ADL's Top Moments of 2017

  • December 20, 2017
Sieg Heils in Charlottesville

At the Anti-Defamation League, 2017 was a year of heightened challenges and unforeseen obstacles to our mission to fight anti-Semitism and secure justice and fair treatment for all. In 2017 hate crimes rose, bomb threats shattered the Jewish community’s sense of security, anti-Semitic incidents increased, white supremacists were emboldened, domestic terrorism reared its ugly head, anti-immigrant rhetoric soared, and discriminatory policies such as the Muslim travel ban and a ban on transgender military service were promoted by the new administration in Washington, D.C.

At every opportunity, ADL rose to the challenge: We pushed back against anti-Semitism and racism. We exposed hatred, called out bigotry when our national leaders failed to do so, formed coalitions, filed legal briefs, gathered signatures, and, when necessary, marched alongside our friends and allies and spoke truth to power – reminding government and civic leaders of their responsibility to guard civil liberties, ensure church-state separation, and protect equal rights for all Americans.

Looking back, here’s a recap of some of ADL’s defining moments in 2017:

Response to Charlottesville and Alt-Right Rallies

The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August became a galvanizing moment for modern-day racists and anti-Semites in America. Shouting “Jews Will Not Replace Us!” and holding torches and swastika flags, members of the so-called alt right descended on the small college city and clashed with counter-demonstrators, leading to scores of injuries and one death. ADL, having warned the public in advance about the rally’s size and potential impact, was at the forefront of the national conversation over Charlottesville and its aftermath, identifying the major players, providing crucial up-to-the-minute information to law enforcement and public officials, reminding people about the anti-Semitism at the core of the alt right movement, and helping identify the racist participants from at least 35 states who came out for the rally. ADL likewise catalogued and provided information on another three dozen white supremacist rallies that took place across the country.

Mayors Sign ‘Compact Against Hate’

After the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville turned violent, President Trump failed a test of moral leadership when he seemed to suggest an equivalency between the violent white supremacists and peaceful counter-demonstrators. In response, ADL and the U.S. Conference of Mayors announced a joint plan to fight extremism and bigotry and promote justice and equality. More than 300 mayors from across the country signed on to a 10-point plan committing themselves to speak out against all acts of hate, punish bias-motivated violence and encourage more anti-bias and anti-hate education in schools and police forces.

Data Dive: New Reporting Anti-Semitism and Hate Crimes

Faced with several waves of bomb threats against Jewish schools and community centers nationwide and a disturbing rise in anti-Semitic attacks, ADL sought innovative ways to document, gauge, and report on the number of hate crimes and overall level of anti-Semitism in America. ADL expanded reporting of anti-Semitic incidents, issuing quarterly reports, and mapped the series of six waves of bomb threats against Jewish institutions using interactive tools and maps.

An ADL poll found that while anti-Semitic attitudes in the U.S. had increased slightly to 14 percent, a large majority of Americans was concerned about violence against Jews and other minorities. ADL partnered with SAS Analytics to convene a hackathon to take a deeper dive into hate crime data and unveiled an online hate crime map featuring FBI data from 2004 to 2016 and crucial information on state hate crime laws.

Leading the Fight Against Online Hate

In a year when online hate tore at the fabric of society, ADL announced new initiatives to combat online hate. The League opened a new Center for Technology and Society created with seed funding from Omidyar Network, and more than a dozen tech sector leaders joined the Center’s board of advisors as ADL expanded its effort to counter the growing problem of online hate and harassment. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and ADL announced a lab to pioneer new solutions to stop cyberhate; and ADL held its first ever competitive hackathon with the goal of developing games to change attitudes and reduced bias, especially among youth.

Sports Leadership Council

After the #TakeAKnee controversy prompted a national conversation over athletes who refuse to stand during the National Anthem, ADL announced a new initiative to work in partnership with professional athletes and sports leaders to promote positive social change and combat hate, bullying and discrimination in society. Recognizing the remarkable power of the sports industry to break down barriers and bring about social change, the new initiative brought together the commissioners of the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the WNBA, along with a roster of high-profile sports celebrities.

Anti-Semitism Envoy Position Maintained at State

After Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that he was considering not filling the vacant State Department post of special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, ADL jumped into action, spearheading a massive public awareness effort to ensure that the congressionally mandated position would be retained and filled. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, in letters to members of Congress, in a petition drive, and an interfaith letter signed by more than two dozen of the nation’s religious leaders, ADL made the case for why America needs an anti-Semitism monitor as part of its diplomatic corps. In late August, after ADL delivered thousands of petitions to his office, Secretary Tillerson changed course and indicated he would retain the post.

Mexican Consulates and ADL Form Agreement to Fight Bigotry

In response to the rising tide of hate crimes and discrimination facing Mexican nationals and immigrants living in America, ADL and the Mexican Foreign Ministry signed an agreement in September creating a framework across the U.S. to provide assistance to people of Mexican heritage who are victims of discrimination, bigotry, bullying and hate crimes. The partnership is now making experts on hate crimes, hate groups and discrimination available to the 50 Mexican consulates across the U.S.

Challenging President Trump’s Immigration Ban and Other Executive Orders

In one of his first acts as president, President Trump attempted to push through an executive order calling for a travel ban on Muslims entering the United States. ADL opposed the executive order and attempts to revise the ban at every step of the way, filing legal briefs challenging the order, condemning the revised order as a Muslim ban, and calling out the policy as being intentionally designed to exclude one religious group based on appeals to xenophobia and fear. ADL also challenged the administration’s executive order banning transgender individuals from the military, saying the policy was blatantly discriminatory.

New Anti-Bias Education Milestones Reached

In 2017, ADL’s anti-bias education programs continued to reach thousands of students and teachers across the U.S., and ADL introduced new educational online courses and programs to reach new audiences with anti-bias materials. After Charlottesville, ADL developed resources for educators and parents and family members on the alt right and white supremacy and introduced a parent and family discussion guide on Charlottesville. The resources were highlighted on CNN, the New York Times Learning Network, Education Week and others.

ADL also developed an online resource, “Think. Plan. Act.” to help Jewish students encountering anti-Semitism and anti-Israel incidents on campus, and it entered into a partnership with the Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau, bringing ADL's “Words to Action” program to more than 700 affiliated students on campus. At the middle and high school level, ADL redefined and enhanced its signature “No Place for Hate” program to support schools committed to combating bias, bullying and hatred through a systematic, whole school approach.

The Good Fight: Recalling America’s Civil Rights Struggles

For more than 100 years, ADL has been a key player in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans. This year was no different, as ADL continued to advocate for the rights of all people to have equal access to America’s freedoms regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. In an effort to remind young people about past struggles and what lessons they impart for today’s world, ADL sponsored the publication of “The Good Fight: America’s Ongoing Struggle for Justice,” a large coffee table book chronicling the struggle for justice and civil rights and recalling the struggles of Native Americans, African-Americans, Japanese Americans, Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans Latin Americans, American Women, LGBTQ Americans and Americans with Disabilities for equal treatment.