It’s rare to find American Jewish professionals who are also social media influencers or have name recognition outside the Jewish organizational world. Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), is one of those exceptions.
This 51-year-old executive has close to 350,000 followers on Twitter and is interviewed by the national and international media on a weekly basis.
He’s considered to be one of the younger and most powerful Jewish executives in the US and beyond. Greenblatt is also a rare example of a Jewish organizational leader who has both business and government backgrounds. In many ways, this Jewish professional is running an old legacy communal organization like a start-up, and that’s what distinguishes him from other heads of organizations.
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He co-established Ethos Water, a premium water bottle company, which donated a percentage of its profits to assist developing countries, and was acquired by Starbucks. He later became a vice president at Starbucks. He was involved in businesses with a social aspect and was appointed as special assistant to president Barack Obama and director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in Domestic Policy Council.
Greenblatt had big shoes to fill. His predecessor at ADL was Abe Foxman, one of America’s most popular Jewish leaders.
Taking the ADL in a new direction
Greenblatt took the ADL in a totally different direction. At first, there were a lot of people who weren’t too happy with this change. Certain Jewish leaders felt that the ADL was leaning more toward the Left, whereas Foxman seemed to be more traditional and conservative. During former president Donald Trump’s administration, Greenblatt was a very harsh critic of the president and his team regarding the rise of antisemitism in the US.
Greenblatt suffered a significant amount of criticism and violent threats from the extreme Left, especially from pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions organizations and progressive Jewish movements such as If Not Now.
While he is aware of the criticism, he does not shy away from responding. He believes that everything he has done has been in line with the ADL’s long-standing mission statement – to protect civil rights, defend Jews, and ensure justice and fair treatment for all minorities and peoples.
Greenblatt has modernized ADL while refocusing it on the mission it has had since its founding in 1913: to fight the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. Under Greenblatt, ADL has modernized its operations, innovated its approaches to counter antisemitism from all sides and enhanced its efforts to combat extremism in all forms.
During his tenure ADL launched many innovative projects, such as Never Is Now, the world’s largest annual summit focused on antisemitism and hate; and the Center for Technology and Society in Silicon Valley to fight the rising tide of online hate and harassment.