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.
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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.
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“We don’t see occupation as a violation of civil rights,” he said in an interview, adding that claims of abuses are used “as a club against Israel and [are] clothed in apartheid civil rights.”

The ADL, like other membership-based national Jewish organization, is struggling to find its way forward financially these days. The group is slowly recovering from a drop in donations following the 2008 financial downturn and has begun rehiring after a period of layoffs. But it still faces an uphill battle in convincing Jewish Americans to support an all-in-one group that deals with a variety of issues, from Israel to civil rights.

Such groups once formed the backbone of American Jewish life. But today, single-issue organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and J Street are thriving, while the ADL and similar organizations are working hard to find their footing.

“The community is polarized, and therefore moderate positions are not welcomed, nuanced positions are not welcomed,” Foxman said. He nevertheless evinced optimism that American Jews will eventually return when they understand that “hard-line positions will not carry the day.”

As for his own plans, Foxman, already accustomed to being questioned on how long he’ll remain at the group’s helm, quickly pulled out one of his one-liners that have made him a media favorite. “Whenever I find something else to do, I’ll let you know,” he replied.

Forward assistant managing editor Larry Cohler-Esses contributed to this story.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter, @nathanguttman.


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