CORONAVIRUS TRIGGERS RISE IN ANTISEMITISM

ADL CEO JONATHAN GREENBLATT: CRISIS REVIVES “TIMELESS TRENDS OF PREJUDICE AND HATE”

ONLINE HATE GROUPS ACCUSE JEWS OF CREATING AND PROFITING FROM PANDEMIC

 WHITE SUPREMACISTS USE “ZOOMBOMBING” TO TARGET JEWISH COMMUNITY AND SPREAD HATE

Online, hateful messages blaming Jews for the coronavirus have been spreading like wildfire. Virtual gatherings of Jewish people and groups have fallen victim to “zoombombing” by white supremacist extremists exploiting the pandemic to spread their hate. Here in New York, orthodox communities have been scapegoated, and accused of ignoring social distancing restrictions. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt joins us with perspective on the current rise of antisemitism — it’s historical context, what the organization is doing to combat it, and what religious leaders of all faiths need to tell their congregations in this moment.

Aired on April 23, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS' I'M JACK FORD.

AS THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS CONTINUED ITS RAMPAGE ACROSS THE GLOBE IT WILL IS NEW AND VERY TROUBLING EVIDENCE THAT IT IS BRINGING ALONG WITH IT AN INCREASE IN ANTI SYSTEMETISM.

SO WHY IS THAT HAPPENING, HOW IS THAT HAPPENING, AND AS IMPORTANT, WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT.

TO TALK ABOUT THOSE ISSUES WE'RE PLEASED TO BE JOINED BY THE CEO OF THE ANTI-DEFAMATIONATION LEAGUE.

JONATHAN, WELCOME TO YOU AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

NICE TO BE BACK, GOOD TO SEE YOU.

SO I MENTIONED THAT TROUBLING EVIDENCE OF COURSE YOU HAVE SEEN AND BEEN GRAPPLING WITH.

YES.

TO FRAME OUR CONVERSATION CAN YOU GIVE US A SENSE OF CONTEXT.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT WHAT WE'RE EXPERIENCING NOW THAT IS SYSTEM HARE TO WHAT WE'VE SEEN IN THE PAST IN HISTORY, CIRCUMSTANCES THAT HAVE ALSO GIVEN RISE TO INCREASES IN ANTI SEMITISM.

WELL, JACK, IT'S A GOOD QUESTION AND IT'S INTERESTING, WE ARE STRUGGLING WITH THIS, SORT OF PANDEMIC, WHICH FEELS LIKE A ONCE IN A CENTURY CHALLENGE, BUT IN REALITY IT'S REVEALING TIMELESS TRENDS OF PREJUDICE AND HATE.

SO IN PARTICULAR, AT THE ADL WE'VE BEEN FIGHTING ALL FORMS OF BIGOTRY FOR MORE THAN 100 YEARS AND WE'VE BEEN PARTICULARLY STRUCK BY HOW SINCE THE EARLIEST REPORTS OF THE VIRUS, IT CAME OUT OF EAST ASIA, CHINA SPECIFICALLY, THERE'S BEEN STORIES CIRCULATING ONLINE AND OFF LINE BLAMING THE JEWISH PEOPLE OR SOMETIMES EVEN THE JEWISH STATE FOR EITHER CREATING THE VIRUS OR UNIQUELY SPREADING THE VIRUS, OR EVEN REPORTS THAT JEWS ARE TRYING TO PROFIT FROM THE VIRUS.

NOW, AGAIN, THIS SEEMSED TO THE CASUAL OBSERVER BECAUSE CLEARLY THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING JEWISH BUT IN FACT FOR CENTURIES ONE OF THE MOST PERSISTENT TROPES OF ANTI-SEMITISM AND WAYS DIFFERENT AGGRIEVED GROUPS TRIED TO BLAME THE YJEWS IS SOMEHOW THEY'RE RESPONSIBLE FOR ASPIRING TO KILL NON-JEWS AND IN MEDIEVAL PERIOD WERE BLAMED FOR POISONING WELLS.

AND THEN THEY WERE BLAMED FOR THE BUBONIC PLAGUE, A PANDEMIC THAT DIDN'T SPREAD IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY AND OTHER COMMUNITIES IN LARGE PARTS BECAUSE THE JEWS WERE FORCES TO LIVE IN GHETTOS APART FROM WHERE THE VIRUS WAS SPREADING.

IN PART BECAUSE THE JEWS HAVE A KOSHER LAW FOR THEIR FOOD DUE TO H HYGIENE AND DIDN'T AFFECT THEM THE SAME IN THEIR COMMUNITIES.

SO AS IT HAS BEEN WHERE JEWS HAVE BEEN BLAMED, AGAIN, THE BU BONIC P PLAGUE AND NOW SEEING THEM BLAMED FOR COVID-19, IT'S QUITE SHOCKING.

THERE'S SOME VERY DISTINCT PARALLELS HERE, YOU MENTIONED THE ACTIONS OF EXTREMIST GROUPS NOW, COMPARED TO THE ACTION OF EXTREMIST GROUPS IN THE PAST.

WE ALSO HAVE SOME HIGH-TECH EDITIONS, IF YOU WILL, TO INSTANCES OF ANTI-SEMITISM.

THINGS SUCH AS ZOOM BINE.

SURE ONE THING WE'VE SEEN IS EXTR EXTREMISTS EXPLOITS THE CRISIS TO PUSH THEIR HATE AND THEY'VE BEEN INNOVATIVE USING NEW TECHNOLOGY AND PLATFORMS.

THEY'VE MOVED FROM EARLY BULLITEN BOARDS TO AOL, TO INTERNET, TO FACEBOOK, TO TWITTER.

AND NOW AS YOU SAID THEY'VE BEEN VERY INTENTIONAL ABOUT EXPLOEXP -- ZPOIT ZPOIT EXPLOITSING ZOOM.

YOU CAN ZOOM BOMB PEOPLE'S MEETINGS.

AND YOU CAN INSERT YOURSELF IN THE MEETING.

FIRST IT WAS TROLLS BUT SOON BECAME WHITE SUPREMACY PUSHING IMPORTANTOGRAPHY AND ANTI-S ANTI-SEMITISM.

AND THEY TARGETED A SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY TO THE CAMPUS.

THEY TARGETED RELIGIOUS SERVICES.

I KNOW ONE VENTURE CAPITALIST WHO HAD HIS TORAH ZOOM BOMBED BY NEO-NAZIS SO WHAT WE HAVE DONE IN RESPONSE TO THIS, WE SET UP A CENTER IN SILICON VALLEY IN 2017 BECAUSE WE BELIEVE FACEBOOK IS THE FRONT LINE IN FIGHTING.

WE REACHED OUT TO THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM ON ZOOM AND DIRECT COMMUNICATES WITH CEO AND CTO AND CHIEF PRODUCT OFFICER WHO TOOK OUR VERY SPECIFIC GUIDANCE HOW TO IMPROVE THE PRODUCT.

WE WERE ABLE TO DO THAT, JACK, BECAUSE THE GUY WHO RUNS OUR CENTER IS HI.

SELF A SOFTWARE ENGINEER AND IN THE END ZOOM MADE MANY OF THE CHANGES WE RECOMMENDED AND TOOK OUR ADVICE TO PUSH IT OUT BEFORE EASTER AND PASSOVER, WHEN SO MANY OF US WOULD BE DOING RELIGIOUS SERVICES, FAMILY DINNERS OVER ZOOM.

SO I'M GLAD TO PLAY A SMALL ROLE MAKING THAT HAPPEN.

LET ME PREFACE THIS QUESTION BY UNDER SCORING THE FACT THAT THE VAST OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS ARE FOLLOWING THE RESTRICTIONS, SOCIAL DISTANCING, ALL OF THE RULES AND REGULATION THAT'S HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED TO PROVIDE FOR THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING FOR ALL OF US.

RIGHT.

YES.

YOU SAID THIS BEFORE, I SEEN YOU SAY THIS, SO UNDERSTANDING THAT, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEBODY WHO CAME UP TO YOU AND SAID LOOK YOU'RE THE HEAD HERE, AND I GOT TO TELL YOU, I'M CLEARLY NOT ANTI-SEMITISM BUT I'M ALSO CLEARLY TROUBLED OF SOME OF THE IMAGES OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES GATHER LITERALLY IN DEFIANCE OF THESE ORDERS.

AND THIS PERSON SAYS TO YOU, YOU KNOW WHAT IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE, LIKE THESE GROUPS ARE SAYING WE DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU, WE CARE ONLY ABOUT OURSELVES AND OUR OWN RITUALS AND RULES AND WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO FLOUT THE RULES AND REGULATIONS BECAUSE WE DON'T CARE AND DON'T WANT TO BE PART OF YOUR COMMUNITIES AND FOLLOW YOUR RULES.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THAT PERSON?

I'D SAY, I SHARE -- I SYMPATHIZE YOUR POSITION AND SHARE YOUR FRUSTRATION AND I MIGHT EVEN SAY ANGER.

I THINK WHETHER IT'S ORTHODOX JEWS, THERE'S BEEN SOME REPORTS AND EVERYONES THAT IN SOME COMMUNITIES THERE'S BEEN MEMBERS OF THE ORTHODOX COMMUNITY WOULD HAVE INDEED CONGREGATED IN DEFIANCE OF THE EDICTS OF MAYORS OR THE BROADER SENTIMENT IN ORDER TO PRAY OR COME TOGETHER FOR CELEBRATIONS.

AND THAT'S FLAT-OUT WRONG.

FACT OF THE MATTER IS THE VAST MAJORITY AREN'T DOING THAT.

JUST LIKE THERE'S BEEN SOME EXAMPLES OF EVANGELICAL LEADERS, ONE SAYING WE'RE GOING TO RECONVENE THE CAMPUS IN DEFIANCE OF THE ORDER FROM NORTH VIRGINIA BUT THE VAST MAJORITY HAVE BEEN ABIDING BY THE GUIDELINES.

I THINK IT'S CRITICAL THAT WE, NUMBER ONE, DON'T TAKE THE EXCEPTION AS THE RULE.

DON'T STEREOTYPE AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY BECAUSE OF THE ACTION OF A FEW OR A SMALL NUMBER.

BUT THEN NUMBER TWO, WE DO NEED TO HOLD EVERY COMMUNITY TO THESE STANDARDS AND AGAIN, I DON'T THINK THAT RESTRICTIONS OF SOCIAL DISTANCING AND THE CLOSURE OF HOUSES OF WORSHIP HAVE BEEN DONE TO TARGET THE JEWS OR ANY DENOMINATION OF THE YOU JEWISH PEOPLE NOR BRANCH OF CHRISTIANITY NOR MOSQUE OR BRANCH OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY.

I COULD GO ON.

I THINK ALL OF US HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO ONE ANOTHER TO OBSERVE BY THESE GUIDELINES AT LEAST UNTIL ELECT THE OFFICIALS AND PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS WILL GIVE US BETTER GUIDANCE WHAT WILL TAKE TO BEAT THIS CRISIS BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW YOU PRAY, NO MATTER YOUR DEGREE OF OBSERVANCE WE'VE SEEN THIS COVID-19 TEARS THROUGH COMMUNITIES AND ULTIMATELY IMPACTS US ALL.

SO WE'VE GOT TO TAKE IT VERY SERIOUSLY.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO VARIOUS STATE LEADERS, NOT JUST OF THE JEWISH FAITH, BUT WE MENTIONED EVANGELICALS AND OTHER CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS DEFYING THESE STANDARD REINDUSTRIES -- RESTRIBSS -- RESTR RESTRICTIONS.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THE FAITH LEADERS, BECAUSE AS YOU KNOW THE IMAGES OF THE MEMBERS OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY FUELS THE FLAMES OF ANTI-SEMITISM SO WHAT'S THE ROLE OF THE FAITH LEADERS?

IT'S A GREAT QUESTION AND I'M GLAD YOU ASKED IT BECAUSE I DO THINK IN MOMENTS LIKE THIS WHEN THERE IS SO MUCH ANXIETY.

WHEN THERE IS SO MUCH UNCERTAINTY, WHEN SO MANY OF US ARE AFRAID OF THE DAILY RITUAL THAT'S WE ONCE EMPLOYED, LIKE, I DON'T KNOW, A FEW WEEKS AGO.

THEY'RE ROUTINES THAT WE CONSIDERED NORMAL AND NOW SUDDENLY EVERYTHING HAS BECOME DANGEROUS AND OFF LIMITS SO PEOPLE ARE AFRAID SO THEY'RE RIGHT NOW LOOKING TO THOSE RELIGIOUS LEADERS FOR GUIDANCE.

SO I WOULD SAY WHETHER YOU'RE A RABBI OR HEAD OF THE JEWISH FEDERATION OR PRESIDENT OF A SYNAGOGUE COMMUNITY.

WHETHER ORTHODOX, REFORM.

CONSERVATIVE.

RECONSTRUCTIONIST.

WHETHER YOU'RE SECULAR.

EVANGELICALAL OR CATHOLIC OR ANY OTHER SEGMENT OF THE PROTESTANT OR ORTHODOX COMMUNITY, I THINK ALL OF US HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO SAY TO THOSE WHO LISTEN TO US TO SPEAK TO THOSE IN OUR COMMUNITY TO SAY STOP.

IN THIS IS THAT RARE MOMENT WHERE OUR FAITH COMMANDS US BECAUSE WE CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER AND BELIEVE IN THE ADAGE OF THE GOLDEN RULE OF DOING UNTO OTHERS WE GOT TO STAY HOME AND HOLD OURSELVES TOGETHER AND PROTECT ONE ANOTHER BY SOCIALLY DISTANCING AT LEAST FOR THE TIME BEING. IF YOU DON'T DO THAT YOU PUT NOT ONLY YOURSELF AT RISK BUT YOU JEOPARDIZE THE WHOLE COMMUNITY AND WE ALL HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE.

SO I WAS STRUCK BY RICK WARREN, YOU KNOW, THE VERY WELL-KNOWN PASTOR IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WHO TALKED TO HIS FLOCK AND FOLLOWERS ABOUT THIS, ABOUT STAYING HOME.

I THINK ABOUT MY OLD RABBI DAVID WOLFBY IN A LARGE SYNAGOGUE IN LOS ANGELES WHO SAID THE SAME THING TO HIS FOLLOWERS.

HIS PASSOVER MESSAGE HE SAID DON'T COME TO SYNAGOGUE.

I MEAN, WHAT A MOMENT THAT THIS IS THE MESSAGE OUR FAITH LEADERS ARE SENDING BUT THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THE PUBLIC AND COMMUNITIES NEED TO HEAR.

I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT.

IMPORTANT MESSAGES ARE OUT THERE.

SOME ARE COMMUNICATING THOSE MESSAGES.

THE MESSAGE FROM WHAT YOU SAID IN THIS CONVERSATION IS VERY HELPFUL TO ALL OF US, JONATHAN GREENBLATT CEO ALWAYS PLEASURE TO TALK WITH YOU AND LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING AGAIN, NEXT TIME IN STUDIO.

LOOK FORWARD TO IT.

JONATHAN, STAY SAFE AND THANKS FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US.

THANK YOU.

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