ADL director wants top US agency to investigate hate crimes

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

ADL director wants top US agency to investigate hate crimes

The head of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt, calls for 'a fully resourced investigation' into the recent wave of anti-Semitism

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Jonathan Greenblatt in London, outside the Houses of Parliament
Jonathan Greenblatt in London, outside the Houses of Parliament

The director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt, has called for “a fully resourced investigation by the Department of Justice” into the wave of hate crimes directed against the American Jewish community. 

These have included numerous hoax bomb threats against Jewish schools and community centres, as well as at least four directed at ADL regional offices on Tuesday.

Greenblatt, who served in Barack Obama’s White House as his special assistant and director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, has a simple job description for his current post, which he took up in summer 2015 — “to protect the Jewish people”.

He was in London this week to address the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Counter-Extremism and to meet Jewish community leaders at central London’s Centre for Jewish Life. He spoke to Jewish News as a constant stream of reports filtered in to his open laptop; despite last week’s arrest of a suspect for many of the hoax bomb threats, there is no sign of the current spike in anti-Semitism abating.

Greenblatt, who spent last Friday in prolonged talks with FBI director James Comey, has a wish list of steps he would like President Donald Trump to take. He said: “We would like to see the president convene a federal inter-agency task force, and convene all of the right players around the table: the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Department of Education and others to develop policy measures.”

He appealed to the president about the Countering Violent Extremism programme. “There are rumours it would be reduced to focus solely on radical Islam; that is a problem in the US as it is around the world, but we think the programme must encompass neo-Nazis and white supremacists.”

Greenblatt warned that the Jewish community worldwide was “sailing in uncharted waters” and said he would use the “privilege” of speaking to British parliamentarians to share American Jews’ experience.

During last year’s US election campaign, Greenblatt said: “We saw rhetoric from the extreme right move from the margins to the mainstream. We saw some of their tropes come out of the shadows and find their way into the Twitter feeds of the candidates.”

Jonathan Greenblatt in London, outside the Houses of Parliament
Jonathan Greenblatt in London, outside the Houses of Parliament

The ADL channelled much of its energies into analysing social media, particularly Twitter, where it discovered more than 2.6 million anti-Semitic messages in the previous 12 months. “The nature of the abuse was horrendous,” said Greenblatt, noting the embrace of technology by the “alt-right” had shifted “from white hoods to smartphones”.

He believed extremists in the US had exploited the First Amendment of the US Constitution — free speech — and said US law had not caught up with the manipulation of technology by those who dealt in hate abuse. “We would like to see new legislation that will create real penalties for those who do these things online,” he said.

Although reluctant to pin Trump directly with the responsibility for the surge in hate crime, Greenblatt did say that “words have consequences. A statement like that issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which did not mention the six million Jews who were slaughtered sent something of a signal to anti-Semites. Or when asked by a friendly Jewish reporter about antiSemitism, and you shout that person down, that sends signals”.

He added: “We were very frustrated that the Administration had not called this out sooner, firmly and forcibly,” and said Trump’s recent denunciation of anti-Semitic attacks, made during a visit to an African-American gathering, was very important, and praised Vice-President Pence for his visit to Dachau and his vigorous denunciation of the attacks.

“What we would like to see is how Trump shifts from saying it’s offensive to take measures to deal with the offence.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: