ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind was joined by former Regional Directors Harvey Schechter and David Lehrer at the board meeting October 8 as part of the celebration of ADL’s centennial year.
In a discussion moderated by Regional Board Chair Seth Gerber, Schechter and Lehrer gave their perspectives on the time they spent with ADL.
Schechter joined ADL in 1952 the day after Eisenhower was elected and served in various roles before his term as Regional Director in 1975-85. Schechter’s tenure was during a time of the rise of the American Nazi Party, restrictive covenants in housing, and rampant discrimination against Jews in employment and public accommodations. The Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959 was a major achievement during this era. Quotas in college admissions was another major issue taken on by ADL with the “Crack the Quota” campaign to eliminate barriers to college and university admissions by Jews.
Lehrer joined ADL as counsel in 1975 and served as Regional Director from 1986 to 2002. He recalled dealing with the Arab boycott of Israel and the resulting discrimination against Jews, the importance of the Soviet Jewry movement, and ADL’s work on the landmark decision opening of the membership rolls of the Jonathan Club.
All the speakers pointed out the differences in the American Jewish community over the six decades represented by the panel. While classic anti-Semitism and discrimination against Jews has declined, issues such as anti-Israel sentiment, global anti-Semitism, and the rise of extremist groups remain issues even in the 21st century.
Susskind told the audience, “I stand on the shoulders of giants. We have come a long way, but there is still work to be done.” She cited the example of recent statistics showing that one out of six hate crimes in LA County in 2012 was against Jews and Jewish institutions.
“ADL is still here to change hearts and minds about bigotry.”