Adams Decries Social Media at Worldwide Mayors’ Conference on Antisemitism in Athens

By Matis Glenn

Adams speaking at the international mayors’ summit on antisemitism (Georgiou Babis)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, executive of the city with the largest Jewish population outside Israel, attended an international summit of mayors to address antisemitism in Athens, Greece, amid an uptick in hate crimes targeting Jews. The event, spearheaded by the CAM (Combat Anti Semitism) group, was held on Wednesday and Thursday in Athens, Greece, and drew mayors from over 50 cities in countries across the world.

Adams delivered an address on Wednesday outlining how he plans to tackle antisemitism. He also visited an Athens synagogue, and laid a wreath at the city’s Holocaust memorial.  

Comparing antisemitism to a frog dying in hot water after a slow incremental increase in temperature, Adams said that “we’ve allowed it to normalize in every part of our lives, we’ve become accustomed to it, it’s become popular. And the degrees change, not only in how we verbalize and interact with each other.”

Adams laid out a three-point plan, beginning with reining in social media, which he says would extinguishing the “flame that fuels the hatred” – social media. He said that America needs to follow the example of Europe in designing algorithms which identify hate speech online.

Social media, Adams says, allows those who hate to be “no longer isolated in the corners of their bedrooms or homes or in their clubs…they have now combined together to create the hate that we are experiencing.”

Adams’ trip comes on the heels of a joint effort to thwart a threat on New York City synagogues last month, in which two armed young men were arrested. The incident was a deciding factor in the Mayor’s decision to attend the conference.

Speaking of the incident, Adams said that social media facilitated the planning of the attack, and that “it was due to a Jewish organization that was monitoring to social media channels and chatter, they were able to give an early warning sign to connect with the law enforcement community…”

The Mayor, when advocating for a concerted effort between government, community organizations, and media giants such as Meta and Twitter said that those who are perpetrating hatred online “should not have 5 million followers on social media…and those of us who are standing up for what’s right only have 100,000.”

Adams’ second point was building connections between communities. He said that education must ensure that children are “emotionally intelligent,” and that they learn about different cultures. He gave his “Breaking Bread Building Bonds” program, which he ran as County Executive prior to becoming Mayor, as an example of how to “go into the crevices of our community and become creative in how we do it.” He planned dinners between people of different backgrounds to have discussions, which he said used the “lubricating value” of food to facilitate conversations.

Speaking of the relationship between black and Jewish communities, he said that “The problem is that many who have started those great relationships have transitioned, and those of us who are still here, we have an obligation to build out a new pipeline.

“When you look at some of the encounters between the Jewish community and the black community, it’s involving a lot of young people,” Adams told Hamodia in a Zoom interview on Thursday, in an apparent reference to the high proportion of antisemitic hate crimes in New York being perpetrated by young black men. Adams said it was incumbent upon black community activists to lead the way. “those of us who are still here, we have an obligation to build out a new pipeline,” he said. (The full version of Mayor Adams’ interview will be published in next week’s Hamodia Prime.)

The third part of Adams’ plan is to ramp up prosecution of hate crimes. He stressed eliminating plea bargains which he says offenders use to drop hate crime charges, and downgrade bias crimes to harassment.

Adams was presented with an award by CAM for his work in fighting antisemitism.

“We have never had so many local and municipal leaders in one place, sharing best practices and learning from each other on how to fight Jew-hatred,” CAM CEO Sacha Roytman Dratwa said in a press release.

Other sponsors of the two-day event included the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Jewish Federation of North America, and Jewish Impact.

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