(New York Jewish Week) — Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was a guest on the popular New York radio show The Breakfast Club on Wednesday, discussing the recent rise in antisemitism and the need to repair Black and Jewish relations.
“I believe you call people in before you call people out,” Greenblatt said, explaining to hosts Charlamagne Tha God and DJ Envy how he responds to antisemites. “I don’t believe in cancel culture, I believe in counsel culture.”
Greenblatt’s hour-long appearance was intended “to engage with different communities and learn from each other to prevent hatred from spreading,” according to an ADL spokesperson. The Breakfast Club, which originates at New York’s WWPR-FM (Power 105.1) and is syndicated nationally, has over 8 million listeners a month — more than half of them Black — according to Nielsen data. Its YouTube channel has over five million subscribers.
His appearance came after a period in which rapper Kanye West made headlines by spewing antisemitic comments and Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving promoted an antisemitic film.
“With antisemitism rising to unprecedented levels in the United States, and antisemitic conspiracy theories being normalized in high-profile ways, it is increasingly urgent to have thoughtful, in-depth conversations that are accessible to large, diverse audiences,” the ADL spokesperson added.
The on-air conversation that ensued was a sometimes tense but largely illuminating dialogue on the relationship between the Jewish and Black community.
Early on in the program, Charlamagne Tha God — who in 2020 was criticized by Greenblatt for saying that “Jews have the power” — called out the ADL, saying that the organization “doesn’t have the same passion for anti-Blackness as it does antisemitism.”
Greenblatt responded that the organization was created “to protect Jewish people.”
“That’s why we exist,” Greenblatt said. “And so, at a time when antisemitism has literally reached an all time high, we’re putting a lot of resources on that.”
He added that those resources are going toward fighting extremists who “want to kill Black people and Jewish people.”
“These right-wing extremists, they’re the ones who are rejoicing, while they proceed, Black and Jewish people are fighting,” Greenblatt said. “They’re the ones who want to see Kanye and the ADL, or Charlemagne and whomever going at it, because they deeply, passionately hate both of us.”
Charlamagne also asked Greenblatt about the Black Hebrew Israelites, a religious sect whose members recently marched outside of Barclays Center in support of Irving. (In the aftermath of Irving’s tweet, the ADL attempted to work with Irving — who initially donated $500,000 to the organization — but the organization did not accept the donation after he did not apologize for his actions in a press conference.)
“They would say y’all aren’t Jews?” Charlamagne said. “They would say white people are not the original Jews?”
Greenblatt responded, pointing to an attack by two Black Hebrew Israelites on a New Jersey kosher grocery store which left six people dead in December 2019. “You’re entitled to believe whatever you want,” Greenblatt responded, “but I think we need to recognize that rhetoric can have real-world consequences.”
One such “consequence” is an explosion of antisemitic and hateful statements on the YouTube post of the show. While a few online commentators praised Greenblatt’s appearance on the show (“the conversation was all love”), the majority were less charitable.
“What this year taught me is that with The Tribe you need to act like you are literally in the presence of Darth Vader,” one comment said.
“I’m all for unity — unity in agreeing to kick Greenblatt and his fellow rats at the ADL out of this country,” another wrote.
“This guy proves Ye was right about everything,” another said, referring to West, who recently told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his Infowars program that “I like Hitler.”
The ADL spokesperson said not to “put much credence into what people are saying in the comments section on social media.”
“We absolutely have heard much positive feedback from Jonathan’s appearance,” the spokesperson added. “Antisemites, bigots and haters routinely come after us no matter what platform we are engaging on, and we refuse to let a fear of reactions from antisemites and others prevent us from doing the important work of combating hate. If we did listen, the antisemites would win.”
The ADL does have a relationship with multiple Black civil rights and justice reform groups including the NAACP and the Urban League.
“In all my offices, we’re working with Black-led organizations to fight anti-Black racism, to be a part of legislation, to be a part of initiatives,” Greenblatt said on the program.
The ADL has a controversial history in progressive spaces. Dozens of prominent organizations, including many Jewish ones, have signed an open letter called “Drop The ADL” which says the organization “has a history and ongoing pattern of attacking social justice movements.” At the same time, right-wing groups have attacked the ADL for promoting “far-left” ideas and prioritizing “marginalized communities” over Jewish community issues.
The Breakfast Club did not respond to a request for comment.