The new regional director of the Orange County/Long Beach Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Office, Melissa Carr, feels that the most interesting part of her new position is to continue the organization’s multi-faceted agenda of confronting anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.
“In our community, it’s so very important, because for too many of us, this is part of our everyday lives. Kids are being bullied in school, the biggest and the best of the white supremacists seem to be finding homes and settling in our district and bigotry in the workplace and other forms of counter-terrorism are all here and all part of the ADL’s map of things to bring into light and educate people on how to best bring about change.”
Carr, who started out as an attorney in private practice and retired, said “I failed miserably at retirement, so I started volunteering with the ADL about ten years ago. I quickly realized that everything it stands for was also everything that I wanted to help make a difference in with my own actions. I went into holding part-time positions, including education, regular counsel and special projects. I also coordinated with both the police and government officials on the subject of counter-terrorism. The ADL is one of the best known authorities on the subject.”
She added, “When I heard that my predecessor (Kevin O’Grady) had turned in his resignation, I thought, ‘ooh, now that looks like an interesting job!’”
Besides her own impressive legal background, Carr has two children who have already started their own incredible resumes. Her son, Mo, is a junior at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, and is majoring in economics and math. Recently, Carr went with her daughter, Zoe, to help settle into her digs at West Point Academy in New York. Both are very excited and supportive of their mother’s new position. “They really are so happy for me, especially since I now have gone from working part- to full-time.”
While Carr is planning on continuing with her predecessor’s already set calendar for 2012, she does point out that they have come from different backgrounds. “When I was in private practice, I found myself representing many employers on false claims of discrimination. It was because of these types of cases and my tenure in that capacity that will allow me the broad brush stroke we need to help achieve the changes that our community needs so badly.”
Carr expressed the opinion that the ADL has a very multi-faceted agenda in its efforts to confront hatred and insensitivity through education and that it is through this type of sharing that real differences and changes will come about.
“One of the next things that the community can join us in is our annual Appeal Brunch which will be taking place in Newport Beach,” Carr said. “We also have also re-instated the Glass Leadership Institute program for people in the age range of their early 20s through their 40s. It is a ten-month program introducing topics that the ADL is involved with. The group holds monthly meetings, we have field trips and this year is going to be quite special!”
She added, “It is the 100th year for the ADL as a national organization. The celebration will begin after the High Holy Days in the fall. In recognition of this event, this particular group will end with a trip to Washington, D.C., and will present our new agenda on Capitol Hill.”
One of the things that Carr would love to see happen is for this particular region to come together as a community and really be a part of seeing that all the work that needs to be done is done as a cohesive group.
“In contrast to the stereotypes depicted in shows like ‘The OC,’ and the ‘Real Housewives of Orange County,’ this area has a rich ethnic, cultural and religious landscape. Our regional office is well known for our No Place for Hate education programming, our defense of the region’s Jewish population and our willingness to fight for justice for all people,” she explained. “With a population of over 4 million people, our office is home to Long Beach — just named the ‘Most Diverse City in America.’ We also include Santa Ana, which is known as ‘The Most Hispanic City in America,’ and last, we have the world’s largest communities of Vietnamese and Cambodians outside of their home nations. So we really do need to join arms with each other and converse.”
The No Place for Hate program is an anti-bigotry campaign that partners with schools to combat bigotry and hate on campuses. Working with students and faculty members, the ADL staff asks all students to sign a pledge of respect and commit to work toward a hate-free school.
When asked if Carr has a quote she lives by or a person she considers a mentor, Carr didn’t have to think very long: “Joyce Greenspan is quite an inspiration. She retired from the ADL about eight years ago to practice at being the best bubbie on the planet. I want to emulate her and her amazing leadership qualities. She worked hard with other agencies and coalitions in the region. My hope is to be able to also work together in our quest to make things different, and I want to do it with the same warmth Joyce so easily exuded.”
ADL Activities This Fall
The Glass Leadership Institute program will kick off the class with a reception on September 22. Details will follow.
The Appeal Brunch will be held from 11-1 on Sunday, September 23, at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. Deborah Lauter, the ADL National Director of Civil Rights will be the guest speaker, and there will be live testimonials from people who have been helped and/or educated by the organization. Tickets may be purchased for $65 a person, and there is a suggested minimum pledge of $500.
For those interested in learning more about any of the ADL programs, the brunch or volunteer information, please call the office at (714) 953-2860 or log on to the website at www.adl.org.