January 17, 2002
L.A. ADL Talks of Split
Following the recent dismissal of Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director David Lehrer, Los Angeles members continued to discuss the prospect of splitting off from the New York organization.
Close to 100 people attended the meeting of the executive board of the Pacific Southwest Region of the ADL on Wednesday, Jan. 9, to discuss Lehrer's dismissal.
By all accounts, it was an emotional gathering, with ADL supporters venting their anger regarding both Lehrer's abrupt termination by ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, and the national leadership's continued silence on the issue. (Although contactedby The Journal, neither Foxman nor national chairman Glen Tobias has been willing to go on record with any response since the story broke in early January.)
While most members of the executive board remained subdued, at the meeting, longtime donors and activists expressed their dismay at the treatment of both Lehrer and the entire West Coast ADL support system.
"Everyone was indignant and thought the national position was outrageous," said Carmen Warschaw, an ADL board member and honorary lifetime national commissioner. "Most people didn't know about the money and how it was distributed; some were even talking about changing their wills," she said, meaning to cut out the ADL as a beneficiary.
According to ADL staff, the West Coast office raises between $5 million and $6 million annually for the national organization, of which $1.8 million comes back to Los Angeles.
Although the idea was posted at the Jan. 9 meeting to break off and start a new group, one board member, who asked to remain anonymous, said that was unlikely.
"We do not want the ADL to follow the pattern of the American Jewish Congress," the board member said, referring to how the Los Angeles chapter split off to form the Progressive Jewish Alliance. "We're still very committed to the ADL. Also, there are problems, because while local leaders raised the funds for the building, we do not own it, and that presents a serious complication."
Warschaw, however, disagreed.
"If people have the ability to do their own fundraising, they should have the ability to control their own future," she said. "Either the national leadership will change their attitude, or there will be a new organization."
Another meeting of the board is set for later this month.