By Jonathan Greenblatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League
This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post Blog
I have always believed that it takes more than one person, one leader, or one institution to solve the toughest challenges. As I began my tenure as CEO six months ago, I realized that in order to achieve our timeless mission -- to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure fair treatment and justice to all -- we would need to harness the energies of innovation and discover new ways to sharpen our focus on the most relevant issues facing our community and our nation. We would need to broaden our tent, to attract the brightest people, and to welcome new ideas.
That is why I’m thrilled today to launch a new initiative aimed at opening our minds to the cutting edge, to bring together divergent voices into dialogue in an open and unfettered exchange.
We’re calling it ADL@Salon.
To meet the demands of a century defined by rapid change, it is my belief that ADL transform itself into a learning organization, one capable of continuous reinvention. In short, an organization that thrives on innovation.
In this still new century, we face what can seem insurmountable challenges without obvious solutions. As President Obama took note of just last week, anti-Semitism is undeniably rising around the world. We face failing and failed states breeding extremism, such as the growing influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and their affiliates around the Middle East. We face racism in many guises, from police brutality to education inequality.
Our political discourse is stained by appeals to stereotyping and scapegoating. We see hard won gains in women’s rights and LGBT rights at risk of being rolled back. Around the world and even here at home, we see troubling trends in campaigns to de-legitimize and demonize the state of Israel, even as the conflict between Israel and its neighbors seems as intractable as ever.
Building the coalitions that are willing to think through the solutions to these great challenges undoubtedly means widening the tent. It means gathering input and ideas from a greater range of voices, even those with whom we might disagree.
As hatred and extremism migrate to the uncharted realm of the internet, as the very definition of social movements has been fundamentally transformed by new modes of communication and community, we must build the engines that spark new ideas and new approaches.
Inspired by the intense exchanges in European cafés that led to inventions and revolutions in politics and science which shaped the modern world, ADL@Salon aims to bring together thought leaders across the broad spectrum of our work to engage in high level and off-the-record conversations in order to infuse new ideas and approaches for combating hatred and prejudice in our world.
The inaugural ADL@Salon will take place today at our national headquarters in New York. Harnessing the expertise of leading scholars and foreign policy practitioners, we will look forward to assess what the future holds in store for the Middle East, and how U.S. policy should respond to these trends.
Co-sponsored by our friends at the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development, a public policy think-tank headquartered in Belgrade and New York, our aim is not to broadcast our discussions broadly, but harness these and inform our new directions and positions.
ADL@Salon is the start of a new way of approach at ADL. Future partners in our conversations come from across a broad array of fields—from scholars to advocates, policy professionals to business leaders. We will consider the challenges of the 21st century’s civil rights agenda. We will think deeply about the relationship between the United States and Israel in these times of change. We will welcome the entrepreneurs and innovators of Silicon Valley into conversation to challenge our thinking about how we approach social problems.
What if ADL can be the place that inspires brave thinking? What if we can bring together the minds that lead us smartly toward our “big bets?” I believe that through dialogue and the exchange of ideas and information, we can transform our response to 21st century challenges.
As the leading organization fighting anti-Semitism and defending the civil rights of all, I believe ADL is poised to inspire great change. That is what ADL@Salon is truly about.