Westporter Helps ADL Fight Hate, Unite State

Steve Ginsburg has been nearly every kind of lawyer.

He practiced sports law with a big Chicago firm (“that’s as cool as law gets,” he says). He helped rebuild the judicial system in Sarajevo, served as general counsel of a New York tech company, returned to Illinois as general counsel of a state agency that regulated banking and finance, then did legal work as a healthcare and education consultant.

He’d never been part of a Jewish group. But when a friend asked him to be the Anti-Defamation League’s #2 guy in the Midwest, Ginsburg agreed. The organization’s broader mission of fighting for social justice everywhere resonated with him.

Then his wife — who works for Starwood — was transferred to the hotel chain’s Stamford headquarters.

Fortuitously, the ADL’s Connecticut regional director job was open. A few months ago, Ginsburg was hired.

Steve Ginsburg

Steve Ginsburg

It’s an intriguing time for the ADL. In the US, and around the globe, hate speech and bias crimes are on the rise. The ADL is a leader in anti-bullying and anti-bias education. Many of its national programs were created in the Connecticut office.

Ginsburg and his wife bought a house in Westport. They knew little about the town, beyond its reputation for excellent schools and a strong Jewish community. Plus, it was halfway between Stamford, and ADL’s New Haven office.

They’ve found something more than they expected: A place that is truly committed to all forms of social justice.

That fits well with the ADL’s mission. Right now it’s focused on fighting groups that have been singled out for prejudice, particularly the Muslim, LGBT and black communities.

Soon after Ginsburg arrived, a mosque in Meriden, Connecticut was shot at. Muslim students in the state said they were afraid to go to school.

ADL logoADL worked with Muslim religious leaders, school superintendents and boards of education to create an educational program. It includes “Islam 101,” case studies of issues faced by Muslim students in schools, like clothing and holidays, and a panel of teens and college students telling their life stories.

Ginsburg hopes the Connecticut program becomes a national model. It could also be expanded to other groups, like Hispanics.

Connecticut ADL has helped the US attorney’s office and FBI do security training for mosques. They’re modeled on previous training programs for synagogues. Nationally, ADL is the top trainer of law enforcement, focusing on hate crimes and extremist groups.

“We’re building a way for the ADL to play a major role in the current disconnect between law enforcement and African Americans, in the wake of Ferguson, Chicago and Baltimore,” Ginsburg says.

“Something could happen close to home — in Hartford, New Haven or Bridgeport,” he adds. “We need to marry ADL’s relationships and trust with law enforcement, and our anti-bias education. We want to be part of the solution.”

Of course, Ginsburg notes, the ADL continues to fight anti-Semitism, and attacks on Israel. The organization monitors college campuses, where the Boycott Divest Sanctions movement and free speech issues have become flash points.

There’s a lot going on, and Steve Ginsburg eagerly takes it all on.

But he still finds time — in his new Westport community — to coach his son’s baseball team.

Maybe he’s not so far from his first job — in sports law — after all.

4 responses to “Westporter Helps ADL Fight Hate, Unite State

  1. Sounds as if Steve Ginsburg (and his family) are just the type of people we love to attract to Westport. And a few months ago, you highlighted the work that Andy Friedland – and other 2009 Staples graduates – are doing “to serve America.” I believe that Andy is still serving America, but now as the ADL’s (and Steve’s) assistant director.

  2. I’m so glad they’re monitoring college campuses. It feels like there is a concerted effort to reignite anti semitism at colleges and universities all around the country. And just as it did during the Vietnam Era, college political activity can shape opinion and change the world…for the good or bad. Great story Dan.

  3. Sarah Wunsch

    I always pause before venturing to comment on this subject, which in and of itself says something. but here I go. On the monitoring of speech on college campuses, there are some who equate criticism of Israeli government policies with antisemitism. This is wrong. Many Jews object to Israeli policies towards Palestinians and are critical of U.S. government policies as well in this part of the world. Many support the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement. There have been efforts to censor or punish students who support BDS on campus or who seek to inform other students about the conditions under which Palestinians live in Gaza and on the West Bank – wrongly condemning their speech as anti-Semitic or as creating a hostile environment for Jewish students. The U.S. Department of Education has consistently rejected complaints that speech on campuses critical of Israeli policies violate the rights of Jewish students. We are supposed to be able to learn and grow from vigorous debate, including by hearing ideas that some deem objectionable. Sarah

  4. Rich bergman

    Steve Ginsburg is a super star..a true leader, innovator a mensch!
    He will continue to make a positive difference to your community..their education, safety and ability to embrace differences. You are lucky to have Steve and his beautiful family in Connecticut.