Solidarity Fellows
4 min readMay 18, 2021

As Americans grapple with U.S. role in Israeli violence against Palestinians,

scrutiny grows of ADL attacks on Black, Palestinian, and Jewish progressive movements.

NATIONWIDE — Five social justice leaders have resigned from the prestigious Civil Society Fellowship, hosted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Aspen Institute. The Fellowship aims to foster leadership skills and connections among young civic leaders, but the Fellows cited insurmountable contradictions between the ADL’s rhetoric and its history of undermining social justice movements, particularly movements led by people of color. Their departure follows the ADL’s declaration that it stands by the Israeli government as it violently expels Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, permits the lynching of Palestinians, attacks Muslim holy sites, and bombs Gaza, resulting in the deaths of least 113 people, including 31 children. The Fellows pointed to a recent, broad-based progressive call to reconsider the ADL as a supporter of civil rights, signed by over 100 organizations including Movement for Black Lives, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and many national and community-based groups.

Fellows continue to fall away from the ADL/Aspen program. Earlier this week, Black and Indigenous leaders Jasmine Banks (Executive Director, UnKoch My Campus) and Percilla Frizzell (Founder, Sacred Generations) announced their resignation and challenged the ADL fellowship’s call to engage in “civil discourse” as a bid to suppress and slow justice movements.

Three more Fellows resigned from the program today in a collective statement:

We, the undersigned Fellows, are leaving the Civil Society Fellowship (CSF), effective immediately. We cannot in good conscience remain involved as long as CSF continues to be associated with and influenced by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization with ties to right-wing forces and a history of harmful practices against communities of color, immigrants, LGBTQIA+ people, Muslims, Arabs, and other racialized and marginalized communities.

The ADL has strengthened police power and undermined the Movement for Black Lives, Palestinian rights organizing, progressive Jewish groups, other social justice movements for years, bolstered by its reputation as a protector of civil rights. We cannot ignore the evidence provided by the open letter signed by over 100 organizations asking us to stand on the side of the oppressed. And we will not allow ourselves to be used to further legitimize the ADL’s image and the harm that it causes.

We were proud to be named to this Fellowship, and hoped to engage in thoughtful dialogue that would help us individually and collectively advance a better world. We now realize that “civil” conversations can prevent change and accountability, allowing participants to feel absolved of their complicity in allowing injustice to continue.

In leaving the Fellowship, we stand with our Black and Native co-Fellows Jasmine Banks and Percilla Frizzell, who took immense personal risk to display principled leadership on this issue. We take seriously our responsibility to protect one another. By ending our affiliation with the ADL, we act in accordance with our values of anti-colonialism, Black liberation, and Indigenous sovereignty.

Our decision to leave the Fellowship was not made lightly. We believe in CSF’s vision of creating a better society through challenging conversations and community. But we do not believe this vision can be achieved as long as CSF continues to be in collaboration with the ADL.

Given that all Fellows now know the truth about the ADL, remaining in the CSF is not neutral. Each Fellow must actively choose to either align themselves with the ADL by continuing with the Fellowship — or renounce it by leaving. To us, the right choice is clear.

Vu Le, Founder,

Kelsey Skaggs, Executive Director, Climate Defense Project

Martin Vitorino, Core Faculty, Courage of Care Coalition

Martin Vitorino, Ph.D., a fellow who resigned from the ADL/Aspen Institute Civil Society Fellowship today, said:

“My motivation for participating in this fellowship was the intention to build a more just, equitable and peaceful world. When I was made aware of the ways ADL has enabled violence, I could no longer align with the CSF. I am standing in solidarity with Black and Native/Indigenous communities who have been directly and indirectly harmed by the ADL, and in solidarity with the many members of Jewish and Palestinian social justice activist groups who have been targeted by the ADL. I also stand in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and Showing up for Racial Justice in opposing the harms the ADL has done. The ADL has not atoned for the numerous harms it has and continues to perpetuate, and without accountability, there is no possibility for a civil and just society. What’s more, the ADL has weaponized antisemitism to defame those who attempt to hold them accountable. It has been especially heartbreaking and troubling to learn that the ADL’s enabling of state-sponsored violence and targeting of marginalized communities has taken place under the cloak of a progressive agenda, with the personal reputations of CSF fellows being used to legitimize an organization that is actively causing harm. It is my sincere hope that the Aspen Institute stands by its values and drops the ADL, and that more fellows join this effort.”




Solidarity Fellows

In solidarity with all people in the struggle against settler-colonization.