Pictured:  Steven Windmueller interviews Abraham Foxman (photo courtesy of HUC-JIR)

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman spoke to a group of community members at the 2014 Summer Salon co-sponsored by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) School of Nonprofit Management and Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California on August 6 at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.

During this wide-ranging interview conducted by Steven Windmueller, Professor Emeritus at HUC-JIR, Foxman reflected on his 50 years at ADL.  Foxman spoke of the many challenges the Jewish community has faced during this past half-century including the “schizophrenic” relationship between the US and Israel.  Still, he pointed out that the US government has provided unprecedented support to the State of Israel under the current administration, in particular by funding the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Richard A. Siegel, Director, HUC-JIR School of Nonprofit Management, Foxman and Windmueller.

To those in the audience pursuing or involved in Jewish communal careers, he called the American Jewish community “vibrant, dynamic, robust and exciting” and said that he remains “optimistic about the future of American Jewish life.”

While anti-Semitism in the US has declined during Foxman’s 50-year tenure at ADL, he spoke wistfully about the decline of civil discourse and public debate and told of instances where he has been called vicious names when he took important stands with which others disagreed.  He is concerned that the community is becoming more polarized, with little tolerance for nuance or dissent.  “Our constitution gives you the right to be a bigot,” he stated, noting that this country does not outlaw racism or Holocaust denial as other countries do.  But through advocacy and speaking out with moral clarity, we can “change people’s hearts and minds.”

In closing, Dr. Windmueller described Foxman as an “American Jewish legend, who has defended and shaped the American Jewish experience.”

Foxman was in LA as scholar-in-residence for the HUC-JIR School of Nonprofit Management.