The ADL Has Corrupted Its Mission and Betrayed the Jewish Community | Opinion

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, founded in 1913, originally declared, "The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience, and if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike, and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."

It was established, that is, to combat Jew-hatred. If and only if the Jewish community is secure, it would then be appropriate to extend organizational resources to helping others in need. Put another way, a Jewish rights organization, founded by Jews, should rightfully focus on the plight of...Jews.

But for several decades at least, what is now called the ADL does not prioritize Jews. Its new mission is "To stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all." The ADL has elevated efforts to serve what it perceives as marginalized communities to equal or higher priority than the Jewish community, as though it has already eradicated antisemitism.

It has not. Recent FBI statistics show Jews are subject to more hate crimes per capita than any other group of Americans; twice as likely to be targeted as Black Americans, more than twice as likely as Muslims, and 50% more likely than those who are targeted for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

There are many organizations devoted to supporting marginalized communities; there is only one, in theory, dedicated to protecting Jews. By expanding its efforts beyond the Jewish community, the ADL dilutes its impact at a time of surging antisemitism.

Even more egregious, some of the groups supported by the ADL are hostile to the Jewish community. In 2020, the ADL signed on to a statement, published in a full-page ad in The New York Times, endorsing the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Of course, Black lives do matter. But leaders of BLM and affiliated groups, under the umbrella of the Movement for Black Lives, have wholeheartedly embraced the antisemitic "Boycott, Divest, and Sanction" movement, slandering Israel as "an apartheid state" that commits "genocide." Even in defending the ADL's support for this organization, CEO Jonathan Greenblatt admitted that "some involved in the cause hold hateful ideas" and have "engaged in antisemitic rhetoric." Somehow, that wasn't a deal-breaker.

Later that year, a BLM rally turned into a riot in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Los Angeles, where many synagogues were graffitied with obscenities, Jewish businesses were looted and vandalized, and anti-Jewish epithets, including "F* the Jews," were shouted. Yet the ADL downplayed the antisemitic nature of these events, laughably contending, "There is no indication that Jewish businesses or institutions were broadly targeted for vandalism."

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in 2014
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in 2014 Michael Kovac/WireImage

In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991, Al Sharpton led mobs of Black residents in days of rioting as they looted stores, screeched "death to the Jews!," and attacked their visibly Jewish neighbors—even murdering a yeshiva student, Yankel Rosenbaum, following a car accident where a Hasidic Jew accidentally struck and killed a young Black boy. Sharpton's eulogy at the boy's funeral dripped with antisemitic tropes about Jewish money and power. In the three-plus decades since, Al Sharpton has never apologized for fomenting the infamous Crown Heights pogrom, but that didn't stop Greenblatt from mainstreaming him, appearing on his MSNBC television show multiple times.

The ADL should not be legitimizing Jew-haters, yet under Greenblatt the organization has created a technology initiative funded with $1.75 million from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's charitable foundation. Omidyar has also financed The Intercept, an Iran-apologist, radical left-wing news outlet that has at times defended Hamas and Hezbollah, antisemites in the British Labour Party, the Jew-hating leaders of the Women's March, and supporters of Louis Farrakhan. The Omidyar Network also funds anti-Israel professors like Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University, who has called American Jews "diehard Fifth Column Zionists working against the best interests of Americans," and has tweeted that Israel is responsible for "every dirty treacherous ugly and pernicious act happening in the world."

Extremist imams in some mosques across the country can be found cursing Jews as "the most devilish ones on the Earth," who "specialize in the shedding of blood, in crime, and in killing." The ADL ignores this and actively works to increase immigration from Muslim-majority countries, which their very own studies show have the world's highest rates of Jew-hatred.

Islamist extremists, Black supremacists, anarchists, and left-wing groups where Jew-hatred is on the rise get scant attention from the ADL, which fixates on traditional right-wing bigots. This isn't surprising, given that Greenblatt is an alumnus of the Clinton and Obama administrations.

ADL leaders have hijacked the one-time stalwart Jewish defense organization to serve a progressive ideological agenda. This is a scandal that cannot be ignored—nor should it be tolerated. The ADL must return to its one-time "immediate object," which is to end Jew-hatred.

Sadly, other legacy Jewish organizations such the JCPA, as well as many Federations and Jewish Community Relations Councils, and even many of our synagogues, have also been commandeered to benefit the pet political causes of their leaders, rather than the people the institutions were formed to serve. Jewish donors, who anoint our American Jewish leaders, have permitted this "long march through Jewish institutions."

American Jewish elites are betraying the American Jewish community, and must be held accountable for their failures. The rest of us need to insist that the leaders fulfill their responsibility to the Jewish community, and to demand they do their jobs—or find new ones.

Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser are the founders of The Jewish Leadership Project.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.