Opinions & Commentary

ADL New England bombs on threat response

By failing to evacuate its office after receiving a bomb threat, the Anti- Defamation League New England did a disservice to the community and damaged its credibility.

As we reported last week, after receiving a telephone threat March 7, ADL New England did not evacuate from the league’s office at 40 Court St.

The decision, Executive Director Robert O. Trestan told this newspaper, came after consulting with security experts (prior to, not during, Tuesday’s bomb scare, we assume).

His rationale for not evacuating included the league office being “fairly secure” and “given the context of what was happening, including other bomb threats,” his not believing the threat was credible.

That may be so. What troubles us, though, is how the league’s actions contradict its advice.

The ADL is the Jewish community’s most trusted resource for dealing with anti-Semitism, due in no small part to its own promotional efforts. When the ADL tells us that somewhere is safe – or as is usually the case, unsafe – we believe it.

The ADL’s online safety guide for Jewish groups adamantly maintains, “for the vast majority of institutions, we recommend immediate evacuation upon receipt of a threat.”

Indeed, of the 148 Jewish community centers, schools and organizations that have received bomb threats since January, it seems only two did not evacuate: ADL New England and the ADL’s national office in New York. Fecklessly, the latter left the decision to evacuate up to the workers (dozens left the building).

Pecuniary concerns further complicate the league’s actions. The current explosion of anti-Semitic sentiment has been a windfall for the ADL; the community has donated generously in support of the league’s programming, as well as its overall “No place for hate” branding.

The ADL’s self-promotion is so successful that even anti-Semites – not to mention the news media – have bought into it. Among the plethora of U.S. Jewish organizations, only ADL offices have been the target of bomb threats, a point the league makes every time it releases a new round of statistics.

Perhaps not evacuating last week was simply a questionable decision on the part of ADL New England, which, while confidence shaking, is forgivable.

However, if the league cannot see the contradiction between what it advises and its own actions, then last week’s events reveal a disturbing cynicism about and disrespect for the Jewish community that the ADL purports to serve.


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