Near the end of your front-page article last week about Jonathan Greenblatt being named
as successor to Abe Foxman at Anti-Defamation League (“Questions Over ADL’s Direction In Wake Of Top Pick”), you quote one observer as calling the
appointment “a sign that American Jewry is not grooming young leaders to
take top professional positions.”
Here’s a suggestion: Stop nitpicking and second-guessing emerging new leaders before they even have their first day on the job.
From the headline through most of the third-party quotes, Jewish Week coverage of this important event was decidedly negative. Greenblatt is alleged to be too close to the Obama administration, lacking sufficient experience with ADL, “not a superstar … a younger Abe,” and symptomatic of a general lack of a strong next-generation Jewish leaders.
Finding a new leader is never easy for any organization, especially so when it comes to choosing a successor for a legendary, highly effective leader like Abe Foxman, who served in that role for more than a quarter-century. So it is especially commendable that the ADL board took the bold step of hiring someone who is a generation younger and whose career path does not make him the obvious choice. In choosing Mr. Greenblatt, the ADL has demonstrated that it recognizes that it operates in a new world and that his experience in Washington, his prior experience at the cutting edge of a new age of communication, and his record in mobilizing people and leveraging the private sector for social good all make him an inspired choice.
As a leader in the Jewish community (past president of the Village Temple in Greenwich Village) and a former journalist and media executive (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC News), I encourage Jewish Week to be more constructive in its coverage. And those critics who were so skeptical about Mr. Greenblatt need to have more vision. We should encourage more people like Jonathan Greenblatt to step forward to become the next generation of Jewish leadership.