Tag Archives: John Bolton

The Anti-Defamation League, American Jews, and John Bolton’s Mustache

Last month, the Anti-Defamation League held a conference at Cardozo featuring famed mustache-haver John Bolton. I am not entirely sure why Bolton was there. He is not Jewish. According to Wikipedia, he is a Lutheran. But beyond this, he does not seem to have any actual experience concerning Judaism.

This is how most people see John Bolton

This is how the Anti-Defamation League sees John Bolton

Even ignoring my concern that ADL focuses too much on Israel rather than overarching Judaism, it seems a bit odd that the ADL would invite such a divisive political figure. I could explain why this would be a bad thing, but why say when you can show: (pdf: bolton ADL cardozo fight)

Leaving out Bolton’s actual policy positions, one cannot deny that he is a divisive political figure and a living totem of the controversial cowboy style diplomacy of the Bush administration. Touting Bolton as an ADL ally sends a message to liberal Jews (aka, most Jews) that the ADL is not a the organization for them. At Cardozo, this message was put into action when someone in the audience chewed out a young woman for expressing her difficulty reconciling liberal leanings with the conservative agents supporting Israel.

I guess you could say she was defamed to a certain extent. Irony!

Right now, the ADL is riding on its history and reputation. But scandals like this, and ADL chief Abe Foxman’s own controversial moments, risk damaging this important organization beyond repair. If the ADL keeps up like this, it will lose a generation of American Jews. And that is the actual problem (pdf: Mintz ADL column):

America is slowly losing its Jewish population. If the ADL actually cared about Judaism, it would work to create an atmosphere in the United States where young Jews feel proud of their heritage. However, pride is not exactly what one feels when the ADL condemns Borat, or Jewish settlers throw stones at IDF soldiers for protecting Palestinians. If the ADL wants to help protect Jewry in the long run, it should focus on projects that help make more Jews and keep current Jews Jewish, rather than play up divisive political projects.

Certainly Israel faces threats. But Israel has done a good job standing for itself. The ADL should perhaps worry about Jewish problems at home — the problems facing the American Jews at the ADL’s own panels.