Abraham Foxman, the indefatigable national director of the Anti-Defamation League for the last 27 years, has announced that he will be stepping down in July 2015. The 73-year-old Holocaust survivor first joined the ADL in 1965, and became its head in 1987. Under his leadership, the organization substantially raised its media profile, and became near-ubiquitous in its advocacy on behalf of Jews, Israel and victims of bigotry. In the words of Tablet’s David Samuels, Foxman became “the unofficial spokesperson of American Jewry,” a position that brought him much praise and criticism.
Foxman detailed his decision to move on, and his pride in the ADL’s accomplishments, in a letter released today by the organization. “You have heard the story many times of my surviving the Holocaust thanks to the courageous actions of my Nanny. Those experiences of long ago coupled with the lessons my parents taught me stayed with me my entire adult life and to this very day fuel my passion to fight for the safety and security of the Jewish people,” Foxman wrote. “For almost five decades, ADL offered me the perfect vehicle to live a life of purpose both in standing up on behalf of the Jewish people to ensure that what happened during World War II would never happen again and in fighting bigotry and all forms of oppression.”
This past December, Tablet’s literary editor David Samuels sat down with Foxman and talked about his hopes–and fears–for the American Jewish community:
Does it bother me that we’re not perfect? Yes. Does it bother me that we’re not an or laGoyim now? Yes. But it also bothers me about tikkun olam. I think it’s a cop-out. I want tikkun atsmi. I think we have to fix ourselves before we can become a model. Because I believe what I was taught, that we are going to be a model only if we set ourselves the task of being that model. And I think we’re skipping that step, and now we want to fix everybody else without fixing ourselves.
Read the rest here.