The more education, the less anti-Semitism, says ADL head

Agency working with Facebook, Google to combat Internet hate.

By BENJI ROSEN
November 7, 2013 00:09
2 minute read.
MEMBERS OF the Campus Leaders Mission to Israel tour near the Old City in Jerusalem.

Students on ADL trip in Jerusalem 370. (photo credit: Courtesy ADL)

 
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Over the past 100 years the Anti- Defamation League was most likely to be active “in the newspapers and in court,” Barry Curtiss-Lusher told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“Today we are more likely to be in schools and training police officers.”

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Speaking with the Post on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the ADL’s founding, the organization’s national chairman expressed his belief that as America has evolved over the decades, so has the role of his organization.

How America deals with anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred of all sorts has changed dramatically, he said.

“A hundred years ago we were focused solely on America,” but today – while the United States remains “our biggest use of resources by far” – the rest of the Jewish world has become an area of concern as well.

While at the time of the ADL’s founding in 1913 Jews were still discriminated against in housing and university admissions, today anti-Semitism is on the decline, according to a recently released ADL survey.

Twelve percent of Americans harbor deeply anti-Semitic attitudes, according to the poll, a decline of 3 percentage points from the last time the ADL took such a poll, in 2011, but approximately the same number as in an ADL poll in 2009.



According to Curtiss-Lusher, rising levels of education have helped contribute to this decline.

“The greater the degree of education, the lower the degree of anti-Semitism,” he said. “We know the greatest use of our resources is in education.”

Aside from working with children, he continued, “everybody who goes through the FBI curriculum to be an agent takes a course we put on with the Holocaust museum. Teaching about extremism and hate crimes to law enforcement is a big deal to us [and] I think that this will continue.”

As a corollary of his assertion regarding the correlation of education and tolerance, Curtiss-Lusher said that some of the highest levels of anti-Semitism can be seen among first generation immigrants who have not yet acculturated and Americanized.

“We are continuing to [build] new relationships with Latino and Hispanic communities. It’s a growing force in America. They have a higher incidence of anti-Semitism than the general population. Now, when we analyze that, it’s the more recent immigrants with less education who have much higher rates,” he said.

Among the initiatives that the ADL has focused on in recent years has been bringing journalists and community leaders from the Hispanic community to Israel, he said, noting that such programs will most likely accelerate in their frequency, due to their success in building bridges between communities.

However, he continued, one of the most important focuses of the ADL as it enters its second century is the vast international forum that is the Internet.

“Hate on the Internet is a new and growing problem,” he explained. “It transcends national borders, states. It’s everywhere. It accelerates and amplifies the hatred that’s there.”

“We’ve always believed the way to battle hate speech is good speech and exposure. We don’t try to censor it. We don’t think driving it underground is the best way to approach it.”

The ADL, Curtiss-Lusher said, has built solid relationships with social networking and search giants such as Facebook and Google and is working to monitor and combat hate online.

“We just did a series of civil rights symposiums in the US. One was at the Facebook headquarters,” he said.

JTA contributed to this report.

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