What it Means to Be an Ally

June 22, 2016

Hours after a self-radicalized Islamic extremist massacred gay patrons of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) nightclub in Florida, ADL regional offices reached out to support afflicted communities nationwide.

They organized and called for unity at vigils, marched in LGBT pride parades, advised potential targets about security, and shared information about hate crimes, terrorism, extremism, the role of guns and empowering children in the wake of violence. To prevent more violence, they helped bring different communities together and educated against bias.

Here are just a few highlights of this remarkable outpouring:

In Denver, ADL Regional Director Scott Levin helped conceive and organize a vigil at Tracks, the city’s largest LGBT nightclub, where ADL Regional Board Member Andrew Feinstein is a managing partner. The event was attended by more than 1,500 people, including members of the LGBT and Muslim communities, representatives of the governor’s office, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). “This is about resilience, the ability of people to stand up to hatred,” Mr. Levin told the crowd. He also implored them to work together to improve the world.

Los Angeles is not far from San Bernardino—the site of another mass shooting by self-radicalized Islamic extremists in December 2015. Concerned that anti-Muslim bias could hinder their employees’ abilities to work with Muslims and remain neutral in a crisis, the American Red Cross of LA called ADL’s LA office after Orlando to ask for anti-bias training.

Twenty-four hours later, A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute Project Director David Reynolds delivered a wide-ranging presentation to more than 60 Red Cross workers. It included ADL’s Pyramid of Hate and how lower-level expressions of bias can escalate into much more serious behavior; the definition of hate crime; ADL research about growing extremist violence in the U.S. and the use of firearms; and the importance of creating inclusive schools to prevent extremism in the future.

The LGBT community and the press turned out when ADL Israel hosted a solidarity event with Aguda, the Israeli LGBT Association, at a gay nightclub in Tel Aviv. Keith Mines, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Israel, told the crowd there is a “strong bond” between the LGBT communities in the two countries and that, “In good times and bad times, we are together.” Said ADL Israel Director Carole Nuriel, who also spoke, “We felt that the embrace we gave to the LGBT community in Israel was much appreciated, as any attack against an LGBT community in the world creates anxiety, and there is a need for public support.”

The focus of memorials, vigils and action in the aftermath of the attack was, of course, Florida. ADL’s Florida staff and lay leaders participated in more than 25 events around the state. “We have the expertise in dealing with these kinds of incidents, and are now relied upon as a resource and ally for the community—both reactively when incidents occur, and proactively—to enhance security, advocate for the protection of all and stop hate before it starts,” said ADL Florida Regional Director Hava L. Holzhauer.

Speaking alongside multiple Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Broward County State Attorney, LGBT leaders and civil rights leaders at a large vigil in Ft. Lauderdale, Ms. Holzhauer said: “The most important reason we are together today is to lift each other up…to do something brave that makes our country, our community, stronger in its inclusiveness, its openness, its tolerance, its shared values of love and kindness…and to resolve to find ways that can make our country more secure…to resolve to find the ways which stifle—better yet—which smother racism, homophobia and this death- and devastation-causing virus we know as hate.”