ADL official promotes social dialogue to fight anti-Semitism

“We’re asking people to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, says the ADL’s director of Community Affairs for New York/New Jersey, attributing the rise in anti-Semitic violence to a breakdown in social dialogue.

By Atara Beck, World Israel News

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which describes itself as “the world’s leading anti-hate organization,” based in the U.S., announced a $5,000 reward earlier this month for information leading to the conviction of the perpetrators of two recent assaults against visibly Jewish men in Brooklyn, New York.

The ADL, according to its website, “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.”

Attacks against Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn occurred several times in recent months, including physical assault.

According to data released by the ADL on April 30, anti-Semitic assaults in New York State increased by 55 percent in 2018 over the previous year.

World Israel News discussed the situation with Alexander Rosemberg, director of Community Affairs at the ADL’s New York/New Jersey office.

Has there been any response to the $5,000 incentive?

“Usually what happens is that they [those with information] call the New York Police Department directly…so we don’t normally hear about the responses until they’re actionable. The reward is valid if it leads to arrest and conviction. It needs to be really actionable information.”

Is $5,000 enough of an incentive?

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“From past experience, it has been more than enough. Crimestoppers and the Hate Crimes Task Force have been really good at publishing the photo from CCTV footage, which was not the case in the previous assault, when we got good testimony but not a good photo.”

[Rosemberg was referring to the fact that there were two assaults within two days. – ed. note]

Why is there a surge in hate crimes in New York and across the country specifically now?

“There’s always a mixture of things. Social dialogue, I believe, has suffered a bit of a breakdown, siloing off different groups that are forced to be in contact with each other.

“Brooklyn had 31 of the 17 attacks in New York in 2018. Queens had only 3. Manhattan had 1. These areas that are being developed.”

Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, which hosts a large black community as well as being the center of the world Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, suffered riots in 1991 in which a black assailant stabbed a Jewish man to death. The violence was triggered by a fatal traffic accident, when a car escorting Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the late Chabad spiritual leader, struck two black children, killing one.

In recent months, Crown Heights has been the site of vicious anti-Semitic assaults, even in broad daylight. Many Jews fear walking outside.

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What is ADL doing in response to the anti-Semitic violence?

Among the initiatives, “we’re bringing African-Caribbean leaders from those areas to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, and we plan to bring Hasidic Jewish leaders to the African-American museum (National Museum of African American History and Culture) in Washington, D.C. So the idea is that afterwards, they would be able to have a dialogue in a room and speak about what they have in common. Both were victims in the past.”

Have Jews assaulted blacks?

“We don’t track that. The reason we’re putting an emphasis on that particularly is because they all need to realize the suffering” that both groups have endured. “We’re asking people to walk a mile in each other’s shoes so that more empathy could be developed.”

How are you fighting the surge in anti-Jewish attacks?

“The main thing is that hate and bias are learned. Someone taught it. It’s not human nature to hate. So if it can be learned, it can be unlearned. That’s why ADL places such a large emphasis on anti-bias education.”

[Rosemberg referred to ADL’s educational program geared for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The program has been implemented in some public schools, although it’s suitable for private institutions as well, he said. – ed. note]

Does Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win in New York indicate a more anti-Jewish sentiment in New York, considering her friendship with colleagues Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), who have been accused of promoting anti-Semitism?

“The ADL takes a nuanced and piecemeal approach as things come up,” Rosemberg replied, adding that “we speak up when we need to criticize – on both sides of the aisle, mind you.”

On both sides?

[Rosemberg gave no examples but referred to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s recent statements regarding Tlaib. On Tuesday, USA Today published an opinion piece by Greenblatt, titled “Tlaib is wrong, but not anti-Semitic.” – ed. note]