This profile was last updated in 2018
Description and Mission
The Anti-Defamation League was started in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” The organization combats Anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred and bigotry in a variety of ways including through education, legislative advocacy, community relations and interfaith work.
The ADL’s national headquarters are located in New York City. About 100 staff people work in the national office. The ADL has 26 regional offices, with one located in Israel and twenty-five located throughout the United States. The regional offices focus on building relationships within local communities, while the national office provides support and resources. The regional offices gather information on local hate crimes and bias incidents, and pass this information to the national office’s Center for Extremism, which compiles and analyzes the information into an annual report.
“In some ways we’re a really big national organization that plays on the international stage, but in many ways we’re also really grassroots because we’re involved in local communities,” explained Dan Levenson, Associate Regional Director for the New England office.
The New England office, based in Boston, serves Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The New England office is one of the larger ADL offices. It has 16 full-time staff members and typically employs several interns at any given time. A strong board works with the staff, and a variety of committees, including a civil rights committee and regional committees, engage lay leaders in the ADL’s work. The Boston office’s large staff allows it to work on many issues and programs simultaneously and to have flexibility in pursuing the interests and concerns of lay leaders who serve on the regional board and committees.
The ADL works with a variety of communities to determine the most appropriate response after a hate crime or bias incident occurs. This work often involves collaborating with various faith communities and planning interfaith solidarity responses.
The New England region’s annual Nation of Immigrants Community Seder, held in Boston around the time of the Jewish holiday Passover, brings together a variety of communities to “celebrate diverse stories and cultures of the immigrant and ethnic communities that make up our nation.” The event introduces an interfaith and intercultural dimension to the seder, a traditional Passover meal and ritual to celebrate, study and discuss the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt. The Nation of Immigrants Community Seder highlights the cross-cultural shared experiences of suffering, liberation and immigration.
ADL staff members also attend interfaith events and serve on interfaith panels throughout the year, and the ADL maintains ongoing partnerships with a variety of local faith communities. The ADL often works with interfaith coalitions in its legislative advocacy work. In its work on immigration, LGBTQ rights, and more, Levenson said, “we find natural allies in the interfaith community.”
The ADL provides community security trainings to Jewish institutions such as synagogues and Jewish community centers. Many of the trainings are open to members of all communities, and the ADL also provides specialized trainings for particular faith communities. For example, the New England office conducted a community security training at a Sikh gurdwara in Millford, MA. “Every house of worship, every community, is different but they often share similar challenges around being safe, because they want to be welcoming, but they also want to be safe,” said Levenson.
The ADL also works with the Catholic community on two educational initiatives. One program, New Directions, aims to “help Catholic religious educators teach their own faith with a heightened consciousness and consideration of the Jewish roots of their tradition.” The Bearing Witness program trains Catholic educators in Holocaust education.
Law Enforcement and Security
Nationally, ADL is the largest non-governmental law enforcement trainer. The ADL trains law enforcement on terrorism, hate crimes, extremism, and building strong relations and trust within communities. The ADL also trains local institutions including synagogues and Jewish community centers on security.
The ADL’s educational program A World of Difference began in Boston in 1985 with a partnership between the ADL and WCVB-TV to create programs to address and combat bias in communities. Based on the success of this program, A World of Difference was expanded throughout the country. A World of Difference now provides trainings and educational resources focused on understanding bias, recognizing the value of diversity, improving interfaith and intercultural relations, and confronting bigotry. Different sets of trainings and resources are catered to pre-K through 12th grade, college campuses, community and civic leaders, and international communities. The peer training program, under the umbrella of A World of Difference, trains middle and high school students to lead anti-bias workshops and activities for their peers. During the 2016-2017 school year, 65 New England schools participated in the peer training program – greater than the number of schools that participated in this program in all the other regions combined that year.
Programs focused on Combatting Anti-Semitism
The Confronting Anti-Semitism Program, founded in Boston in 1988, provides training and education for members of the Jewish community to respond to anti-Semitism. Words to Action is an educational program for high school seniors and college students, focused on responding to anti-Semitism, including guidance on recognizing and addressing Israel-related anti-Semitic rhetoric. The Family Awareness program caters to 7th and 8th grade students and their families, while Confronting Hate and Anti-Semitic Incidents (CHAI) provides workshops for adult community members.
The ADL also runs programs focused on Holocaust education. The Echoes and Reflections program provides Holocaust education resources and training for teachers. The Bearing Witness program focuses on training Catholic educators in Holocaust education.
The ADL engages in legislative advocacy for civil rights at the local, state and national levels. Some of the issues on which the ADL focuses its lobbying efforts include immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, religious freedom and separation of church and state, voting rights, women’s rights, education, and criminal justice reform. The ADL also often submits amicus briefs in court cases related to civil rights issues. The ADL does not, however, provide direct legal aid.
Other initiatives that the New England office runs include the Asian-Jewish Roundtable and Latino-Jewish Roundtable programs, which foster intercultural dialogue.
The Young Leadership Division provides opportunities for local young professionals to get involved in the ADL’s work. This division includes the Glass Leadership Institute, which provides training on fighting bigotry, and the Young Lawyers Group, a networking group to engage lawyers and law students in the issues central to the ADL’s work.
To learn more about these and other programs of the ADL, visit http://newengland.adl.org.
 Interview with Dan Levenson, 8/2/17