Tag Archives: ADL Connecticut

Stacey Sobel: New ADL Head Battles Hatred, Old And New

As incidents of antisemitism, racism and other forms of hatred rise nationally — and yes, in this area — the work of the ADL is more important than ever.

The Connecticut chapter is one of the most active among the nonprofit’s 25 affiliates. And Westporters play an outsized role in it.

A number of locals serve on the board. Many more are financial supporters.

Recently, Westporter Stacey Sobel was named statewide director. She took over from Steve Ginsburg — another resident.

Sobel has been in town since 1989. Pregnant with her first child, she came for the same reasons as so many others: “fantastic schools, amazing access to water, the arts, the reputation of people as being open-minded, intelligent and interesting.”

She put her career as a corporate attorney on hold, for “the honor and privilege” of raising 3 sons. But she plunged into volunteerism, as president of Temple Israel and Westport Hadassah, and roles on PTAs, soccer and baseball teams, and much more. In 1998 Sobel was honored by the ADL for community leadership.

Stacey Sobel at work. A letter from former ADL director Abraham Foxman, noting Sobel’s 1998 award, hangs on the wall.

As her boys grew older, Sobel returned to the paid workforce. She spent 13 years with non-profits, the last 10 as executive director of Westport-based Child Advocates of Connecticut.

Last fall, a recruiter called about the ADL job. Working for the organization — whose mission is to fight antisemitism and all forms of bigotry, extremism, hate crimes, and promote civil rights, interfaith and inter-group understanding, and peace in the Middle East — had always been her dream.

After several intense rounds of interviews, Sobel got the job.

ADL Connecticut is both proactive and reactive, she says. They provide anti-bias and Holocaust education and training to schools, police departments and the FBI.

They respond to incidents of bias too. Within the past weeks they’ve addressed white supremacy stickers found in neighborhoods, students doing a “Heil Hitler” salute, and racist comments in a workplace.

“Connecticut reflects the rest of the nation,” Sobel notes. “People are very siloed. There’s a lot of hostile discourse. Whether it’s discussion of critical race theory at Board of Education meetings or emails about controversial topics, things get heated. Connecticut is not immune.”

Stacey Sobel

The ADL tries to build coalitions between groups, the director says. That way, they can address incidents with a united front.

Since joining ADL, Sobel has been impressed with the professionalism of many people around the estate. A recent collaboration with the FBI and Fairfield chief of police reiterated for her their commitment to keeping communities safe.

It’s a constant battle. Hate speech is increasing — including places like video games, where parents may not see or hear it. The national ADL office has an expert on gaming. Sobel hopes to arrange an event with him in Connecticut.

“I firmly believe hate is learned,” Sobel adds. “That means it can be unlearned. Under the surface, all of us were are created with the same stuff.”

Stacey Sobel (3rd from left) with her family (from left): son Steven and his girlfriend Sara; son Michael, son David and his wife Jackie.

Roundup: Playhouse Interns, Livestreams, ADL …

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In 1946 — just 15 years after its founding — the Westport Country Playhouse established an internship program. Among its graduates: a kid named Stephen Sondheim.

Now nationally recognized as a formative experience for aspiring arts professionals, it’s named for another Westport icon: Joanne Woodward.

This summer — after a 2-year COVID hiatus — the Joanne Woodward Internship Program returns live. Internships in stage management, props/scenic painting, wardrobe, marketing, company management, education, and development will run from May 28 to August 21.

In addition to working directly with senior staff, interns participate in weekly seminars. They hear a variety of guest speakers, including Playhouse staff members, visiting designers and artists, commercial producers and more. The pay is $560 a week.

The application deadline is March 11. Click here for the form.

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 internship. The photo was taken at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

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Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice says:

“Given the rapid drop in COVID cases among our middle and high school students, and the small number of students in quarantine, we will return to regular classroom instruction, and discontinue the use of live-streaming cameras.

“The last day of livestreaming cameras in our secondary classrooms will be tomorrow (Friday, January 28). Pending additional cases or quarantine, there will be zero Staples High and Coleytown Middle students in isolation or quarantine after today, and only 5 students in isolation and 2 in quarantine at Bedford Middle School.

“We will continue to peel back mitigating measures prudently, based on our local experience and input from public health advisors.”

No Coleytown Middle School students in isolation or quarantine!

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ADL’s Connecticut chapter is a national leader in the fight against antisemitism and bigotry.

And — like its previous director — its new leader is a Westporter.

Stacey Sobel succeeds Steve Ginsburg. Most recently, she spent nearly a decade as executive director of Child Advocates of Connecticut, serving abused and neglected children.

As a volunteer, Sobel was president of Temple Israel, and president of Westport’s Hadassah chapter.

Sobel also was in private law practice, and served in the general counsel’s office of Continental Can Company. The Long Island native l is a graduate of Lafayette College, and Boston University School of Law.

Stacey Sobel

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TAP — the personal wellness team in downtown Westport — and Fleet Feet are partnering on the weekend of February 4-6. TAP members get 10% off merchandise at the running store.

In other words: Work out. “Run” across the street to Sconset Square. Then pick up something special for your valentine a week later.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows a barren — but beautiful — Sherwood Island scene.

I’m betting that 48 hours from now, it will look quite different.

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … on this date in 1880 Thomas Edison received a patent for his incandescent lamp.

Roundup: Domestic Violence, Anti-Semitism …

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Victims of domestic violence have so much to deal with. Getting basic supplies for their young children should not be one of them.

Now through Sunday (April 25), Westport’s Domestic Violence Task Force is collecting supplies. Needed items include car seats in new or like-new condition (tags attached, to check expiration date), strollers, diapers, wipes, lotions and baby wash, and new bottles.

To arrange contactless pickup, email co-chair Jillian Cabana: wdvtf06880@gmail.com.

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Saturday is the big day: CLASP Homes’ “Un-Scavenger Hunt.” (“Un?” It runs all day, at your convenience. It’s not a race.

There are tons of clues, covering Westport trivia, history, art, pop culture and more. You answer by posting photos, videos, texts and GPS check-ins on the app. Bonus points are given for creativity, ingenuity and humor (costumes, props, songs, pets … you get the idea).

Prizes include sunset cruises; a private tour and wine-and-cheese reception at Dragone Classic Motorcars with George Dragone; Broadway tickets and more.

There are separate prizes for students in grade 12 and below (including cash). And a special prize for the organization that registers the most teams.

The Un-Scavenger Hunt raises funds for CLASP. For nearly 40 years they’ve  provided care, support and inspiration to adults with autism and developmental disabilities.

Click here for tickets. Click here for the Goosechase app, which will be used. You can practice on it too, until the event goes live.

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We may pretend it’s not happening. But people — even in Westport — make Holocaust “jokes,” and talk insensitively about Jewish traditions and lives. I’d guess teenager in Westport has heard something.

In response, ADL Connecticut is organizing a virtual “Fairfield County Teen Leadership Summit on Anti-Semitism.” It’s Tuesday, April 27 (7 to 8:15 p.m., Zoom).

A teen panel will share personal stories. Attendees will learn skills to stand up to anti-Semitism, be resilient and become empowered as school leaders. Click here to register. For more information, email swalden@adl.org.

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A couple of nature shots. First, a swan stepping into the Saugatuck River …

(Photo/Paul Delano)

… and a hungry gull at Sherwood Island State Park.

(Photo/Gene Borio)

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And finally …  today in 1775, the Revolutionary War began. The patriots beat back the British at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The rest is history.

Roundup: Sweet Photos, Trash, Pumpkins, More


Westporters love Tom Kretsch’s photos. They love Saugatuck Sweets. And they love Al’s Angels.

So plan to stop by the ice cream shop patio on the river tomorrow (Saturday, October 10, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.). Kretsch will display his evocative images — many of his home town.

A percentage of all sales benefits Al’s Angels, the nonprofit started by Saugatuck Sweets owner Al DiGuido to help families with children battling cancer, and families with food needs.

(Photo/Tom Kretsch)


Last weekend, 35 mothers and daughters from Westport’s National Charity League spent a cleaning Compo Beach. The effort supported NCL’s philanthropy partner, Save the Sound.

Volunteers removed over 45 pounds of garbage from the beach. They found PPE, plastic bags, straws and food wrappers, along with 235 cigarette butts, 160 bottle caps and 33 balloons. Data collected will help Save the Sound stop debris at its source. 

A small bit of all the trash.


What’s new at the Senior Center?

Its first-ever pumpkin decorating contest. It’s October 30 (11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.).

Submissions will be judged on originality and scariness. Members can vote for their favorite pumpkins while picking up a drive-through lunch (chicken pot pie, salad, roll, cookie and Halloween treats) from staff members (in costumes).

Seniors can enjoy their meal while socially distancing in the parking lot. Prizes include a Halloween goodie bucket, and a gift card for a Senior Center luncheon.

Lunch is $8. The cost to enter the contest: free (and priceless).


ADL Connecticut’s 10th annual Walk Against Hate will look from the first 9. Though participants can’t join together physically, they’ll still send a powerful message.

Individuals, families, friends, colleagues and teammates are invited to get creative. They can walk wherever they want, from October 12-18. Registration is free, though fundraising is encouraged to help ADL fight anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of hate.

Fundraisers who give or get more than $50 get an ADL bandanna. The first 1,000 people to raise over $150 receive t-shirts.

ADL Connecticut has a strong Westport presence. Director Steve Ginsburg lives here; so does Walk Against Hate chair Claudia Cohen.

Jill Nadel chairs the outreach committee). Terry Bernard, Shelly Herst, Margie Jacobson, Ken Backman, Sara Weiner (co-chair of the education committee), Bret Weiner, Chuck Harris, Liz Kaner, Lynne Goldstein and John Kaufman are all on ADL’s state board. Many other Westporters serve in other capacities.

To register for or donate to the Walk Against Hate, click here.


Instead of a traditional luncheon, the American Cancer Society’s annual “Women Leading the Way to Wellness” event (Wednesday, November 18), is on Facebook Live.

There’s an option to buy a $125 “Wellness Box” to enhance the viewing experience. The boxes are valued at over $175, and include products from The Granola Bar, Performance Physical Therapy and West.

Click here for more information.


And finally … this is the birthday of John Lennon. He would have been — are you ready? — 80 years old today.

 

ADL Raises Voices, Inspires A “Show Of Unity”

For decades, the ADL has helped Westport.

Now it’s time for us to return the favor.

The organization — the Connecticut chapter of what was originally called the Anti-Defamation League — has:

  • Offered anti-bias training programs for teachers, students, parents and community members
  • Provided Holocaust education
  • Responded to anti-Semitic and other hate incidents
  • Sponsored Police Chief Foti Koskinas for a special course on extremist and terrorist threats, for senior-level law enforcement personnel
  • Helped begin the Kool to be Kind initiative
  • Worked with Staples High School staff on the new “Connections” program
  • Brought former neo-Nazi Frank Meeink, and ex-Westboro Baptist Church members Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper here
  • Worked with every synagogue in town on the interactive “Words to Action” program, for students from middle school through college.

“We will always be there for our community,” says ADL Connecticut director Steve Ginsburg, a Westport resident. “Now, we’re bringing the community together with a ‘show of unity.'”

It will be quite a show. “ADL Voices” is a major fundraiser, on Saturday, November 9 (Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport, 8 p.m.).

Trombone Shorty — the New Orleans-based jazz, funk, R&B, hip hop, pop and rock trombone, trumpet, organ and tuba player — will star.

Trombone Shorty

Award-winning gospel artist Pastor Marcia Fountain will solo. David Letterman’s bandleader Paul Shaffer emcees. Westporter Sarah Green serves as artistic director.

The Voices Choir — a talented, diverse group of musicians, singers and dancers from across Fairfield County — will perform, along with the Pivot Ministries Choir from Bridgeport.

Students from Staples High School, the Bridgeport public schools and Neighborhood Studios will sing, along with those from Fairfield Prep, Fairfield University, Keys Bridgeport and the Manhattan School of Music, and various church and synagogue choirs.

Westport Academy of Dance’s senior company introduces a piece specially choreographed for the event.

Other Westporters involved include the Staples Service League of Boys; ADL board member and event chair Claudia Cohen, along with many volunteers.

It’s truly be a “unifying” night. The fundraising benefit and community gathering is designed to “bring people together, foster dialogue and build mutual respect,” Ginsburg says.

It will also be very entertaining, quite inspirational, and tons of fun.

(For more information, including tickets and sponsorship opportunities, click here. Major sponsors include Bercham Moses LLP, Norwalk Hospital and Terex.)

Trevor Noah Headlines “Show Of Unity” Event

An evening with Trevor Noah sounds special.

But the Anti-Defamation League Connecticut offers a lot more than just watching “The Daily Show.”

On November 11, the comedian/political commentator headlines ADL’s 2nd annual “Voices: A Show of Unity” event. Noah will talk intimately with the audience about his life and the world — tying it all in with ADL’s ongoing fight against bigotry, extremism and hate crimes, and for civil rights, interfaith and inter-group understanding.

Trevor Noah (Photo/Gavin Bond)

Noah knows. Born in South Africa to a black mother who converted to Judaism and a white father, his youth under apartheid was difficult. His parents could not be seen in public together.

Since replacing Jon Stewart as “Daily Show” host 3 years ago, Noah has been a leading voice for unity. Last year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

“He’s funny. But he won’t be doing stand-up,” says Steve Ginsburg, a Westporter and ADL’s statewide director. “This will be a chance to hear his take on the world.”

The “Voices” event is both a fundraiser and a community-builder. The ADL gives free tickets to many local organizations, including Project Return, Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Studio, the Triangle Community Center, and churches, mosques and synagogues.

Westporters will have a strong presence at Noah’s show. Sarah Green — co-founder of Kool To Be Kind — serves as artistic director. Claudia Cohen is event chair; Jill Nadel is vice chair.

Westporters will also sing in the choir, joining musicians from Bridgeport and other towns.

“There will be diverse voices on stage — and in the audience,” Ginsburg notes.

“We’ve seen a large spike in incidents of bigotry and bias,” he adds. “The ADL has worked hard to respond. And we’re doing education programs to try to prevent them.”

They’ve been active at Staples High School and with local police. This summer, Police Chief Foti Koskinas attended ADL training for law enforcement in Washington, DC.

The ADL event also features a civil rights award, in memory of Irwin Hausman. It goes to Lorella Praeli, who as a Dreamer child was taunted for her Hispanic heritage, and the loss of a leg.

The ADL provided support. She’s now head of immigration efforts for the American Civil Liberties Union, and works closely with the ADL on anti-bullying efforts.

“Voices: A Show of Unity” is set for November 11 — Veterans Day. Tickets are provided to vets’ groups, and service members will be honored at the event.

(“Voices: A Show of Unity” is November 11, 5 p.m. at the Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport. Tickets go on sale September 27. For more information, click here or call 203-530-7456. )