09/20 Lexington Minuteman: Editorial: What do we lose by leaving the ADL?

Editorial: What do we lose by leaving the Anti-Defamation League?
Thu Sep 20, 2007, 06:00 AM EDT

Lexington - This Friday, Lexington’s No Place for Hate steering committee will host its first official meeting since August, when Watertown severed its ties with No Place for Hate, a program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), over the league’s ambiguous position on the World War I-era massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in present-day Turkey.

Since then Arlington, Belmont, and other Massachusetts communities have suspended or nullified their involvement in the No Place for Hate program.

The Lexington committee will meet this week with representatives of Lexington’s Armenian population, who have asked the town also cut its ties with the ADL. While there are benefits to the association with the ADL, it doesn’t need that association to be effective.

The No Place for Hate committee is most effective on the local, grassroots level. It can continue that without the troubling association with the ADL.

Lexington’s No Place for Hate group started eight years ago. Its steering committee is a dynamic mix of lay leaders, clergy, elected officials and residents. Lexington was one of the first communities to participate in the program, according to Jill Smilow, chairman of Lexington’s No Place for Hate committee.

It has helped secure about $7,000 in grants for diversity training workshops, civil discourse training and programs recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Each year, the Lexington steering committee participates in a regional conference of No Place for Hate groups, allowing it to hear about regional issues.

Smilow said its agenda is to be sure everyone has a voice. It has held study circles to address challenges and issues specific to Lexington and its ability to foster and promote dialogue within town is paramount to its value here. It also provides a somewhat intimate forum for people from all walks of life — a police chief, a minister, a selectman, a housewife — to share ideas and talk about the issues of the day.

It is in this local role that No Place for Hate serves the town best. Its inclusive, non-partisan forum fills a communication hole left when regular folks are too busy or too timid to bring social issues to the forefront of Lexington’s larger committees, or Board of Selectmen, or Town Meeting. It has a more active role in promoting tolerance than other groups handling the myriad issues expected of government.

Speaking just for herself, Smilow said the fact there was genocide is “unequivocal.” But Smilow, an active member of the regional ADL, says there is value in remaining with the ADL’s network and the best way to affect change is to remain within its ranks.

Lexington’s very lucky to have her working to achieve that. It does not, however, need the entire committee to remain with the group in order to accomplish this. By not suspending its involvement or cutting it completely, the No Place for Hate committee could promote the type of rift in town it is supposed to prevent.

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/lexington/opinions/x428362979