The Jewish community is starting to respond — some warmly, some more coldly — after Mel Gibson today admitted he made “vitriolic and harmful” anti-Semitic slurs, apologized to the Jewish community, and asked “for its help understanding where those vicious words came from.” I’m told by a source intimate with the Oscar-winning actor, director and producer that “there are some Jewish leaders who’ve reached out to him, and he has reached out to some Jewish leaders.” So far, the contacts are being kept private. But I’m told that’s been extremely difficult given the media frenzy around the slur scandal. “A rabbi I won’t name but who represents a huge congregation emailed an offer to Mel to speak at a service. Before anyone could respond, a call came in from the media asking for comment on that offer,” the insider said. I’ve learned that call was from TMZ.com, which is now reporting the rabbi was David Baron of Temple of the Arts, the largest synagogue in the United States, and the offer was to speak at his temple on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement.
UPDATED: *The American Jewish Committee said it “welcomed” Mel Gibson’s apology to the Jewish community, but noted “that true contrition must stand the test of time.” Here’s the full statement from its website: “In the Jewish tradition, we are very receptive of repentance, but complete repentance is measured by actions, not just words, over time,” said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris. “Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade when arrested for DUI last weekend was both outrageous and hurtful. While we appreciate his statement of apology, more importantly, we look forward in the months and years ahead to Gibson matching his contrition with his own deeds.”*
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, made the point today that Gibson’s latest apology specifically to Jews is just a beginning. “Regarding Mel Gibson’s apology today for his anti-Semitic comments,” Hier said in a statement given to me from Israel where he is handing out funds for aid and shelter to Israelis, “anti-Semitism and bigotry, like substance abuse and alcoholism, are long and private processes that cannot be treated in the public arena. Anti-Semitism is not born in one day and can not be cured in one day and certainly not through the issuing of a press release. When Gibson embarks on a serious long-term effort to address that bigotry and anti-Semitism, he will find the Jewish community more than willing to engage and help him.” (See my interview With Rabbi Hier from yesterday before today’s apology.)
The Anti-Defamation League today “accepted” Gibson’s apology to the Jewish community. Abraham Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement on its website: “This is the apology we had sought and requested. We are glad that Mel Gibson has finally owned up to the fact that he made anti-Semitic remarks, and his apology sounds sincere. We welcome his efforts to repair the damage he has caused, to reach out to the Jewish community, and to seek help. Once he completes his rehabilitation for alcohol abuse, we will be ready and willing to help him with his second rehabilitation to combat this disease of prejudice.”