This past Saturday night, when Shabbat was over, I opened X, formerly known as Twitter, to see what I may have missed. I was immediately hit with a barrage of tweets (are they still called that?) with the hashtag #BantheADL, calling for the Anti-Defamation League to be thrown off the platform.
A few days earlier, Jonathan Greenblatt, the former special assistant to President Barack Obama, who was appointed to head the ADL in 2015, tweeted out the following:
“I had a very frank + productive conversation with @LindayaX yesterday about X, what works and what doesn’t, and where it needs to go to address hate effectively on the platform. I appreciated her reaching out, and I’m hopeful the service will improve. @ADL will be vigilant and give her and @ElonMusk credit if the service gets better… and reserve the right to call them out until it does.”
Let’s be clear about what Greenblatt was saying. Ever since Elon Must purchased Twitter, the social media platform has become much more open to free expression than it had been before. To a great extent, conservative voices are no longer muted in favor of progressives. Elon Musk’s commitment to free speech has been well-documented and has been a game-changer in terms of levelling what had become a biased playing field of information.
Here in this tweet, Greenblatt was letting the world know that he had met with new X CEO Linda Yaccarino to discuss how X addresses “hate” on the platform. This may seem like a positive sign for Jews. After all, isn’t the ADL all about fighting anti-Semitism? Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
As has been well-documented by others such as Jonathan Tobin of JNS (https://www.jns.org/whatever-happened-to-the-adl/) and Rabbi Dov Fischer in the American Spectator (https://spectator.org/adl-jonathan-greenblatt-left/), ever since Greenblatt assumed leadership of the ADL, he has turned the organization into a partisan organ devoted to crushing political conservatives and promoting the most left-wing and progressive causes. I will not document examples here to illustrate this point. Readers can read the linked articles or search online and easily find this information.
We should note that the ADL’s role in online censorship of speech is nothing new. Greenblatt himself has boasted that in 2017 they opened an office in Silicon Valley to work more closely with Google, Youtube, Twitter, Meta, Reddit, and other smaller firms involved in the online information space. None of this would be concerning if it were true that the ADL was devoted to monitoring and combatting actual anti-semitism.
What concerned me as I scrolled through my feed this morning was the number of posts gaining traction that, in calling out the ADL’s censorious activities, slid into overt anti-semitism. Part of what pained me when I saw these posts was that I agree with the antipathy that the posters feel towards the ADL. As a politically conservative Orthodox Jew who espouses and lives according to traditional Biblical values, I view the ADL as an arm of my cultural and political enemies. And I’m not alone. Far from it.
Orthodox Jews make up only 8-9% of the total Jewish population in the United States. Because they are such a small segment of the overall community, most Americans do not understand the significant differences between the Orthodox and Jewish Americans in general. To cite just one illustrative example, according to a Pew Research study in late 2020, 71% of the total Jewish population (including the Orthodox minority) identified as Democrats. But among the Orthodox, 75% identified as Republican. In political polling terms, these numbers are extreme. And this is far from the only data point.
To put this simply, in terms of politics as well as overall values, Orthodox Jews live in a completely different universe from our non-Orthodox brothers and sisters. And in the fractured cultural landscape of 2023, we are on opposite sides of the political divide.
Whether we are talking about the gender / trans issue, BLM, freedom of speech, and even support for the Israeli government, Orthodox Jews are far more aligned with conservative Christians on the Right than we are with liberal Jews. And as I just pointed out, liberal Jews are the vast majority of Jews in America.
By pushing a progressive Liberal agenda, establishment Jewish organizations like the ADL have put the Jewish community in a precarious position. Conservative Americans are justified in crying out against the progressive agenda such as trans indoctrination in the public schools and pervasive online restrictions on freedom of speech. But what are they to think when the ADL, a mainstream Jewish communal organization is leading the way on the opposing side? Is the Jewish community the enemy of traditional values? Thanks to Jews like Greenblatt, it sure looks like it.
Let’s talk about this problem. Merrick Garland, Anthony Blinken, Alejandro Mayorkas, Rochelle Walensky, George Soros, Larry Fink, Mark Zuckerberg, Rachel Levine, Janet Yellen, Adam Schiff, and Jamie Raskin – to name only a few examples – are all Jewish. All are in positions of significant power and are openly enemies of the Right. All hold or have served in positions which they have used to harm the well-being of conservative Americans and the cause of freedom worldwide. I am not claiming that the people in this list are malicious or that all are guilty of criminal activity. But that is exactly the point. My issue is that the ideology that animates their decisions is antithetical to what I believe in as a traditional Orthodox Jew. I fight against what they stand for. Does that make me an anti-semite?
In Judaism, there is a concept called chilul Hashem, literally, desecration of the Name of God. This term is used to describe, among other things, any time a Jew behaves in a way that brings shame to the Jewish community and causes Jews and Judaism to look bad in the eyes of outsiders. The reason this is an apt description is that the purpose of the Jewish people, going all the way back to Sinai and God’s covenant with Abraham, is to be a kingdom of priests and holy nation (Ex. 19:3). In other words, we are called to teach the world about God and the values He wants from humanity. That is our mission. Jews like those I listed above, do just the opposite. Rather than promoting God’s values, they desecrate them. And by pushing the extreme progressive agenda opposed by most Americans, rather than fighting anti-semitism, they encourage it.
It’s time for Orthodox Jews to correct this state of affairs by declaring loudly and clearly that groups like the ADL and Jews like Soros, Levine, and Schiff do not represent us. We must make it clear that we want nothing to do with their agenda, that we, alongside our Christian allies, are fighting them every step of the way.
Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is cohost of Israel365 News’s Shoulder to Shoulder podcast and a weekly contributor to Israel365.