Dear Anti-Defamation League new National Director search committee members,
I am writing to inform you that you may now stop looking. I’ve found your man: the next Abe Foxman must be Jamie Kirchick.
As an organization dedicated to fighting bigotry and anti-Semitism, you need someone who is absolutely fearless. The worst thing you can do is tap some ninnyhammer who is too accustomed to life in large institutions to say really offensive things when the occasion merits. Because here’s the thing: the occasion will merit. It may be terribly uncouth to admit so among academics, secretaries of state, and others convinced that we live in the enlightened 21st Century, where there’s no more evil and where all disagreements can be resolved if we only sat down and talked it out, but we Jews have enemies. Real enemies. Enemies well-armed and well-connected and well-informed enough to hide their bigotry behind veil after veil of big words and lofty principles. To stand up to these enemies, you need someone who is not afraid to march in and slap the haters; have you seen Jamie sporting rainbow-suspenders and talking about Russia’s persecution of gays on the Kremlin-sponsored channel RT?
Which bring me to Kirchick’s second qualification for the job. This being the 21st Century—the fact is sometimes lost on Jewish organizations—it’s best to give the helm to someone who knows how public discourse unfurls these days. Often, it unfurls online, on Twitter, in interconnected ways that can grow from 140 characters to front-page news within hours. For evidence of Kirchick’s mastery of this new media ninjitsu, google Liz Wahl: by advising the RT anchor to listen to her conscience and quit the benighted broadcasting operation, and by showcasing Wahl’s decision on various platforms soon after she herself announced it on the air, Kirchick delivered a fiery, focused, and proactive campaign.
And you, dear ADL, are going to need more and more of those to thrive. You’re going to need someone who can deliver the fight to the doorsteps of the biased and the vile. You’re going to need someone whose commitment to civil liberties is strong, someone who believes that the best way to fight very bad ideas is not by limply attempting to silence them but by putting out better ones and helping them triumph. You’re going to need someone whose understanding of the issues rests not on a submerged mess of instincts but on a strong intellectual analysis of clear moral positions. You’re going to need Kirchick. Go ahead and give him a call.