Saturday, August 18, 2007

Now it's the ADL of New England board's turn

The next chapter in the ADL story is splayed on the front page of the Boston Globe today. Keith O'Brien reports: "The national Anti-Defamation League fired its New England regional director yesterday, one day after he broke ranks with national ADL leadership and said the human rights organization should acknowledge the Armenian genocide that began in 1915."

Andy Tarsy, the regional director who did the right thing, has now taught the public an additional lesson: Sometimes doing the right thing costs you personally, at least in the short run. But I predict and hope that Andy will not have to worry for long.

The action by the national ADL organization now turns the focus on the board members of the local ADL affiliate. Presumably Andy had the support of his local board in taking the action he did. A former board member commented to the Globe: "I predict that [these] actions will precipitate wholesale resignations from the regional board, a meaningful reduction in ADL's regional fund-raising, and will further exacerbate the [national] ADL's relationship with the non-Jewish community coming out of this crisis around the Armenian genocide."

Local board members really have no choice but to resign over the firing of their hand-picked executive director. But these are highly committed volunteers and community leaders who strongly believe in the mission of the ADL. What's for them do to in support of that mission?

The clear answer is to resign, rescind any philanthropic commitments they have made to the national ADL, immediately create a new regional organization with precisely the same mission, hire Andy back, and go to work rebuilding support throughout New England for the important programs they have been running.

[Disclosure: Andy's father is a member of the faculty at BIDMC, but I have not consulted with him on any of these blog postings.]

Addendum on August 19. In writing this, I didn't mean to suggest that local board members who choose to stay on the board and try to work changes in the national ADL should be faulted at all. That is an alternative approach that deserves a lot of credit. It is, however, a long row to hoe -- and until it all gets worked out, I am guessing it will be hard to find a person willing to be a successor for Andy at the New England regional branch.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's ironic and very sad that you had a quote of Hitler saying "....and I will have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad" - only to see the national ADL do the same thing, figuratively, to one who dared offer dissent. Hypocrisy among morally self-righteous organizations is particularly repugnant.

Paul Levy said...

We always have to be careful with allusions or comparison to Hitler, who was bad beyond belief. I wouldn't go as far as you as to compare, even figuratively, Andy's termination to Hitler's approach. There are orders of magnitude differences.

But, I think the point you are making is important. If you are in the business of morale outrage and education on these matters, you are especially susceptible to being held to a standard that you have helped create.

Anonymous said...

Paul;

Of course your point is well taken, although there are some more recent examples elsewhere in the world that seem to be approaching his level. I apologize for any perception of trivialization of Hitler.
I guess what I was trying to say is that forcible (physically or otherwise) squelching of all dissent, taken far enough and for long enough, has the potential to lead to exactly the result that I assume the ADL exists to try to prevent. Maybe you can rephrase it for me more eloquently; I am not a born writer as you are.

Paul Levy said...

I think you were quite eloquent. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting on this. I spent the weekend being outraged at the ADL's actions, but I like your constructive suggestion for what the New England ADL board could do.

Elliott said...

Foxman has issued a press release saying that this was "tantamount to genocide", but not in favor of a Congressional resolution. I don't know whether this means Tarsy gets his job back; I suspect it doesn't (even if he wanted it which he may not). I think the new position is simply Foxman trying to staunch the bleeding.