Rabbinic supervision

ADL taps Rabbi David Wolpe to build Jewish content into its work

Wolpe, who will retire next month from Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, will also serve in an advisory role at Maimonides Fund

For the Anti-Defamation League, fighting antisemitism has until now involved a mix of politics, policing and education. Going forward, it will more explicitly include yiddishkeit in that mix as well.

This week, the organization that was created to combat anti-Jewish hate appointed Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe as its first rabbinic fellow, an advisor who will offer a Jewish perspective to the organization’s work fighting hate. 

“I want this campaign against hate to speak with a Hebrew accent,” Wolpe told eJewishPhilanthropy on Tuesday. Wolpe will retire in June from Sinai Temple, the large Conservative synagogue where he has served as senior rabbi for more than 25 years. 

“There’s a lot in our tradition that could be used to help the ADL present itself as a Jewish anti-hate organization,” said Wolpe. “Part of my task will be to help the messages, the speeches, some of the printed stuff have a Talmudic, rabbinic, Jewish literature valence or ideas or expressions that will make it a clearly Jewishly rooted endeavor.”

The organization has in recent years struggled to define itself and reconcile two core ideas – one more particularist and the other universal – at the hearts of its mission: “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”

“I see it ultimately, as complementary, even though there will be tensions,” Wolpe noted. “My intent is not to weigh in on this or that side of the debates around ‘wokeness’ or lack of ‘wokeness’ of the ADL. I just want them to fight hate with a Jewish voice.”

An ADL spokesperson said in a statement that Wolpe will help “integrate Jewish values and a wide range of Jewish perspectives into the organization’s work fighting antisemitism and hate.”

After retiring from Sinai Temple, Wolpe will begin a number of other advisory positions. He will spend next year in Boston as a fellow at the Harvard Divinity School, and he will also serve as a senior advisor to Maimonides Fund’s “viewpoint diversity” project. 

“I believe in the liveliness of multiple voices. I really take the Talmudic ideal seriously, which is that you preserve all the opinions you can because you could be wrong, or they could be important tomorrow,” Wolpe explained.