Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Lay off the ADL!

Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz speaks during the company's annual shareholder's meeting in Seattle, Washington on March 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of Reuters/David Ryder

Up until this past week, the worst thing that ever happened at a Starbucks was that a barista screwed up the order for the triple skim chai latte.

Then, last week, at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, several black men, waiting at the store for an appointment to begin, were forcibly ejected — for the crime of standing around waiting for an appointment.

To its credit, Starbucks is appalled. They have committed themselves to training their employees in diversity.

They have invited the ADL, as well as the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill, and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. to be consultants in that project.

Then, it hit the fan.

Leaders of the Women’s March have blasted Starbucks for bringing in the ADL.

Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour accused the civil rights group of bias against “black and brown people.”

Jewish Voice for Peace is also involved in this protest.

“Lots of people are bringing up these concerns about the ADL in various communities, and it’s a real reflection of a deep-seated concern about the role that it plays portraying itself as a progressive organization,” the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, Rebecca Vilkomerson, told the Forward.

A little history.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded a little more than a century ago, in the aftermath of the lynching of Leo Frank, a Jew living in Georgia.

It was founded as a response to anti-semitism. Over the subsequent decades, it substantially broadened its reach, fighting hate crimes against:

  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Sikhs
  • Muslims
  • LGBT
  • Immigrants.

The ADL tracks and infiltrates white supremacist groups. The ADL is one of the largest providers of anti-bias education programming in the country. Its programs, including anti-bullying programs, reach 1.5 million schoolchildren — and 15,000 law enforcement officials — every year.

The ADL is a liberal Jewish organization. It is perhaps the premier civil rights organization in the United States, and in the world.

(Full disclosure: I am proud to say that I worked for the ADL, as the New Jersey director. I greatly enjoyed the work, and learned a great deal from the ADL’s former national director, Abraham Foxman. I derive inspiration from the work of its current national director, Jonathan Greenblatt.)

So, what could possibly have aroused the ire of Linda Sarsour and Tamika Monika?

And where could they have gotten this business about the ADL oppressing black and brown people?

It’s intersectionality.

Just not the kind that people usually talk about.

The intersection is the police – and Israel.

First, the police. The ADL has strong, crucial relationships with local and state police departments, as well as the FBI. Why? Because the police and the FBI pursue the perpetrators of hate crimes. Pure and simple.

But, if you believe the narrative that the police are anti-black, that is enough to raise a red flag.

Second, Israel. The ADL sends police officers on trips to Israel. They learn about the state. On some programs, the visiting police officers engage in conversation with, and learn tactics and techniques, from the IDF.

Here is the bizarre mental process.

  • The ADL works with the police.
  • The police (they think) hate black people.
  • Therefore, the ADL must hate black people.
  • The ADL takes the hated police to the hated Jewish State.

In the Manichean universe of those on the far left, that would be enough. The ADL is now demonic.

In the minds of Sarsour and Mallory — ADL, no.

But, Louis Farrakhan, who has made vile anti-semitic and homophobic statements — yes.

Mallory has called Farrakhan “the greatest of all time.”

To quote Yair Rosenberg in Tablet:

Anyone who associates with anti-Semites, praises anti-Semites, publicizes anti-Semites, and bizarrely goes after the #1 Jewish organization devoted to combating anti-Semites, is definitely not entitled to present themselves as an opponent of anti-Semitism—whether they are the president of the United States or an organizer of the Women’s March.

I wish that I was surprised.

I am not.

Because, while the right has more than its share of anti-semitic history — in the form of racism and nationalism — the far left has its own sobering pattern.

  • Karl Marx believed that the God of the Jews was money.
  • In eastern Europe, it was common for peasant groups to turn against the very Jews who were helping them in their nascent revolution against their oppressors.
  • Joseph Stalin did a wonderful job of repressing both Jews and Judaism in the former Soviet Union.
  • The Soviet Union basically ran the anti-Israel propaganda machine at the United Nations.
  • The New Left in the United States made common cause with anti-Israel groups.
  • The European Left fought by the side of Palestinian terrorists, as at Entebbe.
  • In certain quarters of black activist groups, especially after the death of Dr. King, militant black groups decided that they didn’t need, or want, Jewish groups helping them. The Jews were white, privileged, interlopers.

Mallory and Sarsour, et al. because of their own political agenda, reject the honest, sincere, time-tested efforts of the ADL.

It is their right to do so.

It is also their right to invent myths about the ADL — myths that have more in common with medieval blood libels than modern truths.

It is also our right to say that we are outraged.

It is also our honor to say: Despite what you do, say, and embody — and as much as you tempt and tease us, we Jews will not walk away from the cause of racial justice.

Because, ultimately, we care more about racism than we care about Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory.

This story is available for republication.

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

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