Anti-Defamation League Adapts to Challenges as It Turns 100

Abraham Foxman Embraces Role as Anti-Semitism Arbiter

Happy Birthday Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, gets hug from Vice President Joe Biden at the group’s centennial celebration.
david karp
Happy Birthday Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, gets hug from Vice President Joe Biden at the group’s centennial celebration.

By Nathan Guttman

Published May 01, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 5)

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the centennial celebration was an 80-second video titled “Imagine a World Without Hate” produced by the ADL for its anniversary. The clip, which already has surpassed one million views on YouTube, imagines a reality in which individuals murdered because of their beliefs, race or sexual orientation — including Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, Harvey Milk, Daniel Pearl, James Byrd, Matthew Shepard and Yitzhak Rabin — were still alive. On April 29, ADL leaders had the opportunity to show the video to Biden and to President Obama in a meeting at the Oval Office.

The video sheds light on today’s ADL, which spends much of its budget and human resources on fighting bullying and discrimination beyond the Jewish community. But for all that, Foxman, now 73, is still best known outside the Jewish world as the go-to arbiter on anti-Semitism. It’s a role he says he doesn’t seek, but one from which he doesn’t shrink.

“I’m not the pope,” he said affably, “but hey, I am a Holocaust survivor who has spent his life fighting anti-Semitism.”

Indeed, Foxman’s personal history of surviving the Holocaust as a child in Poland, his engaging and expansive public persona, and his position as head of the nation’s largest Jewish defense organization have won him media prominence and credibility. This has brought his face on the evening news at one time or another into almost every home in America.

In his role as the ADL’s public face, Foxman has labeled film director Mel Gibson an anti-Semite for his depiction of Jews as Christ killers in his film “The Passion of the Christ.” He has forgiven fashion designer John Galliano for an anti-Semitic comment he spewed while drunk after Galliano himself sought expiation and forgiveness.

Foxman accused Chuck Hagel, who was at the time Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, of making remarks that “border on anti-Semitism” about the “Jewish lobby,” as Hagel called it. On another occasion, Foxman even found himself making a call on actress Whoopi Goldberg’s recipe for “Jewish American Princess chicken soup,” which he found insensitive but not anti-Semitic.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.