Jonathan Greenblatt speaks on antisemitism


Connor Tang/Chronicle

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke to the school May 28.

CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Jonathan Greenblatt spoke in an all-school assembly May 28 in Taper Gymnasium.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization, specifically targeting antisemitism in the United States according to its website. Greenblatt, who has been the CEO of ADL for 7 years, has spoken at institutions across the world and has recently worked with the Biden administration in a national plan to address antisemitism in the United States.

In response to the series of incidents of antisemitic vandalism, including several drawings of swastikas at the Upper School this year, Greenblatt said the school has taken appropriate measures to combat antisemitism.

“[The antisemitic vandalism] is ugly,” Greenblatt said. “It’s regrettable that even in a place like this, where you come together to learn and to grow, to express your identities, that you can be intimidated by those with an agenda. But I’m amazed and impressed that this community didn’t get into fear, but sprang into action. All of us at ADL here in the Los Angeles (LA) office were amazed at how you and your classmates, your friends and teachers are working through these challenges together, leaning on one another. As a community with one voice, you collectively work together as active champions in the fight against bigotry and hate.”

Greenblatt said the incidents have followed a trend in antisemitism, both in California and the US.

“I can tell you what’s happening off campus here in California, across the country and around the world,” Greenblatt said. “2022 was the worst year for antisemitic incidents that we’ve seen at ADL since we started tracking this almost 45 years ago. There were a total of 3697 anti-Jewish actions recorded across America last year. That was up 36% over the prior year. California right here, the place where all my kids were born, the place where all of you are going to school, has seen an extraordinary increase in antisemitic incidents over the past two years.”

Greenblatt said that ADL has worked with government platforms on all levels to address antisemitic hate.

“We’ve been working closely with the City Council of Los Angeles, elected officials in Sacramento and Governor [Gavin] Newsom to develop meaningful programs to counter antisemitism, anti-black racism, anti [Asian American Pacific Islander] hate and other forms of prejudice that seem to be affecting the state of California,” Greenblatt said. “We’re working to strengthen hate crime reporting, so that the police are tracking this effectively. We’re applying this not just locally in LA or the state level in California, but at the federal level. President Biden in the White House will be releasing any day now a national strategy to counter antisemitism that ADL has been very, very involved with behind the scenes.”

Jewish Club leader Manu Markman ’23 said the event gave him an opportunity to ask his personal questions.

“I thought Greenblatt’s speech was good, albeit and expectedly a bit political in that it was incredibly guarded,” Markman said. “As for the questions I asked him, I thought it would be best to ask two categories of questions: some relating purely to antisemitism, and then some giving him the opportunity to address criticisms of the ADL. I was still able to constructively talk about the ADL and its detractors with him at lunch.”

Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg said that he invited Greenblatt, a personal friend, to share his expertise and knowledge regarding antisemitism.

“I’ve known Greenblatt for [at least] 20 years as a friend and colleague,” Engelberg said. “When the first antisemitic graffiti appeared at the upper school campus last fall, I called him to see if [ADL] could help HW get through that difficult time. I also asked if he would come to speak at HW sometime this school year and he was happy to do so.”

Engelberg said the school must continue to address antisemitism in response to global trends of hate in the world.

“Sadly, antisemitism does still exist in America and antisemitic incidents are actually on the rise,” Engelberg said. “Antisemitism is often the bellwether of other forms of hate. We must educate ourselves about the history of antisemitism and about the Jewish American experience. When we see antisemitism, we must speak out against it, whether we are Jewish or not, just like we must speak out against all forms of hate.”