Jonathan Greenblatt

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ADL’s New Head Wades Into a Political Mess

When Jonathan Greenblatt succeeded Abe Foxman as national director of the Anti-Defamation League last year, he replaced a man who had become synonymous with the organization he led for nearly three decades. But Greenblatt, 46, wasted no time in putting his distinctive stamp on the venerable agency, guiding it right into the fray of America’s caustic and troubling election-year conversation.

Nearly alone among Jewish communal leaders, Greenblatt consistently called out presidential candidates for using language and promoting policies that he considered inconsistent with liberal, tolerant democracy. Responding to the unprecedented barrage of anti-Semitism directed at Jewish journalists on social media, he appointed a task force to catalogue the trend, which will issue recommendations in mid-November.

The grandson of a Holocaust survivor and husband of an Iranian-born political refugee, Greenblatt was a serial social entrepreneur and official in the Obama administration before taking the top spot at the ADL. He is fluent in social media, self-assured and quick to engage, online or in person. More so than his predecessor in his later years, Greenblatt is positioning the ADL as a player in the larger struggle over civil rights in America, an area that other Jewish leaders have ceded in their focus on Israel.

In doing so, Greenblatt insists he is keeping with ADL tradition. “Abe was well known as an executive who called it as he saw it,” Greenblatt told the Forward recently. “I’m doing much the same. Although this election is without precedent, there is precedent for the ADL taking a position of moral leadership.”

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Jonathan Greenblatt

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