Continuing the Good Fight: “Never is Now” Summit on Anti-Semitism Reconvenes in San Francisco

  • November 10, 2017

A year ago, when the Anti-Defamation League convened its first major summit on anti-Semitism in New York City, all of the signs pointed to a distinct resurgence of the world’s oldest hatred.

Jewish journalists had endured withering assaults on social media. Anti-Semitism was a serious and growing concern on college campuses. And hatred of Jews was once again entering the public conversation as Americans witnessed one of the most divisive presidential elections in history.

Never is Now, Jonathan Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League

One year later, all of the signs are pointing in a similar direction. Anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise, campuses are reeling from white supremacist appearances and requests to speak on campus and hate fliering, social media companies are still grappling with the challenge of online hate speech, and Israel is still a locus for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

It’s clear that anti-Semitism is not just a matter of history, but a current event.

From the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, where members of the alt-right held swastika flags and chanted “Jews will not replace us!,” to hate fliers and speech showing up at schools and campuses, to a startling increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents nationwide, there’s plenty of indicators that we still have much work ahead of us to confront hatred and prejudice in America.

As the leading American institution fighting anti-Semitism for over 100 years, ADL recognizes that we cannot lead this fight by ourselves. We need powerful allies -- from the halls of Congress, to business and corporate leaders and beyond.

We need people to not only raise their voices against anti-Semitism and hate, but to apply creative thinking and find modern-day solutions to confronting hatred. We need to explore anti-Semitism from a range of vantage points -- from threats to Jewish life in Europe, to the crossover between attacks on Israel and anti-Semitism, to the challenges of using technology to identify and shut down hateful speech on social media and in cyberspace.

And that’s what ADL’s NEVER IS NOW! Summit is all about.

On Monday, Nov. 13, ADL is convening our second annual summit against anti-Semitism in San Francisco. We chose the location for good reason. In the past year ADL has been ramping up our work with corporate partners and tech startups in Silicon Valley in an effort to stem the tide of hate speech on social media. So as we convene in San Francisco, we will be bringing in those leaders from the high tech community, including companies such as Facebook, Reddit, YouTube and others, for conversations about how industry can play a role in working to fight hatred in cyberspace and in the real world.

The summit comes at a time when anti-Semitic incidents have surged across the United States. ADL’s latest data shows that anti-Semitic incidents remain significantly higher in 2017 compared to 2016. ADL counted 1,299 incidents across the United States in the first three quarters of this year, which represents a 67 percent year-over-year and already exceeds the 1,266 incidents reported in all of last year.

There was a distinct increase after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. Of the 306 incidents reported in the third quarter, 221 took place on or after the August 11 rally. And the Charlottesville rally was one of at least 33 public white supremacist events in the U.S. so far this year, which were supplemented with 188 incidents where white supremacists used fliers to spread their message to new audiences, especially on college campuses.

NEVER IS NOW! was the brainchild of ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who early in his tenure saw a need to bring together thought leaders to look at the problem of anti-Semitism at all angles and to come up with future-facing solutions.

The summit’s name is a play on the theme of “Never Again” that emerged after the Nazi Holocaust, which embodied the notion that the world should never again allow Jews or any minority be subjected to the kind of racism and prejudice that led, ultimately, to the gas chambers that consumed six million Jews and millions of others in the world’s worst genocide.

NEVER IS NOW is a clarion call to action, a reminder that we cannot sit idly by when anti-Semitism rears its ugly head.

This year’s conference will feature a number of leading thinkers on anti-Semitism and technology-based solutions to combat it. Plenary sessions will include major announcements on how ADL will be expanding its work with Silicon Valley with a new Center for Technology & Society thanks to seed funding from the Omidyar Network, as well as breakout sessions on community partnerships in the fight against anti-Semitism, Israeli perspectives on BDS, artificial intelligence and new avenues, start-up perspectives on innovating against hate and Jewish students and the conflict on campus.

Keynote speakers include Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn; Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria of the United States Air Force Academy; Eric P. Liu, founder and CEO of Citizen University; Jeremy Heimans, co-founder and CEO of Purpose, and Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO.

An array of workshops and panels will delve into the serious drivers of anti-Semitism in societies and how young people and others can play a role in helping to push back against anti-Jewish stereotypes. There will be discussions about anti-Semitism in the Bay Area and on campus, how to talk to children about hate, reviving Jewish communities in Europe, and using community partnerships in the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and hate.

And finally, individuals will share their personal stories about overcoming hate. A student at American University will discuss the aftermath of a noose discovered on campus; a former white supremacist will talk about why he left the movement and is now encouraging others to do the same, and a rabbi will discuss how she and others responded to a campaign of online harassment and doxxing aimed at her small Jewish community in Montana.