Ethical NYC Leaders

Interviews with the Leaders

Anne Klaeysen
Dr. Anne Klaeysen
(212) 874-5210 x1119

Anne Klaeysen is a Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling from Hebrew Union College, as well as Masters degrees in German from the State University of NY at Albany and business administration from New York University (NYU). Dr. Klaeysen is the Ethical Humanist Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University and Humanist Chaplain at NYU. She is also co-dean of The Humanist Institute and serves on the board of Sunday Assembly NYC. Dr. Klaeysen participates in several interfaith social justice coalitions.

Joseph Chuman
Dr. Joseph Chuman
(212) 874-5210 x1145
Joe is Leader of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, NJ, and has been so since 1974. Before that he was Leader of the Essex Ethical Society, and Leader-in-Training at the Bergen and New York Societies. He served on the Leadership Committee of the AEU for over 20 years, and was president of the National Leaders Council for six years. Joe is a representative from the AEU to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and was co-mentor of the sixth class of Humanist Institute – also serving on the Institute’s Board.

Joe has a Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University. He teaches seminars in human rights, and human rights and religion to graduate students at Columbia University, advises them in the development of their dissertations, and helps them advance their studies through internships in the international community. He also teaches human rights to undergraduates at the Honors College at Hunter College. Formerly, he taught at the United Nation University for Peace in Costa Rica and Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

Joe is the former chairman of Amnesty International USA’s Committee Against the Death Penalty and was the chairperson of NJ’s Committee Against the Death Penalty. He recently served on the advisory board of New Jerseyans for a Death Penalty Alternative, which helped abolish capital punishment there last year. He is a member of the Teaneck Clergy Council, which he chaired for three years in the ’90s. He helped organize interracial dialogues after a civil disturbance in the city in 1990, and serves on the Ethics Committee at Holy Name Hospital.

Joe has testified before legislative committees in New Jersey on such issues as the death penalty, moment of silence legislation, and religious cults. He has been amicus curiae in Lewis v. Harris, supporting the legalization of gay marriage in New Jersey, and Alberto R. Gonzalez v. State of Oregon, upholding physician assisted dying in the State of Oregon, which was litigated before the US Supreme Court. In 1983, he was a defendant in a landmark case that established free speech rights in New Jersey shopping malls.

Joe founded and is president of the Bergen County Sanctuary Committee for Political Asylum Seekers. The Committee provides a range of services and advocacy for political asylum seekers. In addition to direct activism, Joe spreads the word on Ethical Culture and related themes through extensive writing and publishing in newspapers, journals of opinion and academic texts. He is a former freelance opinion writer for the Bergen Record. He published a collection of his essays in a book entitled “Speaking of Ethics: Living a Humanist Life.

Dr. Richard Koral
Contact Richard

Richard Koral is Leader at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. He attended The Humanist Institute and holds a Doctor of Ministry in Interfaith Pastoral Counseling as well as a J.D. degree.  Richard is a long-time member of the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester and served as president of the American Ethical Union, the national federation of Ethical Societies, from 2012 to 2015. He is also currently a part-time counselor with the Scarsdale Family Counseling Service.

Khoren Arisian
Dr. Khoren Arisian, Leader Emeritus
I had sauntered onto a nearby unpaved path and slowly climbed among the rocks, thinking intensely about what I might do with my life. As I climbed to the top of an overlook the sky was vast and luminous, the crisp moonlight illuminated the valley, and off in the distance was the island's inconsequential-looking-chapel. With the warm summer breeze on my skin, I suddenly felt a cascade of tingling sensory impressions, causing me to feel extended into earth and sky and also into that little chapel, a symbol of human culture, striving and reflection. I felt utterly empowered, literally wired into the cosmos; at one with myself. I have not been as focused in my whole life as I was at that moment.

I had been attending a week-long summer youth conference on an island off the coast of New Hampshire. Beholding this view had provoked an inner experience of extraordinary depth, consolidating all the things rolling up in me that I was fascinated about. It was 1950: I was 17 years old. That night, during that strengthening, directive experience, I made decisions that set me on my adult path: to enter a liberal ministry. I heard no voices; doves didn't suddenly descend from the heavens with a message from afar; I just had a great silent inner dialog that no words can describe. I didn't feel my individuality to be swallowed up in some vague oceanic experience; if anything, it was underscored and enhanced. For a moment or two I actually felt invincible!

I was going to be my own kind of religious leader: no incense, robes, or the usual paraphernalia. I chose the path of moral universalism: we are all moral equals. In ethical humanism: our highest purpose is to help improve the lives of human beings, according to their own best wishes. I would not engage in social engineering, but would contribute to the creation of conditions in which people could live richer, more satisfying, self-directed lives. This also meant I would hold the reconstruction and reform of the American democratic prospect constantly before me. Such were the implications of that extraordinary evening in the summer of 1950.

The radical right is threatening our nation's founding principles; its true believers are the greatest danger this country is facing right now. Discussions framed from only their viewpoint go unopposed. Psycholinguistics - the repetition of concise phrases - that encapsulate their views permeate the media. I'm outraged at the notion of Christian superiority that the right wing perpetuates, for we are all equal as moral ends in ourselves.

I would love for us to revitalize the New York Society as the epicenter of the Ethical movement; to return it to the spirit of its radical roots in shaping major issues - not just locally, but nationally and perhaps beyond. We plan to organize a series of major public events, to generate some ethical friction in the effort to influence public opinion. The Advocacy Forum will explore issues such as the current assault upon civil liberties, the theological foundations of the religious right, and the paradox of worldwide American dominance. Stoke the public mood, then create a movement to harness its latent energies. The Advocacy Forum may have the potential to become one of the leading public opinion engines in the city. This is what Adler would describe as potentiality transformed into potency.

Millions of Americans are flustered, confused. This country is wealthy beyond belief, yet $15K per year for a family of three is poverty level in this country, a fact that immediately gets you to think about social reform and ethically motivated political action, recapturing in the spirit of our day the reform ethos of the progressive era of moral idealism. We all deserve to flourish if we can; consciousness of our inherent worth is the true source of freedom.

How, than, does one get through all the social machinery (meetings, reports, deadlines) to achieve this underlying goal? How to make most of this gift of life we have at our disposal? With the Advocacy Forum as a fulcrum, restoration of our magnificent building on Central Park West, and continued investment in our ethical humanist initiatives, we hope to prepare ourselves organizationally to attract people of all ages to the Society who want to help answer such questions and formulate the responses with programs and action plans. Our Society with all its promise is ready to go forward only to the degree that we awaken to that possibility and pull together with others who feel a kinship with us.

Career Highlights
1954 - Tufts University, American history major
1957 - Crane Theological School, Tufts (First year at Manchester College, Oxford, England.)
1958 - First Unitarian Society in Iowa City, Iowa
1964 - First minister of new Unitarian Church of Sarasota, Florida
1965 - The only clergyman from Sarasota to travel to Selma, Alabama, for the march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a flash point in the civil rights struggle.
1966 - Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School
1967 - Leader, Boston Ethical Society
1968 - Board of Leaders of the New York Society. Service included being a director and co-founder of the Ethical Culture School of Adult Education, a member of the Chaplaincy Task Force for the New York Board of Corrections, and a founder of the New York Society's Prison Reform Task Force.
1979-1997 - Unitarian Society of Minneapolis
1982 - Co-founded North American Committee for Humanism and the Humanist Institute.
2000 - Senior Leader, New York Society for Ethical Culture