Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
ADL’s Oren Segal speaks about antisemitism at the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York.

Last week’s report from the Americans Against Antisemitism has ADL officials seething. The charge by the AAA, led by former Borough Park Assemblyman Dov Hikind, was that the Anti-Defamation League issues statistics about how many antisemitic incidents there are each year but fails to follow up on how many cases actually go to trial and what the result is from law enforcement and the judicial bench.

“We do not have a report to see which hate crimes have been followed up on and which have not in any community,” Oren Segal, vice president of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League. “The idea that all we do is simply report articles ignores literally what we are doing on the ground around the country through our regional offices. It’s a joke. For me to hear this notion that we’re not following up only means that people don’t understand how much we do behind the scenes by design.”

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At a conference at the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York, Segal exclusively told The Jewish Press:

“We collect information, literally, on threats that are emerging and help law enforcement stop them even before they happen. We collect data because people reported more than 2700 incidents to us in 2021. Those are coming from individuals who don’t know where to go. They come to the ADL because they know we’re going to support them. We either put them in touch with the right law enforcement, give them tips on what they should do for their security. A lot of people want us to know there is a flyer in their neighborhood and we’ll give them context – here’s who is behind it.”

Segal said the ADL has their own methods of stopping hate crimes and it is not the way Hikind is proposing through his criticism of the organization.

“We often offer rewards for antisemitic acts that go unsolved to help get more information that will hopefully identify perpetrators,” Segal said. “In many cases with hate crimes or assaults there is no [identified] perpetrator [and] unfortunately, we don’t know who is behind it. Law enforcement never arrests anybody. We do expert witness testimony in cases of antisemites threatening public officials and engaging in hate crimes. Our expertise is lending that proficiency in the court so they can then make a decision that will decide how long is this person going to be sentenced or not. Do we have a report annually that says this is where everybody is in the court system? No. What is the utility of having that type of report? I haven’t put that much thought into it. What’s the idea? To see how much time they’re getting?  A lot of times it takes years to get through the court system. We just haven’t done it. I’m not sure what the utility is. I’ll be honest with you.”

Segal also said state lawmakers across the country need to do more.

“There are still four states left that don’t have any state hate crime laws,” Segal noted. “Even under federal hate crime laws there are still 80-plus communities of 100,000 people or more who report zero hate crimes. There is not enough of an impetus for them to report it.”

Segal places the onus on the federal government.

“Government could do a little bit more of having an annual report so that people understand just the way they should be doing better with their hate crimes report,” Segal said. “It’s important when the government invests the time to collect information. One of the things we do is work with law enforcement to provide intelligence so that they could do a better job by identifying and protecting communities. On extremism, the government hasn’t done such a good job collecting information.”

Reaction from Jewish community leaders at the Chautauqua Institution was swift.

“They should get more involved with the outcome of the crime,” said Cleveland resident Richard Spivak, board chairman at the Everett Jewish Center in Chautauqua. “I don’t think they should advocate one way or the other for punishment or absolution. They should certainly follow it so they know what the result was.”

Another Jewish leader in Chautauqua, a Crown Heights teacher, said inserting the onus on the ADL is misplaced.

“We have relationships with the local elected officials,” said Rabbi Zalman Vilenkin, director of the Chautauqua Chabad House. “If something would happen in Crown Heights, the ADL coming in and making a lot of noise is not going to be as effective as community activists that have relationships with the mayor and with the DA’s office and then putting pressure on them saying we want results, and how could you allow such a thing to happen? What is lacking is coordination among all the organizations. If we had some type of coordinator who can coordinate all the information and all the data, that would be very powerful but that is what’s lacking.”

It is estimated that more than 20,000 Jews visit Chautauqua Institution each summer during the nine weeks the retreat is open.

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.
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