David Adelman, billionaire 76ers co-owner, recalls Holocaust memorial vandalism: 'I was f—ing pissed'


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Philadelphia 76ers limited partner David Adelman ushers this journalist to the front of the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza at 16th and Arch Streets, at the head of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and tells him to look down.

“Read this,” Adelman says, taking a step back to allow time to soak in the important scripture on the tablet. 

The first two sentences hit like a ton of bricks.

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David Adelman courtside

David Adelman (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images/File)

“Sam Wasserman’s story of Holocaust survival is one of both tragedy and hope. He was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1942 at Sobibor in Poland, where he lost his first wife and two children,” the tablet reads. 

Wasserman was Adelman’s grandfather, and one can tell that walking the grounds still has a profound effect on Adelman today, even after the plaza was completed in October 2018, centering around the oldest public Holocaust monument in North America: the “Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs” sculpture.

So, when a vandal spray-painted a green swastika on a wall in January, Adelman had visceral reaction. 

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“I was f—ing pissed,” he told Fox News Digital. “I wasn’t surprised, but I was pissed. It’s unfortunate I wasn’t surprised.”

Adelman said he wanted to leave the hate crime up on the wall for a few days “because no one will believe it happened. They’ll say it was manufactured or whatever.”

“We took it down, but I was f—ing pissed,” he said.

Adelman knew he needed to do something, so the billionaire businessman and entrepreneur went to social media.

David Adelman headshot

David Adelman is limited partner of the Philadelphia 76ers. (David Adelman)

“Unconditional compassion is a core tenet in my life so I am compelled to take action following the antisemitic vandalism that defaced the @Philly Holocaust Memorial Plaza on Sunday,” he posted to X. 

“I have spent the last two decades championing the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Plaza and Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation’s mission of educating people on the atrocities of the past, while working toward a future of tolerance and enlightenment,” he continued. “To know that a plaza, that was named for my grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, was vandalized with such hate, proves just how much these types of memorials and educational opportunities are needed and the compassion still lacking in our communities.”

“This heartbreakingly one of many acts of antisemitism that is part of a staggering spike in anti-Jewish hatred in Philadelphia and across the country. These types of acts are dangerous and will not be tolerated so I am partnering with @PhillyTipLine to offer a reward to anyone that has information that will help us identify the vandal and hold them accountable for their actions. Please call the Citizens Crime Commission tip line 215-546-TIPS (8477).”

More than a month later, the vandal has not been caught, though Adelman said that was not unexpected given that the security cameras only showed a man with a mask. 

“I just decided in general I’m not going to hide. … I’m not going to stand still,” he said about posting on social media about the vandalism.

“If someone did it to a church and put some inappropriate thing, I would stand up for that, too. I just don’t believe in this stuff.”

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The 51-year-old noted how he tapped into his Jewish heritage after college, though he learned a lot of hard knowledge from his grandparents about the Holocaust since he was a child. Alan Horwitz, his mentor and the lead donor of the Holocaust plaza, was a key figure in Adelman wanting to help the community this way.

“When I saw the amount of Holocaust survivors were dwindling by the day, it’s a crazy stat that no one believes – 30% of Philadelphia’s Jewish population lives at or below the poverty line, 30%,” he said. “I guessed like 8%. It really is a lot of elderly people who are Holocaust survivors living in these dilapidated homes, and they don’t really take care of it but are too proud to go into assisted living and stuff like that. For me, I saw that, and I was like, ‘This doesn’t sit right with me.’ That was kind of like the way I got engaged.”

David Adelman speaks with kid

David Adelman speaks with kid at a team event. (Philadelphia 76ers)

Adelman is co-founder of the Jewish Federation Real Estate Group, and rose through the ranks of the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia to become chair. And in these positions, Adelman has realized the unfortunate reality of today’s social climate: Antisemitism is very real. 

Just months earlier, when the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel shocked the world with more than 1,200 deaths and approximately 250 Israeli civilians and soldiers taken hostage into the Gaza Strip, the 76ers released a statement to show their support for Israel. 

Adelman said 76ers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who are also Jewish, were in lock step wanting to put a post out on Oct. 8. 

“I think, one, Josh and David as managing partners of the team, they were united in putting a post out,” Adelman said. “Josh was very influential, both in the NBA, NHL and NFL, in voicing his opinion, ‘This needs to get out there.’ I was obviously very supportive about it. And I’m glad we did it.”

The post received mixed reactions from Sixers fans, though, some of whom responded “L” or “Oh man” in the comments. 

It didn’t faze Adelman one bit. 

“I think you have to take a stand for things, and at that point, if we have fans [who] don’t want to watch a team that’s owned by Jewish owners, then there’s other teams,” he said.

David Adelman poses with basketball

David Adelman (NBA Photos-Jesse D. Garrabant)

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Adelman’s unapologetic response is the perfect embodiment of the city he grew up in. As a Philadelphian, he stands his ground on what he believes, especially when it comes to his religious beliefs.



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