Jonathan Greenblatt's Opening Remarks at ADL's 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate

Remarks by Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO
  • November 21, 2019
Jonathan Greenblatt gives opening remarks at Never Is Now 2019

Thank you, Esta, for that kind introduction,

And thank you for your friendship and your unwavering commitment to ADL, to the community, and to the country.

Through your service,

You have touched so many lives directly --

And many thousands more indirectly.

Thank you to our board of directors,

Our many donors and our corporate sponsors for helping to ensure the success of this remarkable day.

Thank you all for taking time out of your busy lives to join here today for our fourth annual Never Is Now conference.

And let me thank the 300 high schoolers here today –

Where are you?

Are you awake yet?

Who’s happy to miss class today?

This year,

The conference has grown so big that we had to move it here,

To the Javitz Center.

I’ll be honest with you:

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

I am inspired and uplifted by the outpouring of support…

By the commitment you all have shown to fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry…

To make our nation and our world a place without hate.

Yet,

In reviewing the past year,

We all know that your commitment is needed more than ever…

That violent anti-Semitism…

Shootings, muggings, and attacks…

Are on the rise.

We all have read the reports of the swastikas on gravestones,

On synagogue walls,

And on garage doors…

We see the reports of high school kids who think it’s funny to sling “Heil Hitler” salutes at each other…

And we hear near-endless stream of political rhetoric –

From politicians across the spectrum –

Who blame the “globalists” for their troubles or condemn the Jews with their money controlling congress…

Or insinuate dual loyalties.

Beyond the Jewish community,

We see black churches burned to the ground.

Mosques defaced in the ugliest of ways.

Refugees and immigrants dehumanized.

Just the other day,

A Peruvian immigrant in Milwaukee asked by a man in the street “why he invaded his country,”

And then had the man throw acid in his face.

The shooting in El Paso

The shooting in Poway.

It’s so much that it’s easy to grow numb.

But we can’t –

And we won’t.

My friends, today, i am here –

And you are here– because we feel, as Dr. King put it, the “fierce urgency of now...

(and that) in this unfolding conundrum of life and history,

There is such a thing as being too late.”

We know from our own history the consequences of being too late…

Of allowing complacency to win out over courage…

Apathy to overtake action.

And the time for action is now.

Consider the FBI statistics released just about two weeks ago:

Jews were the target of the most religion-based hate crimes in 2018,

And that hate crime murders totaled 24–

The highest since the FBI began tracking these statistics in 1991.

Or let me tell you about where i was a little over one week ago.

I was standing with a range of elected officials and faith leaders at the borough hall in Brooklyn to announce a new ADL effort to dramatically expand our “no place for hate” education program to another 10,000 students.

We were doing this because in 2017,

There were over 200 reported anti-Semitic incidents in New York City.

That's a 90 percent jump from 2016.

In 2018,

13 out of 17 anti-Semitic assaults that took place in the big apple happened in Brooklyn –

And this year,

The situation is getting worse with the attacks becoming more aggressive and more dangerous.

But despite this fact,

These attacks on orthodox Jews hasn’t gotten nearly enough media attention. 

Perhaps that’s because it doesn’t slot neatly into some precooked partisan narrative.

Maybe it’s because this is a situation that you can’t attribute it to one side of the political spectrum.

But mothers and fathers are afraid –

And with good reasons.

If their children walk down the streets of Brooklyn with a kippah on their heads, they are taking a risk that once would have been unimaginable.

And remember,

This isn’t Berlin or even Boise.

We’re talking about Brooklyn.

We are so concerned about the increase in anti-Semitic incidents that we are starting an anti-Semitism tracker on our website because people need to see the problem so we can act on it.

And it’s not just what we see here in the us.

Look at the numbers ADL just released today from our global 100 index,

The most comprehensive study of anti-Semitic attitudes worldwide.

The results aren’t pretty.

In eastern and central Europe, huge majorities believe that Jews have too much power in business and finance.

In Western Europe–

In places like Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Germany, and Spain–

More than 40 percent of people believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their country.

And in the UK.

You don’t need to take a poll to see how anti-Semitism can infect a society.

Next month,

There will be a general election there in which one of the major parties will be led by an out and out anti-Semite,

A man who revels in his anti-Zionism which,

Make no mistake, is little more than a seemingly polite,

21st century way to describe anti-Semitism

How bad is it over there?

Well,

Nearly half of British Jews said that if Jeremy Corbyn and Labour wins,

They will seriously consider emigrating.

Yes,

My friends,

There is a fierce urgency.

And today,

You will learn what we are doing about it –

And what you can do about it.

Listen to a member of the UK parliament who left the Labour party over its refusal to tackle anti-Semitism.

Learn how ADL is supporting a path-breaking effort to bring the Nazis and extremists behind the melee in Charlottesville to justice and make them pay for their crimes.

Hear from one of the most innovative CEOs in america about how he is modeling a new kind of leadership, building a business opposed to hate,

One grounded in basic human values even as it generates massive shareholder value.

Explore what we are doing to fight BDS and other anti-Semitic movements on college campuses.

Learn how ADL works to build coalitions across communities and why it is so critical in fighting hate.

And at our plenaries,

We literally have a star-studded group of people who are using their fame and talent to stand up for those who may not have a voice.

And,

If I may add,

Our Broadway panel has some of the most beautiful voices you’ll ever here!

Believe me,

It will be intense.

After hearing about all the forces that seek to demean, denigrate,

And divide us,

It may be dispiriting.

I know how it can get you down.

When you work at ADL,

You are acutely aware of the hate in the world.

But,

We also see the good.

One year ago,

On a Shabbat morning in Pittsburgh,

We saw the violence that hate can nurture.

I think each and every one of us will never forget where we were when we heard the news of the massacre there.

That was a dark day.

Just a few weeks ago,

It was the first Yahrtzeit of the deaths of the Pittsburgh 11.

The city was marking the occasion,

And i decided that i had to go.

And that’s why i found myself on a Fall afternoon in western Pennsylvania in a huge hall, filled with people.

Maybe 1000 people or more.

And,

As we waited for the event to begin,

As people milled about with one another,

The crowd grew quiet as the university of Pittsburgh sports teams, suddenly and silently,

Marched single file into the hall– football and basketball, women’s crew and men’s track, volleyball and wrestling.

All of them.

They walked down the aisle,

Dozens upon dozens of them…

Wearing warm-up gear…

Jews and non-Jews, blacks and whites, Latinos and Asian-Americans,

All marching into the hall in total silence.

It was powerful.

People drew close.

You could hear a pin drop.

The diversity of these athletes reflected the diversity of the entire crowd.

Because in Pittsburgh,

No one saw what happened at the tree of life as an attack on a single house of worship.

Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus.

All stood together because it was clear:

This was an attack on the whole community…

On everyone.

In the video we saw just a few minutes ago,

We heard from Judah Samet,

A tree of life congregant and a holocaust survivor,

Whose life was spared because he was four minutes late to shul that day and was in his car when the bullets rang out.

Judah told us all:

“I have the right to believe that the world is a rotten place,

But i don’t.”

My friends,

Judah is right.

There are bad things that happen in the world,

But anti-Semitism is not inevitable.

Bigotry is not inevitable.

Violence is not inevitable.

These are some tough years in our country,

But America is better than this.

There are good people out there from all backgrounds and all walks of life.

They know right from wrong.

And they know that if we truly want a world without hate…

They feel that fierce urgency of now…

They don’t want to be too late.

These are our allies.

This is you.

And with your leadership and activism,

I stand here clear-eyed about the hard work ahead,

But absolutely optimistic about our future.

So,

Let’s get to work.

Never is Now.

Thank you.