David Elcott works at the intersection of community building, cross-boundary engagement, and interfaith and ethnic organizing/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 to train Jewish professionals.
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. In that role, he oversaw the expansion of CLAL’s leadership training programs in over forty cities across the continent, working with volunteer leaders, boards of directors, professionals and rabbis. 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 postive 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 past 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.
In 2013, Dr. Elcott received NYU’s Martin Luther King Faculty Award.