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Needham takes stand against Anti Defamation League positions

The following letter has been sent to the Anti Defamation League by the Needham Human Rights Committee.

To the New England regional and national boards of the ADL:

We are the Human Rights Committee of Needham, Massachusetts, appointed by the Board of Selectmen. For many years we have worked closely with the ADL in Boston and that office has provided us with expert advice, powerful educational programming and has stood with us as allies in the face of oppression and hate. When our community was repeatedly leafleted by hate organizations, the ADL stood with us, helping our committee and our town strategize on how best to respond to these hateful incidents. When we looked for an educational program to bring into our high school to help our students face their own prejudices and biases, we chose the “World of Difference.” We have since expanded the program to our middle school, and we have the only middle school in Massachusetts in which the program is provided as part of the curriculum. Those programs have been transformational for our students.

When we implemented activities to educate ourselves and our residents about cultures and experiences that are different from ours, our town was certified by the ADL as being “No Place for Hate.” That is a distinction of which we are very proud. Our “No Place for Hate” program has expanded to our high school, where last March our students created and produced thematic programming throughout the entire month. Andy Tarsy, Regional Director of the New England ADL, was the kickoff speaker.

We now find ourselves in a difficult position because we also believe that the massacre of Armenians in 1915 was a genocide and we support the resolution before Congress that would officially recognize the Armenian genocide as such. We, like you in your mission statement, believe it is our responsibility “to secure justice and fair treatment for all.” We are surprised and disappointed therefore that the national board of the ADL has not stood with the Armenians as they seek justice and fair treatment.

In the past few weeks, the ADL has asked us to detach the “No Place for Hate” program from the controversy surrounding its positions regarding the Armenian genocide. We are unable to do so. We cannot proudly cite our town as “No Place for Hate” when the sponsoring organization is not doing all in its power to work against hate and oppression. The national board’s unwillingness to fully support recognition of the Armenian genocide is in our view undermining the excellent work of our regional ADL board and our community efforts to be “No Place for Hate.”

We strongly support the positions of the New England regional ADL board and therefore call on the national board of the ADL to:

•acknowledge the Armenian genocide as a genocide, not ‘tantamount to genocide’;

•support the resolution before Congress which officially recognizes the Armenian genocide; •make these policy changes promptly.

In our opinion, the longer the national board waits, the more credibility the organization loses, and the more difficult it is for us as a committee for human rights to carry on our work in partnership with the ADL. We would greatly appreciate your timely and thoughtful attention to this matter as we determine what recommendation we will make to the Needham Board of Selectmen regarding our continuation with the “No Place for Hate” program. We look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely,

The Needham Human Rights Committee