Tag Archives: Steve Ginsburg

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: Candlelight, Strategic PR, Justin Paul …

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Tickets went fast for this weekend’s Candlelight Concert.

But Westporters — and everyone else, around the world — can watch it online. A tape of the 81st annual event will be streamed on Thursday, December 23 (8 p.m.).

Like the concert itself, it’s free — a gift, from the Staples High School music department. The link will be available at StaplesMusic.org.

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Steve Ginsburg spent 10 great years with the ADL: 4 in Chicago, the last 6 as director of its Connecticut chapter.

His most rewarding times were helping people in crisis — CEOs, school principals, teenagers being bullied or accused of bullying — work through their issues.

Now, the Westport resident is doing that full-time.

Ginsburg is a co-founder of August. It’s a national strategic communications firm, helping people and companies in difficult circumstances tell their story with clarity and integrity.

His area of expertise is “diversity and bias.” For example, he cites a university campus roiled by accusations of racism. He can guide the many stakeholers — students, professors, administrators, trustees — as they speak to the media.

“At ADL, I loved working with media,” Ginsburg says. “I saw the importance of them doing their job well — and what can happen when they don’t.

“Our society is very polarized. When news breaks, there’s often a rush to judgment. But things are not always what they first seem. Society benefits from accurate, fair reporting.”

Steve Ginsburg

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Justin Paul has been very generous with his time. The Tony, Oscar and Grammy Award-winning co-songwriter of “Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman” — and 2003 Staples High School graduate — has returned often to his alma mater (and Coleytown Middle School) to share insights and tricks of the trade with the next generation of talented Westporters.

For the rest of us — who aren’t still in school — there’s a new online course.

Paul and his writing partner, Benj Pasek, offer a month-long online class: “Songwriting for Musical Theater.” It’s immersive — 7 to 10 hours a week, for 4 weeks — that provides students with the foundation to write their own musical (including 2 original songs).

Click here for details. Who knows? Maybe after writing your musical, “You Will Be Found.”

At the end of an appearance in 2018 at Staples High, Justin Paul played piano as students sang the “Dear Evan Hansen” classic, “Waving Through a Window.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

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Everyone is in the gift-giving mood. Even the Westport Transit District.

As a holiday gift to residents, they offer free rides to users of the Wheels2U shuttle service. The service starts Monday (December 20), and is good through December 31.

Wheels2U Westport is the WTD’s on-demand, group ride, door-to -train platform shuttle service.

The free rides to and from the Westport and Greens Farms stations are not just for commuters. If you’re seeing a show, museum, the Rockefeller Center tree or friends: hop aboard the shuttle, and the train.

If you’re in the service area, use the Wheels2U Westport app to request a pickup between 5:45 and 9:45 a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m., 20 minutes before you’d normally leave.

For more information, click here.

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Back in the (Clam Box) days, there was an exit from that parking lot in the back, onto Long Lots Road.

Years ago, it was sealed off. The only exit and entrance was via Post Road East.

There may be another exit in the future. In a different spot: the upper parking deck.

Planning & Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals permission has been granted to expand the upper deck by 18 spaces; reconstruct and extend the existing retaining wall; install a planter and landscaping — and add gated, emergency access to Long Lots. It would only be used by fire, police or EMS vehicles, as a secondary exit route.

The request for a zoning permit awaits P&Z Department approval.

A view of the 877 Post Road East upper parking deck, from Long Lots Road.

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Jolantha — Weston’s favorite pig — is all decked out for the holidays

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

She’s got more news, too: Her brand new website just launched. Click here to see her many glamorous outfits, through the years.

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Chris Wood spotted today’s “Westport … Naturally” bird — an Eastern towhee — at Sherwood Island State Park. It “sang like it was spring,” Chris says.

(Photo/Chris Wood)

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And finally … Steve Bronski, a co-founder member of the British synth-pop trio Bronski Beat, died Thursday, at 61. Click here for a full obituary. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

“06880” Podcast: Steve Ginsburg

The recent rise in hate crimes concerns many people.

Unlike many, Steve Ginsburg can do something about it.

The Westport resident is the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut director. He’s at the forefront of the fight against hate in all forms — not just antisemitism, but racism, Islamaphobia, LGBTQ bias and more.

The other day at the Westport Library’s Verso Studios, Ginsburg talked about prejudice — where it comes from, what it means, where we’re headed. He also discussed his own route to the ADL, and how a Midwestern sports lawyer ended up in Westport.

Click here for the latest edition of “06880: The Podcast.”

Screenshot of Steve Ginsburg, from “06880: The Podcast.”

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.)

Facing Up To A Swastika: Jesup Green Event Set For Today

Longtime Westport activist Darcy Hicks writes:

Tonight at 5 p.m., on Jesup Green, we will come together to define who we are as a community, in a struggling country.

Anti-Semitic incidents have been increasing in America at an alarming rate. The Anti-Defamation League says that in 2017, anti-Semitic incidents jumped 57% over the previous year, and 2018 showed the third-highest rate of incidents on record. This year is faring no better.

Westport — as we know from last week — is not immune.

The discovery of a swastika, carved into a bathroom wall, has challenged our community. The question is how we deal with that challenge.

We need to focus not on “who?” but “how?” How did the plague of hatred in this struggling nation manage to puncture our town? Whether the perpetrator was a white nationalist (unlikely), or looking for attention (more likely), the ball is in our court.

And all Westporters are on that court, whether we want to be there or not. Our response matters.

According to Steve Ginsburg, director of ADL Connecticut — and a Westport resident — “The measure of that school, or that community, is not what happened there, but how they respond to it, and what they did to try to prepare people and prevent it from happening.”

True to that statement, Westport schools have handled the incident swiftly and expertly, with the collaboration of the Westport Police, the ADL, and the support of our elected officials.

Education is always the key. But education should not be limited to school grounds and school hours.

How much do you know about your child’s understanding of the symbol of a swastika? How do they feel when they see one? Afraid? Numb? And are there other forms of intolerance — to race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity — occurring in our kids’ lives? How can we help?

Tonight at 5 on Jesup Green, we come together as a community to learn from those who know how to begin answering these questions.

By this effort — not the hate crime — we will be measured.

(Speakers include Ginsburg; Lauren Francese, K-6 social coordinator, Westport Public Schools; Rev. John Morehouse, Unitarian Church of Westport, and Conor Pfeifer, Triangle Community Center. For more information, click here.)

ADL After Pittsburgh: Activism, And Trevor Noah

The Anti-Defamation League is always busy.

But in the wake of last month’s horrific shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the anti-hate organization’s Connecticut office went into overdrive.

Statewide director Steve Ginsburg — a Westport resident — spoke to a crowd of 1,000 at an interfaith vigil at the Conservative Synagogue here. He also addressed a Stamford vigil, and attended events in Bridgeport and Hartford. Other ADL officials talked elsewhere around the state.

Ginsburg met with Senator Richard Blumenthal, and spoke by phone with politicians and candidates across the political spectrum. When an anti-Semitic campaign mailer went viral, the organization responded.

ADL presented a program in Bridgeport, on how adults and youngsters can confront anti-Semitism. They sent curriculum resources to dozens of schools and trainers.

ADL also worked with law enforcement officials across Connecticut.

All of that takes time, effort — and money. The Pittsburgh murders came just as the ADL was ramping up publicity for its major fundraiser of the year.

“Voices: A Show of Unity” is also an ADL community-builder. They give free tickets to many local organizations, including CONECT, CIRI, NAACP, IRIS, The Urban League, GLSEN, Greater Bridgeport Latino Network and Voices of Hope.

The event is this Sunday (November 11, 5 p.m., Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport).

Trevor Noah

The headliner is a perfect fit for these times. Trevor Noah was born in South Africa to a black mother who converted to Judaism, and white father. His parents could not be seen in public together.

The “Daily Show” host will be funny, of course. But he won’t do stand-up. He’ll offer attendees his take on the world.

The world is a dangerous place. There’s more than enough hate to go around.

The ADL does what it can to combat bigotry and evil. On Sunday, they ask our help so they can keep doing it.

(For more information and tickets, click here.)

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. )

 

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.