As Pittsburgh approaches the three-year anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, the city will host a high-profile new effort to find a global bipartisan response to rising hate floods.
The three-day, in-person Eradicate Global Summit, taking place in the city from October 18-20, will feature more than 100 speakers and panelists, including former President George W. Bush (in a virtual address); Alejandro Mayorkas, current Secretary of Homeland Security who is Jewish, and the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt.
The media personalities Fareed Zakaria and Major Garrett are also there; former governors of Pennsylvania and Washington State; and Alice Wairimu Nderitu, United Nations Special Adviser on Genocide Prevention.
Additional speakers will be members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, including members of Tree of Life, whose building was also home to two other congregations.
The idea for the summit came shortly after the 2018 mass shooting, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history. “When Tree of Life happened, like everyone else in the city of Pittsburgh, I thought, ‘What do I need to bring to help?'” Said Laura Ellsworth, co-chair of the summit, attorney for Jones Day law firm.
As the firm’s first responsible partner to the firm’s Global Community Service Initiatives, Ellsworth leads the firm’s rule of law initiatives in 43 offices on five continents. It includes a hate crime task force that represents victims on a pro bono basis.
“In connection with this job, I’d seen great people working in the field in different disciplines who weren’t talking to each other,” Ellsworth said. She reached out to a longtime friend and advisor to co-host the event: Mark Nordenberg, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Emeritus. Nordenberg has already helped the local association distribute $ 6 million in funds that were donated to the local Jewish community after the attack.
Ellsworth, who finished third in the 2018 Republican primary for the Pennsylvania Governor’s race, says she wants to find a way to find real solutions to tackling hatred – not just anti-Semitism, but hatred of immigrants, the LGBTQ + – Community, Muslims and others.
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“Laura called and said, ‘We have to do something to make sure Pittsburgh is better known for how it responded to the attack, rather than just being the site of the attack,'” said Nordenberg.
Greenblatt’s attendance at the summit is noteworthy as it has sharply criticized Fox News, a high profile client of Ellsworth’s Jones Day law firm, for the network’s role in promoting hateful ideologies, according to the ADL. The company has also been heavily criticized for presenting some legal challenges to the 2020 presidential election on behalf of groups that support President Trump.
Greenblatt did not return a request for comment from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The ADL has worked with the Jones Day Hate Crime Task Force on other initiatives, according to the company’s website.
Since the attack, Pittsburgh has hosted many discussions and events related to combating hatred and anti-Semitism. This summit will be different, say its organizers. For one thing, the scale of the event is unprecedented.
“The reaction of people who devote a large part of their lives to this has been the same: Nobody did that. Nobody has brought us together from different geographical locations across disciplinary boundaries with different strategic approaches to counter the spread of hatred, ”said Nordenberg.
On the other hand, almost every speaker will be personal. The isolation caused by Covid-19 has tightened online recruitment in hate groups, Ellsworth said, noting that this was one reason the summit was not virtual.
Ellsworth said it was important that people experience the seminar in person and have the opportunity to “talk to these people and share their own ideas.” She said there was a live streaming option, but those attending remotely will miss the chance to experience the summit in person and meet people, “which is a big part of what we’re trying to do.”
Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who will speak at the summit, was instrumental in helping the lineup’s top dignitaries appear in person and waiving their speakers’ fees, Ellsworth said.
Most of the people who hate Jews hate a number of other people. These things are really related.
“You can throw an arrow at almost any map and it will land in a region affected by hateful violence,” Ridge said in a statement to the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. “This challenge is so omnipresent and that is why the Eradicate Hate Global Summit is so important. I am delighted to be part of the Summit’s global mission. While we can never really eradicate hatred, I am confident that we can weaken it at its sources and achieve a better, safer future for all of us. “
Nordenberg said the summit is expected to be relocated to the Collaboratory Against Hate in the coming years, a joint research and action center run by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University in the wake of the Tree of Life shooting was founded to study and combat extremist hatred.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “Part of that challenge will be fundraising, but what we are doing is sufficiently strong, in my opinion, that while the initiative is physically based in Pittsburgh, there will be people from further afield who are very concerned about it. stop the spread of hatred. “
Another expected speaker is Kathleen Blee, who serves as the co-director of the Collaboratory Against Hate. She is also a member of the Dor Hadash Congregation, one of the three churches that were attacked in the building of the Tree of Life.
“Sometimes people talk fatalistically and say things like ‘people will always hate people’ and ‘there will always be crazy people who violently take out their feelings,'” Blee said. “What we see in Pittsburgh and at the national and international levels is something else that we cannot attribute to human nature. We see people deliberately and strategically provoked by a range of actors trying to harm society. “
Blee has been dealing with hatred for years as an academic. Now, as a member of the congregation attacked by hate, she said, “I know more about being in the victim community than I did when I was a step away.”
Talking about the relationships between all forms of hate will be another major goal of the summit, said participant Heidi Beirich, who co-founded the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism in 2020 and is a former researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Ultimately, most of the people who hate Jews hate a whole bunch of other people,” Beirich said. “These things are really related. The tree of life was a symbol for it. The guy was definitely an anti-Semite, but he went to the synagogue because he was annoyed with immigration that immigrants essentially wiped out white power. These things do not exist in isolation. “