Amy Spitalnick to helm Bend the Arc
Spitalnick will wind down Integrity First for America ahead of her November move to Bend the Arc
Bend the Arc, the progressive Jewish advocacy organization, announced on Tuesday that Amy Spitalnick will be its next CEO. Spitalnick, a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, is known for a legal effort to hold neo-Nazis accountable for the violent 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., as head of the nonprofit Integrity First for America (IFA).
“We’re living in a moment where white supremacy…[and] anti-democratic extremism are increasingly normalized in our politics,” Spitalnick, who starts at Bend the Arc on Nov. 15, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “There is so much work to do in terms of advocacy…and Bend the Arc is uniquely taking on that fight in a way that is both deeply reflective of my own personal Jewish values, and [that] builds on the work that I’ve been doing at IFA over the last four years.”
Spitalnick’s move to Bend the Arc marks an end for Integrity First for America, which will shut down by year’s end. IFA will continue to maintain its website to keep the Charlottesville trial materials publicly available. Meanwhile, the legal team that worked on the case is engaged in post-trial motions and collecting the $25 million in damages awarded by the jury against the neo-Nazi defendants.
Spitalnick sees IFA ending its work as a sign of success: The legal strategy IFA championed against Unite the Right organizers – using civil litigation to make extremists compensate victims of violence, with the intent of bankrupting far-right networks – is also being used against far-right groups that rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “It’s the right moment to say that we don’t need an entire nonprofit infrastructure behind this effort,” Spitalnick said.
Despite her legal work against right-wing extremists, Spitalnick doesn’t expect to use the same strategy at Bend the Arc.
“Bend the Arc is structured to do the sort of advocacy and organizing work that is crucial,” she said. The organization “is also part of the broader progressive movement, where there are a number of other…partners doing crucial legal work.”
Spitalnick didn’t say what specific initiatives she plans to orient Bend the Arc or its political action committee around once she’s leading the organization. But she emphasized a focus on fighting white supremacy in what she sees as its political form, not just its manifestation as violent groups, and the need for Jews to work in a coalition with other minority groups to do so.
It’s about “recognizing…broader extremist authoritarian policies that we’re seeing cropping up around the country,” Spitalnick said. “These policies are targeting a variety of communities, from the Black community through voter suppression laws [and] the supposed ‘anti-woke’ bills that have been popping up; through the attacks on the LGBTQ community” via Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law.
Spitalnick also hopes to mobilize more activism within the Jewish community on civil rights issues. While political extremism has grown over the past few years, she also sees a greater awareness among Jews about the need to fight for progressive policy.
“We are living at a moment when democracy as we know it is quite literally at stake, and the vision for a multiracial democracy that’s at the core of Bend the Arc’s work feels like it’s farther away than it’s been in quite some time,” Spitalnick said. “But..there’s so much opportunity. Because of the direness of the moment, we’re seeing a level of momentum, a level of enthusiasm for this sort of work.”