At ADL Summit, David Schwimmer, Michael Eric Dyson and Others Talk About Combating Hate

November 18, 2022
Jewish actor David Schwimmer (right) with author and minister, Michael Eric Dyson, and ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Photo by Perry Bindelglass

David Schwimmer, the famed “Friends” actor, told a crowd of more than 2,000 at the Anti-Defamation League’s summit on Antisemitism and Hate on Thursday that he’s hoping for better relations between Jewish and Black communities.

As part of the event titled “Never Is Now” he spoke with author, radio host and minister Michael Eric Dyson and ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Schwimmer said he grew up hearing about Jewish civil rights workers Michael Schwerer and Andrew Goodman, who were pulled over with James Chaney, who was Black and not Jewish. In 1964, the three were executed by men who were members of the Ku Klux Klan and the bodies weren’t found until more than 40 days later. This story would be the basis of the film “Mississippi Burning” starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe.

“I never forgot the idea that it could have been me, it could have been my dad,” Schwimmer said. “I think as a young Jewish kid, I realized quite early that I wasn’t safe in my own country and that just a couple of states away, my life would be at risk just because I was born Jewish. And I also realized or had the real belief and experience that the Jewish community and the black community were strong allies. A strong alliance had been forged during the civil rights movement.”

Schwimmer said that “silence is complicity” and said he was encouraged by seeing John Legend act as an ally to the Jewish people. Schwimmer called for a cross-section of dialogue of different communities.

Schwimmer added that if Kanye West had used his “energies, immense talent and genius” to spread love rather than divisiveness, it would have been “unbelievable.”

Dyson noted the “intimate links between people who have been similarly oppressed” and added that “we might be at different parts of the boat but we on the same ship and we gotta stay together.”

He said the two communities should work in harmony.

“If Black folk and Jewish folk could leverage our authority, presence and our moral vision for this community, we could transform this culture,” Dyson said.

“This Is A State of Emergency,” Greenblatt Says

In introductory comments earlier in the day, Greenblatt outlined troubling events.

“We have entertainers with Messiah complexes spewing anti-Jewish hate,” Greenblatt said. He continued: “We have trending movies on our main streaming platforms that are little more than propaganda that (Joseph) Goebbels would love.”

He noted the rise in antisemitic incidents and violent attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City and Monsey.

“But today, the time of cries and please, it’s over,” Greenblatt said. “That moment has passed … This is no longer is a situation of concern. This is a state of emergency.”

Kanye West, now known as Ye, said that he could say antisemitic things and Adidas wouldn’t drop him. Greenblatt said after the rapper unraveled, he called the chairman of Adidas and said the he would work with the company and praise them if they did the right thing, but let him know that until that point the ADL would “hammer you as hard as we can.” Adidas cut ties with the rapper at a loss of as much as $650 million, according to some reported estimates.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said agents are monitoring and working against threats.
Photo by Perry Bindelglass

FBI Director Christopher Wray said they are taking on the charge to protect the innocent.

“We must aggressively counter antisemitic violence everywhere it appears,” Wray said.

The crowd clapped when Wray announced that the murderer of those in Poway will not get out of jail. He said the “tragic reality” is that “the Jewish community uniquely ends up on the receiving end of hate fueled attacks from all sides.”

He said the FBI is hitting back with “full force.”

Students Speak of Jew Hatred on Campus

Several college students spoke to The Journal about what is happening on their campuses.

Jasmine Beroukhim, a senior at UCLA, President of Bruins for Israel and Chair of Hillel International: Israel Leadership Network, said things have gotten tough.

“There is an outpouring of Jewish hatred we’ve never seen before,” she said. “Kanye and Irving are seen as Gods and students see this as justification to being against Jews. It’s a terrible time but I want Jewish students to know they are not alone. We will prevail.”

Owen Krauss, President of Aggies for Israel at University of California, Davis, said due to protests and what was said to be a security risk, their event featuring a soldier who served in the IDF had to be moved off campus.

Shachar-Lee-Yaakobovitz, who now works for Hillel at Penn State University, said when she attended UC Davis, many “refused to listen to Jewish voices.” Originally from Raanana, Israel, she said she didn’t expect hate when she moved to the United States.

Kaylee Werner, a sophomore at Indiana University Bloomington, said it was unfortunate to see some disturbing things on campus.

“People burned mezuzahs on campus and drew swastikas on famous buildings on campus,”  Werner said, adding that the administration worked quickly to wipe off the vandalism of hate.

How The Rabbi Defeated The Terrorist

In January, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker’s spread across the nation. He wanted to spread love when he invited a man in for tea, who soon turned a gun on him and held the rabbi and two others hostage. The rabbi heroically threw a chair at Malik Faisal Akram, and the three were able to escape Congregation Beth Elohim in Texas, unscathed.

Rabbi Charlie Cyntron Walker told The Journal his training helped him act against the man who held him and others hostage at the Texas synagogue.
Photo by Perry Bindelglass

How was he not paralyzed by fear in the 11 hours he was held hostage? The ADL advisor and rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salen North Carolina, said the training by the FBI and ADL helped.

“Near the end, as things were getting frayed and not going well, it’s not like I was calm and collected the entire time,” Cytron-Walker told The Journal. “The training encourages you to stay vigilant and look for opportunities. That was very helpful.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt presents the Courage Against Hate Award To Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla
Photo by Perry Bindelglass

Albert Boula, the CEO of Pfizer, told the crowd his mother was nearly murdered by a Nazi. He said he was sad to see the ongoing hatred of Jews, with high profile people using slurs. He added that it disturbing to see flyers that promoted a conspiracy theory that the vaccine was part of a plot to form a “global Jew- government.” He said the spread of online hate was one of many difficult things to deal with.

“You are at the forefront of some of the greatest challenges of our time,” Boula said.

An Imam Issues a Public Apology and Praises The Abraham Accords

The event included a number of breakout sessions with panels on hot topics. In one on the Abaraham Accords, Jason Greenblatt, former White House envoy to the Middle East in the Trump administration, said he was encouraged that the Arab negotiators wanted to get down to business or, has he said, talk “tachlis.” Greenblatt, who worked closely with ambassador David Friedman and Jared Kushner said the media had been against it the from the get-go, questioning what three Orthodox Jews knew about the Arab world. Greenblatt noted the absurd nature of coming back home to New Jersey recently from a trip to Dubai, to see threats against synagogues and to speak with his wife about whether they should go or stay home.

Imam Abdullah Antepli, associate professor apologized for first being against the Abraham Accords and former special White House envoy Jason Greenblatt said he, ambassador David Friedman and Jared Kushner were doubted by many in the media.
Photo by Perry Bindelglass

Imam Abullah Antepli, associate professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy and the first Muslim chaplain at Duke University, apologized for having spoken against the possibility of success of The Abraham Accords, saying he and others were blinded by anger toward President Trump or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He praised the agreement.

“Something cracked open, and the light is shining through,” Antepli said.

He told those who gathered that people shouldn’t give up hope on those with radical views, because he once had them.

“I was a hater,” he said. “I spent early teenage years of my life believing, convinced that Jews as people, Judaism, as a religion, Israel as a country, is irredeemable evil. I don’t know how many Israeli flags I burned in my teenage years.”

Liz Cheney, a former Republican Congresswoman representing Wyoming, said “we need to recognize the clear and specific danger of antisemitism.”

Former Wyoming Congressowman Liz Cheney told a heartfelt story about how a Holocaust survivor interacted with her daughter.
Photo by Perry Bindelglass

She recalled going with her father, former vice-president Dick Cheney, to visit Auschwitz, as well as her daughter. She said a survivor asked her daughter how old she was, and she replied that she was ten years old. The survivor promptly took out a picture of little children wearing uniforms in death camps, pointed to a girl in the picture, and said, “That’s me when I was ten,” Cheney recounted her as saying.

Outside The Javits Center, a handful of protestors could be seen. A few members of Neturei Karta, a fringe Hasidic group that believes no Jewish government should control Israel in pre-messiah times, held signs against Zionism, while a protestor in a keffiyeh held a sign that read “The ADL trains Racist Police.”

A block to the left, a group of about a dozen Black Hebrew Israelites screamed. One member could be heard saying “F-ck the Jewish Jacob Javits Center!”

Some time before, those inside were able to see a video message from President Joe Biden, specifically made for the attendees. He said there was a joint responsibility regarding the hatred against Jews that has been seen.

“It’s wrong, it’s outrageous, it’s up to all of to stop it,” Biden said.

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