WASHINGTON — In the scant hours between his trip to Monticello and a state dinner for French President Francois Hollande, US President Barack Obama took time Tuesday to weigh in on Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham H. Foxman’s announcement that he will retire in July 2015.
Obama, whose administration has worked closely with Foxman and the ADL, issued an official statement on the retirement, even though the dynamic Jewish leader will remain in his current position for another 17 months.
“For decades, Abe Foxman has been a tireless voice against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all of its forms, always calling us to reject hatred and embrace our common humanity,” Obama wrote in his statement Tuesday. “Michelle and I wish him well as he prepares to leave the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League – an organization that he built, and led with such passion and persistence.”
Obama added that “Abe is irreplaceable, but the causes that he has dedicated his life to will continue to inspire people in the United States, Israel, and around the world.”
Although Foxman and Obama had occasionally sparred — most recently over the president’s policies on Iran — the ADL and its leader have worked closely with the White House since Obama’s 2008 election.
The president’s statement came a day after Foxman announced he will step down from his position on July 20, 2015.
“For almost five decades, ADL offered me the perfect vehicle to live a life of purpose both in standing up on behalf of the Jewish people to ensure that what happened during World War II would never happen again and in fighting bigotry and all forms of oppression,” he said Monday.
“My years at ADL, particularly the 27 spent as National Director, could not have been more rewarding. ADL continued its growth as a highly respected and influential organization both here in the United States and across the globe. We have never lost sight of the fact that we are an organization whose first priority is to fight anti-Semitism and protect the Jewish people. I’m proud of all that we have accomplished.”
Foxman is a child survivor of the Holocaust who later immigrated to the US with his parents. In 1965, he began working with the ADL, which had been established 52 years earlier.
Under Foxman, the ADL came to the aid of other American groups targeted by racists. In the nineties, as the impact of Islamist terror was growing globally, the ADL condemned the scapegoating of and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims while simultaneously lobbying for tougher federal antiterrorism legislation.
In the 27 years for which he has led the organization, Foxman has become nearly synonymous with the ADL. But as of July 2015, he will take the title of director emeritus, and will serve on both the ADL National Commission and the ADL National Executive Committee, as well as serving in a part-time consultancy.