The Anti-Defamation League celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and among the organization’s fondest goals is to put itself out of business.
“I would love to see myself out of a job,” said Tammy Gillies, regional director of the league’s San Diego office.
The league is marking its centennial by reflecting on its achievements, with the understanding that much work remains to be done in the arena of combating hate, discrimination and intolerance, said Gillies.
The national group divides its work into three main categories, said Gillies, 51, a Carmel Valley resident: educate, protect and investigate.
The first category involves working with schools and other organizations to provide anti-bias and diversity training, with a strong focus on prevention of bullying.
The programs run the gamut to those designed for pre-schoolers, to efforts at fighting discrimination in the workplace, said Gillies. But a heavy emphasis is placed on reaching out to young children, because research indicates that children develop prejudices by age 6.
Sarah Scott Feldman of Del Mar, a board member and chair of the ADL’s education committee, said the “No Place for Hate” program arranges for speakers at local schools, including Holocaust survivors, and Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II. Another element of the program is training for peer counselors.
“We do have programs that reach out to parents, school administrators, educators and school counselors with the same message: that we want, safe, secure, open environments, so our kids can learn and be accepted,” Scott Feldman said.
Currently, the ADL gives a lot of attention to cyber-bullying through its educational outreach programs.
“Cyber-bullying is a huge problem across the country,” said Scott Feldman. “This is not a rite of passage, not part of growing up, it is harmful, hurtful and it can have devastating consequences. The ADL is committed to fighting cyber-bullying.”
The ADL was formed in 1913 in Chicago by a group of lawyers who sought to battle discrimination against Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Gillies said.
Around that time, a Jewish factory owner in Atlanta was lynched by a mob, after being tried and convicted for the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl. Evidence later came out that the factory owner was innocent.
“That was an impetus for the ADL to come together, we needed to stand up against anti-Semitism,” she said.
Gillies said she is inspired by the ADL’s original mission statement, which is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people… to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”
“It’s for everyone,” she said of the ADL’s broad mandate.
Among the ADL’s big successes, she said, was advocating for a law that forced members of the Ku Klux Klan to remove their hoods when marching or demonstrating, which resulted in a rapid decline in Klan membership, and passage of national hate crimes legislation which was signed by President Obama in 2009, Gillies said.
Locally, the group has been involved in a number of issues, from responding to discrimination complaints to tracking the activities of white supremacists, Gillies said.