It Could Hap­pen Here: Why Amer­i­ca Is Tip­ping From Hate To The Unthink­able And How We Can Stop It 

  • Review
By – March 22, 2022

Many books have been writ­ten about the glob­al and nation­al uptick in anti­semitism. Though most are help­ful in con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing the prob­lem and explain­ing how we got to where we are, few are as prac­ti­cal as Jonathan Greenblatt’s newest work, It Could Hap­pen Here. Green­blatt spends the first half of the book diag­nos­ing the prob­lem, explain­ing the dif­fer­ent caus­es and symp­toms of anti­semitism, both on the polit­i­cal left and right. How­ev­er, the biggest con­tri­bu­tion of the book appears in the sec­ond half, when Green­blatt uses his unique expe­ri­ence work­ing on the front lines against hate to explain the many ways we can com­bat anti­semitism today.

Jonathan Green­blatt is the CEO of the Anti-Defama­tion League (ADL), one of old­est and most effec­tive voic­es in this coun­try against anti­semitism and hatred writ large. Though he has been an ardent advo­cate and pub­lic voice for a while, It Could Hap­pen Here is actu­al­ly his first book. Because of this, Green­blatt is able to call on all of his per­son­al expe­ri­ences to make his points. When he speaks about the effects of hatred, he tells the sto­ry of stand­ing beside the sur­vivors of the Pitts­burgh shoot­ing. When he talks about the need to speak out against tech com­pa­nies like Face­book that give an online plat­form to hate speech, he tells the sto­ry of his advo­ca­cy against them and its suc­cess­es and challenges.

Green­blatt has writ­ten this book for the layper­son. He speaks pas­sion­ate­ly and hon­est­ly, but also clear­ly and straight­for­ward­ly, about the prob­lems around him, free of jar­gon and insid­er lan­guage. He also is a con­sum­mate teacher; he care­ful­ly con­structs acronyms and mnemon­ics to remem­ber the steps one needs to take when faced with hate speech.

Though many of the ideas in the book are Greenblatt’s, he is able to also call on the many tools devel­oped through the ADL to make his point. Green­blatt is also a mas­ter sto­ry­teller. His role at the ADL has brought him in con­tact with a diverse cast of peo­ple, from for­mer white suprema­cists to pre­teens who face casu­al anti­semitism on the school­bus. Their sto­ries punc­tu­ate and ani­mate his oth­er­wise the­o­ret­i­cal work, giv­ing it a human ele­ment. Through them, he uses nar­ra­tive to bol­ster his care­ful and well-argued logic.

This is a book for every­one. Although Green­blatt is an expert on anti­semitism and spends most of the first half of the book on it, he also knows that hatred can­not be stopped in a vac­u­um. Green­blatt gives air time to racism, anti-AAPI sen­ti­ment, and anti-immi­grant bias. Green­blatt under­stands that any hatred per­pet­u­ates all hatred, and thus he gives his read­ers tools to stop it wher­ev­er it lies, even if it is not direct­ly tar­get­ed against the Jew­ish community.

It Could Hap­pen Here is a wor­thy addi­tion to the canon of books on anti­semitism. Whether you want to under­stand the prob­lem or are active­ly engaged in end­ing it and want con­crete steps to use in your strug­gle, this book will aid you along your journey.

Rab­bi Marc Katz is the Rab­bi at Tem­ple Ner Tamid in Bloom­field, NJ. He is author of the book The Heart of Lone­li­ness: How Jew­ish Wis­dom Can Help You Cope and Find Com­fort (Turn­er Pub­lish­ing), which was cho­sen as a final­ist for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award.

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