It’s always remarkable to find those champions of justice whose job it is to confront daily incidents of hatred, bigotry and harassment … who take a stand on behalf of equity and fairness … and do so without losing their faith in the overall goodness of humanity. Etzion Neuer is one such champion. He now heads up the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) NY’s Regional Operations Department and was the New Jersey office chief for over six years, handling calls for both organizations for some time.
At the ADL, “our office is a nexus for hate of all kinds. Virtually every anti-Semitic complaint crosses my desk. We get them from the state police. We get calls from children harassed in school. I’ve had parents who cry to me on the phone because their children are the victims of anti-Semitic bullying in their school. I’ve had people cry to me because they’re experiencing discrimination in the work place.”
“I see the worst Jew hatred, an unceasing flow of hatred.”
Neuer said he tries hard not to let this give him a bleak perspective on humanity. “It’s my job to make sure that I don’t become despondent.”
“I have tried to seize on the inspirational moment. It is seeing the incredible work done by Catholic teachers to teach Holocaust education in their schools. It’s the person from Louisiana who called me last week, an 82-year-old Methodist, who read about the incident online and called me to say that he felt for this young rabbi and wanted to add a thousand dollars to our reward fund.
“It’s those moments that remind me that while, yes, there are extremists, there are haters, they really represent the fringe, and the vast majority of New Jerseyians and indeed Americans are good people. I’ve seen that just as hate can be learned, it can be unlearned.”
Neuer takes pride in the success of two legal efforts the New Jersey ADL undertook: Helping pass the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in 2010, and the 2008 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in Cutler v. Dorn, which held that anti-Semitic harassment was not “mere teasing.”
In a conversation we shared several years ago, Mr. Neuer explained that ADL’s goal is to prevent hate crimes and create bridges between cultures that in the short run establish at least peaceful dialogue and co-existence – as these are the foundation stones on which respect and affinity can be built over the course of time. The ADL works not only for Jews, but for people of all races and religions who experience the challenge of being victimized by expressions of intolerance and hate.
In 2008, Neuer offered bias-crime training to New Jersey college campus security personnel and law enforcement officers from 42 other agencies
“The ADL has conducted bias-crime training for law enforcement officials for many years,” Neuer told NJ Jewish News. “In the 1980s, we helped develop hate-crime legislation that has been used as a template for this type of legislation all over the country. Almost every state now has some level of hate-crime legislation on its books.”
In 2007, the ADL’s annual “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents” revealed that the NJ region reported 21 incidents of campus-related anti-Semitism.
The workshop at (Brookdale Community College) was designed to assist statewide campus law enforcement personnel in ensuring that NJ institutions of higher learning are “hate-free zones,” said Neuer.
“Campus security team members don’t always undergo the depth of training in the area of bias crimes that sworn law enforcement officers do,” he said. “Our aim is to help law enforcement officials provide a safe learning environment and to keep our state campuses free of hate. Campus police, as first responders, are in a unique position when a student or teacher becomes the target of hate.”
Law enforcement officials throughout New Jersey now have a series of ADL resources, including the brochures “Hate on Display: Extremist Symbols, Logos, and Tattoos,” and “Hate Crimes Information for Law Enforcement,” as well as links to, and Internet addresses of, related websites. Throughout the school year, the ADL also will consult with campus police and administrators in dealing with issues of bias on campuses, Neuer said.
Although a college campus is often regarded as an oasis of civility that is immune from some of the more negative elements of daily life, the reality is less reassuring, Neuer said.