Eradicate Hate Global Summit implores attendees to not only study but act
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Fighting hateThree-day summit held in Pittsburgh

Eradicate Hate Global Summit implores attendees to not only study but act

As opposed to convening experts for a Pittsburgh-based discussion on theoretics, organizers asked hundreds to do something.

Eradicate Hate Global Summit 2022 welcomed nearly 260 thought leaders. 
Photo by Adam Reinherz
Eradicate Hate Global Summit 2022 welcomed nearly 260 thought leaders. Photo by Adam Reinherz

Four years after the largest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, researchers, activists and thought leaders implored colleagues to combat hate in a call for action at the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, a deliberate evolution from last year’s event.

As opposed to merely convening experts for a Pittsburgh-based discussion on theoretics, organizers asked hundreds of change agents to do more than simply study.

“Each of you in this room come from all different disciplines, all parts of the world,” summit co-chair Laura Ellsworth told the hundreds of people gathered at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Sept. 19, and those watching online. “And yet each of you have something unique and precious that we want you to bring to the table.” The purpose of the three-day event, she continued, was to “set that table, to lay out the possibilities for you and invite you to come and join with us in this global movement.”

Although a significant focus was placed on deliverables, organizers remained committed to remembering the 11 people murdered on Oct. 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life building and respecting their families.

“One of our missions is to honor those we have lost and, perhaps through our actions, to provide some small measure of comfort to those who continue to mourn,” summit co-chair Mark Nordenberg said.

Keynote speaker Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, United Nations. Screenshot by Adam Reinherz

While praising Pittsburgh’s “better angels,” Nordenberg highlighted the efforts of several local residents, including Wasi Mohammed, former executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh; David Shapira, who chaired the independent committee established by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to determine the distribution of donated funds after the massacre; and Michele Rosenthal, whose brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal, were among the 11 Jews murdered on Oct. 27, 2018.

In the lead-up to this year’s summit, organizers asked Rosenthal, a consultant and former community relations manager for the Pittsburgh Steelers, to head a working group focusing on hate and sports.

The group, Rosenthal told the Chronicle, built on an earlier United Nations’ strategy and plan of action.

Launched by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in 2019, the strategy and plan called hate speech “one of the clearest guides” to atrocity crimes and genocide — including the Holocaust — noted working group member and U.N. special advisor Alice Wairimu Nderitu.

Because sports generate a huge digital audience, extremists purposefully disseminate unfortunately “compelling” content to large online communities, explained fellow working group member Oren Segal — a vice president at the Anti-Defamation League.

Lauren Culbertson Greco — a working group member who heads U.S. Public Policy at Twitter — said that although the social media platform can be used for negative purposes, Twitter is trying to “address the issues that plague our society and happen on our service.”

By leveraging its power and partnering with others, including members of the working group, Twitter is trying to uplift those voices that are combating racism and hate, Greco said.

David Friedman — a working group member and senior vice president of the Boston Red Sox — offered attendees a rare moment of levity when saying the summit’s mission is achievable: “I grew up in New York as a Yankees fan, so I know that hatred can be overcome.”

Mark Nordenberg. Screenshot by Adam Reinherz

Both Friedman and Rosenthal pointed to the National Football League and its senior vice president of social responsibility, Anna Isaacson — a fellow working group member — for demonstrating the possibility of tackling large societal issues like domestic violence, sexual violence and social justice.

Isaacson said the NFL has long been devoted to helping underserved communities, but in recent years realized that inspiring change can also be achieved by allowing players and clubs to take the lead while the league serves as a partner to those efforts.

Friedman said members of the working group are committed to being teammates and producing something “more than just a piece of paper or a report.”

Despite the “daunting task” of creating a deliverable to eradicate hate, Rosenthal is encouraged by those striving toward that end.

A uniform approach isn’t going to work with every fan base. Even so, the working group will continue speaking and learning from each other while also developing a “menu of options” that leagues and teams can employ among their players, fans and staff, she said.

By producing “plausible solutions,” experts, thought leaders and activists can return to their communities with relatable messages, Nordenberg told the Chronicle.

Perhaps even more meaningful than the messages themselves, however, is the collective manner in which they’re created and dispersed, steering committee member Wasi Mohammed said.

“It feels rather hopeless when you're by yourself trying to fight back against all the hate and violence that has gone on in the last four years,” he said. “But when we're together, when we're focused on solutions, when we're coming together regularly, it helps give us hope.”

Throughout the day, keynote speakers praised the hundreds of in-person participants, and those gathered online, for undertaking a monumental effort.

Former Squirrel Hill resident and U.S. Department of Homeland Deputy Security John Tien said that speaking with summit-goers and organizers made clear that as emotionally difficult as it is to recall the events of Oct. 27 — or details of mass shootings occurring elsewhere — it is necessary to do so to truly eradicate hate.

Fellow keynote speaker Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, told attendees that, as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, recent data shows she is sadly working in “a growth industry.”

“In many parts of the world, antisemitism has reached new levels of intensity,” Lipstadt said. “It seems that no matter where we turn, we see escalations of Jew-hatred.”

While the swell of bigotry presents combatants with a near Sisyphean task, it can be tackled beginning with individual action, David Shapira said.

Speaking to summit-goers shortly before the day’s end, Shapira — who chairs the Beacon and Shapira Foundations — recalled the words of Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.”

By committing to eradicate hate, Shapira continued, “each of you in your own way — through your action and leadership — are pushing back against that silence.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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