009
  • Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech, HBO 2008
  • VOA, From Yemen to Coney Island; From Teacher to Community Activist 2005
  • Nick News, with Linda Ellerbe, Muslim American Special 2004
  • Channel 13 PBS New York Voices: Teaching Tolerance 2002
  • Japanese TV, New Yorkers: Conflict Resolution 2002
  • Educational Video, One School’s Story: Making the World Feel Better 2002