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Eradicate Hate Global Summit

An Act of Hate in a Holy Place

On October 27, 2018, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in United States history occurred in Pittsburgh, when a heavily armed gunman, who earlier had posted anti-Semitic and anti-refugee messages on the internet, entered the Tree of Life synagogue just as Saturday Shabbat services were about to start. He began shooting, and within minutes, 11 innocent worshipers from three different congregations were dead. Others, including law enforcement officers who had bravely responded to the call for help, were seriously wounded. The carnage was so severe that the interior of the synagogue was said to resemble a battlefield and brought even law enforcement officers to tears.

This horrific violence was committed in Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood known for its diversity and tolerance and long the center of Jewish life in the region. Squirrel Hill also is, quite literally, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The late Fred Rogers, who taught millions of American children the virtue of kindness and the need to appreciate the differences in others, had lived only blocks from the site of this awful attack. It was an attack both on the Tree of Life worshipers and on the values to which he had dedicated his life.

A Community Responds with
Compassion and Commitment

In the wake of this tragedy, the Pittsburgh community demonstrated the resolve, resilience, and character for which it is known around the world. People of all faiths, backgrounds, and walks of life stepped forward, to offer support and to enlist in the effort to transform this act of evil into a force for good. Rabbi Dr. Danny Schiff, a native of Australia who now divides his time between Pittsburgh and Israel, described this unique Pittsburgh response in a Washington Post column titled, “Anti-Semitic Attacks Share a Pattern: Pittsburgh is Different.” 

While Pittsburgh represents a continuation of the same thread [of anti-Semitism] that stretches from Alexandria to Kristallnacht, it is also different. Profoundly different. Why? Because of the neighbors. Since the Pittsburgh attack, loving individuals of every background have embraced Jews tightly in multiple overwhelming ways. Government leaders, prominent religious figures, corporations, sports teams and an unprecedented myriad of fellow citizens have declared loudly and emphatically that they will stand by Jews. This breathtaking and profoundly moving reality is virtually unparalleled in the Jewish experience.

Bari Weiss, a prominent opinion writer and editor and author of the book How To Fight Anti-Semitism, made her bat mitzvah at Tree of Life, and wrote the following in a New York Times column titled, “A Massacre in the Heart of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”:

Anyone who is from Squirrel Hill or has ever spent time in the place where I was lucky to be raised, will not be surprised to know how the community responded to this disaster. Jews and gentiles alike ran toward the fire…. Squirrel Hill, Mr. Rogers’ real-real world neighborhood, is full of such people.

Although years have passed, the people of Pittsburgh still are “running toward the fire” in that there remains a widely shared sense of grief and a collective commitment to combat hate. During a visit to the city, James E. Young, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a renowned expert on the Holocaust and Jewish Studies, observed that the Tree of Life shooter “picked the wrong place.” By that, he meant that Pittsburgh was the wrong place for this attack precisely because Pittsburgh is the right place to lead a determined effort to end the scourge of hate-induced violence that was brought into our midst. 

A Legacy of Impact Based on the Rule of Law

The founding of this country was grounded in deep respect for the rule of law. That guiding principle of American democracy must play a critical role in preventing hate crimes and providing justice for their victims. This includes the use of law to prevent the misuse of powerful new technologies that are being used, deliberately and effectively, to promote hate and foster violence, while also respecting the First Amendment protections of free speech and privacy that help to fundamentally define what it means to be an American.

The Eradicate Hate Global Summit is being founded to foster the development and implementation of rule-of-law initiatives to counter hate around the world. This event, which will occur annually near the date of the Tree of Life shooting, will bring together the people and organizations from around the world who are having the most significant impact in combating hate, preventing hate crimes, and providing justice for the victims of such crimes. The inaugural event will occur at the Pittsburgh Convention Center on October 18-20, 2021, and we expect in excess of 2000 attendees.

The purpose of the Conference is four-fold: (1) to share the best practices that have been developed by those who are experienced in the use of rule-of-law solutions; (2) to increase the visibility of this work so that greater numbers of victims are encouraged to seek help from the justice system; (3) to maintain broad public vigilance against hate crimes by highlighting the diversity of its victims; and (4) to create focused working groups that will team between conferences to develop specific solutions that will be presented at subsequent Annual Conferences, thus driving progress on an ongoing basis. The Annual Conference also will honor those who lost their lives or were wounded in the Tree of Life attack, including law enforcement officers.

The Conference Committee is Co-Chaired by Laura Ellsworth, a highly accomplished lawyer and the Global Partner-in-Charge of Community Initiatives for Jones Day, one of the largest law firms in the world, and by Mark Nordenberg, former Chancellor and Law School Dean at the University of Pittsburgh and currently Chair of its Institute of Politics. Both became actively involved, very shortly after the attack, in plans to forge an appropriate and enduring response to the Tree of Life shootings. Chancellor Emeritus Nordenberg served on the small, independent committee first appointed by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to distribute undesignated donations received in the wake of the attack and co-chaired its commemoration, memorialization and education subcommittee.  

Other Conference Committee members include nationally respected leaders from business, journalism, law, public policy, and academia. Its racially and religiously diverse membership not only includes leaders from Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and a person who lost two family members on October 27, 2018, but also members of Pittsburgh’s African American and Muslim communities. The conference is funded by generous gifts from the foundation community of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Jones Day Foundation. 

In order to advance these ambitious goals, the process of recruiting speakers of global stature has begun. The program will include internationally known speakers who have earned the high level of respect necessary to underscore the critical nature of this threat and the values that must be deployed in combating it. The program also will include experts on the causes of and cures for hate, and experts in the strategies that have been effectively deployed to detect, deter, disrupt, and counter hate and hate-induced violence through the protections of the rule of law in the United States and around the world.

Small working groups will be created to advance this mission between annual conferences. Those groups will focus on specific anti-hate measures, with the goal of developing increasingly successful approaches to be shared and further enhanced at each successive annual conference. 

These global conferences and the critical work that will occur between such sessions will stand as the best possible Tree of Life legacy project—by making Pittsburgh, the site of the attack, a global center in the fight against hate.

The Right Place at the Right Time

Pittsburgh is not unique in experiencing the devastation of a violent hate crime. Hate-fueled attacks in such diverse locations as Charleston, Sutherland Springs, Orlando, Charlottesville, Christchurch, El Paso, Ontario, and Indianapolis  demonstrate that hate knows no borders. Communities large and small around the globe already have been impacted, and unless effective prevention strategies are developed and implemented, more tragedies almost certainly will occur. 

It will take a unique place to assume an effective leadership role in driving such strategies. It will require not only will, but access to committed, world-class talent and resources, and a demonstrated ability to collaborate to create real and measurable change. Pittsburgh has these attributes.

The transformation of Pittsburgh from a smoky post-industrial steel city to a leader in technology and innovation is a “renaissance story” that has attracted national and international attention. Those efforts were supported significantly by an extraordinary philanthropic community and were led by the major institutions that call Pittsburgh home – institutions with global reputations and with demonstrated expertise directly relevant to the development and implementation of anti-hate rule-of-law initiatives. Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, both multidisciplinary research powerhouses, are literally next-door neighbors. The RAND Corporation, one of the premier policy institutions in the world, has a headquarters on the street that connects the two campuses. Jones Day, one of the largest law firms in the world, has a Pittsburgh office that is home to the partner leading its global pro bono community work, including its anti-hate initiatives. 

These and other institutions in Pittsburgh have a demonstrated record of working collaboratively that is the envy of other communities. Their leadership is represented on the Global Conference Committee, and they bring to this initiative a track record of partnering to create national centers of excellence in such areas as supercomputing and cognitive science. Further, they are home to existing programs, some just recently launched, that are poised to make critical contributions to this undertaking. Most recently, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh announced the joint creation of the Collaboratory Against Hate:  Research and Action Center, whose mission is to develop effective interventions to inhibit every stage in the creation and growth of extremist hate groups and to minimize their destructive consequences.  

The RAND Corporation has an international reputation, built over 70 years, for improving policy and decision-making through research and analysis. Its areas of research include cyber and data sciences, national security, and terrorism. Among many relevant projects, RAND work has chronicled the rising number of terrorist incidents in this country, as well as their increased lethality, and has described programs to counter violent extremism around the world. 

CMU and Pitt have partnered with RAND on a wide range of projects, including an anti-hate initiative in tandem with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Tech Against Terrorism that presented a “Digital Forum: Terrorism Prevention,” addressing global efforts to combat the proliferation of hate, particularly hate transmitted through social media.

Jones Day provides pro bono representation to the Anti-Defamation League, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Foundation, and individual victims of hate crimes around the world. Led by a team of former federal prosecutors and senior-level DOJ officials, several of whom prosecuted major hate crimes and served on national anti-hate task forces, the Jones Day Anti-Hate Initiative operates across 43 offices on five continents.

Given the daunting nature of the challenge, one priority of this initiative will be to seek out and involve those, both from within this region and from around the world who are well positioned to contribute to it. In our own neighborhood, for example, the just-launched Carl G. Grefenstette Center for Ethics in Science, Technology and Law at Duquesne University has identified hate speech as a focus of its work. We expect many other institutions from around the globe to participate in our ongoing work.

Giving Love a Helping Hand

In the wake of hate crimes, many communities have displayed images of love conquering hate. In Pittsburgh, signs combining the Star of David and the logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers and proclaiming that Pittsburgh is stronger than hate, are everywhere. These responses are rooted in a conviction expressed well by Nelson Mandela: 

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

The organizers of this global event share that view. But in a world in which new technologies are being regularly and effectively deployed to dramatically accelerate the proliferation and penetration of hate around the world, it seems clear that love needs a helping hand. 

With a demonstrated track record of effectively delivering on bold and transformational visions for the future and with resolve born of the profound tragedy that impacted the lives of neighbors in our midst, Pittsburgh is the right place to provide that helping hand.

In doing so, this initiative is building on the legacy of Jonas Salk, the eldest son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, whose University of Pittsburgh research team developed the vaccine that won this country’s war against polio. In discussing that effort, Dr. Salk said, “hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams a reality.”

Our dream is a world free from hate. At this moment, in this place, a unique convergence of talent, resources, and resolve have come together with the courage to dare to move that dream toward reality.  We invite you to join us.