As Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, it’s my job to be aware of how anti-Semitism is promoted, exploited and embraced on the fringes of society. It’s also my job to try to keep that hatred on the fringes, where it belongs.
Thanks in part to the work of the ADL, Jews in the United States are no longer openly discriminated against or excluded from universities, hotels, resorts or social clubs. Today, Jews don’t need to hide who they are, and for the most part, don’t feel unsafe or unsure of their position in society.
But it would be a mistake to think of anti-Semitism in the U.S. as a purely historical phenomenon – a threat relegated safely to the past. Today we are seeing a surge in anti-Semitism and bigotry, much of it cultivated and promoted on social media.
This is why the Never is Now summit was so timely, and so critical. As ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told summit attendees, “There are troubling signs. Now, they may be subtle, they may go unnoticed by the vast majority of Americans, but we see them.”
The message to participants was clear: Anti-Semitism is an ancient hatred, but we need new techniques for identifying and disarming it. Various speakers and panelists responded enthusiastically, citing tech companies, activists and innovators who are teaming up to fight discrimination in all its forms.
In the days immediately following the summit, its relevance was made immediately and painfully evident: White supremacists gathered for a conference in Washington, DC, where they brainstormed ways to “normalize” their bigotry, and celebrated their ascendance to the national stage. In Brooklyn, a small park named for Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch was vandalized with swastikas and graffiti. Across the country, police departments fielded reports of hate-motivated crimes.
So this is where the real work begins. Those of us who see anti-Semitism up close every day know that while summits are important, they are only a first step. What truly matters is what happens in our daily lives, what we do across the country and the world, to stand up to bigotry, anti-Semitism and hate in all its destructive forms. Never is Now isn’t just a warning – it’s a call to action.