Vatican Expert Addressed ADL Meeting; Current Anti-Semitism, Anti-Israel Action Explored
New York, NY, February 15, 2007 … Catholic-Jewish relations and current trends in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel action were among the topics on the agenda as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) convened its annual National Executive Committee Meeting, February 8-10, 2007 in Palm Beach, Florida.
John L. Allen Jr., an author, journalist and foremost expert on Vatican relations, delivered a keynote address examining the powerful forces of global change that promise to reshape the Catholic Church in the 21st Century under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, and the implications for the Jewish community.
Mr. Allen, Senior Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and the author of "The Rise of Pope Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He will Take the Catholic Church," outlined 10 "Mega-Trends" that he believes could play a fundamental role in the future of the Church's interfaith outreach efforts to Jews, including the rise of extremist Islam and its expanding influence in the Middle East, the secularization of Europe, and the burgeoning Catholic population in the southern hemisphere, including Latin America and Africa.
The League's highest policymaking body also heard from Rabbi Riccardo Shmuel Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, who discussed concerns within the Italian Jewish community about anti-Semitism and the rise of far-right parties in Europe. Rabbi Di Segni said the Italian Jewish community is working to forge new working relationships with the new Italian government and the new papacy in Rome.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, discussed how the Internet may be a major factor in growing anti-Semitism around the world. "I'm becoming convinced more and more every day that the reason anti-Semitism is out there more is this superhighway, this transmitter belt," Mr. Foxman said. "These blogs circulate it and reinforce it, and so there's more of it."
Case Study in Anti-Israel Propaganda
One session was devoted to attempts by an anti-Israel bus tour, dubbed "Wheels of Justice," to promote anti-Israel propaganda in visits to schools and communities across the United States. An ADL expert on anti-Israel groups explained that the bus tour was created to specifically present a biased and one-sided perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and serves as a case study for how anti-Israel activists are attempting to bring anti-Israel invective into the mainstream.
Debra Silberstein, a parent with a student enrolled at Andover High School in Andover, MA, explained how a presentation by the "Wheels of Justice" organization caused anger and division in the community, while ultimately leaving the students with a narrow anti-Israel perspective on the conflict that ignored historical facts and the Palestinian campaign of terrorism against Israeli civilians.
Two Views from Washington
Ron Brownstein, National Political Correspondent and Columnist for The Los Angeles Times, discussed the political realignment in Washington, D.C. taking place in the wake of the Democratic majority takeovers of the House and Senate. U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, a Florida Democrat, discussed his party's plans for addressing some of the foremost domestic and foreign policy challenges facing the new Congress, including his personal commitment to meaningful immigration reform and finding a solution to quell the violence in Iraq.
Rep. Hastings reiterated his strong support for the State of Israel and its efforts to isolate the Palestinian government led by the terrorist group Hamas unless it meets the conditions set by the U.S.-led Quartet, including renouncing terror and recognizing Israel's right to exist.
ADL's Education Outreach: Florida As A Model
A student, a high school principal and a parent, all from Florida, discussed the impact of ADL's educational programming on themselves and their school communities:
• Sara Plana, a student at Boca Raton High School, told of her experiences traveling to Japan as an ADL Sugihara Fellow and to Washington, D.C. as a participant in the ADL Grosfeld National Youth Leadership Mission to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
• Maj. Joseph M. Bernadel, President and CEO of the Toussaint L'Ouverture High School for Arts & Social Justice in Delray Beach, explained how ADL's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute helped students to confront issues of bias and discrimination through the League's peer-trainer program, which empowers students to work with their peers in standing up to hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
• Steven Ramos, a parent, discussed the positive experiences of his son, Ross, a student at Toussaint L'Overture High School, who became involved as a mentor and anti-bias advocate through the ADL Peer Training Program.
Awards and Commendations
The following awards and commendations were presented during ADL's National Executive Committee Meeting in Palm Beach:
• The ADL Courage to Care Award was presented posthumously to Ernst Leitz II, the former owner of E. Leitz Inc., the Germany company that designed and manufactured the Leica camera. During World War II, Leitz was responsible for saving an estimated 200 to 300 employees and their families from the Nazis by helping them to obtain visas and paying for their travel to the U.S. and other countries.
• The American Red Cross was recognized by ADL for its efforts to bring Israel's emergency services and humanitarian relief organization, the Magen David Adom, into international acceptance. Bonnie McElveen Hunter, Chair of the American Red Cross, accepted the honor, and Dr. Noam Yifrach, Chair of Magen David Adom, represented Israel at the presentation.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.