Tag Archives: rights

Fighting Hate for Good

Dan Meisel was made for his current job running the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Santa Barbara-based Tri-Counties regional office. 

Raised in Santa Barbara, Meisel went on to practice First Amendment law and general litigation at a prestigious San Francisco law firm. From there he wrote and produced films including All She Can, a fictional drama about a Mexican-American teenager’s struggle to pursue her college dreams, which premiered at Sundance and aired on HBO.

“That film was my entrée into education equity issues,” Meisel says, and those issues would become a key focus of his ADL experience locally and nationally.

Chair, Education Equity Task Force, Dan Meisel, speaking at the National Commission Meeting. The annual, National Commision Meeting in Houston, Texas. November 5, 2018.

After finishing the film and moving back from New York to Santa Barbara in 2010, Meisel felt he needed to get a “foot back into constitutional law, policy and civil rights.” During the next 10 years he would serve – as a volunteer – as ADL’s Regional Board Chair, Chair of ADL’s National Civil Rights Task Force on Education Equity and many other ADL committees. In 2019, when he was asked to step in as lead staff of the nonprofit’s local office, it felt like a natural fit.

As Regional Director, Meisel works with local staff and a network of 25 other regional offices and ADL’s Community Support Center in New York to further ADL’s mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure just and fair treatment for all.”

ADL has long been a leader in responding to acts of anti-Semitism, but one of Meisel’s key tasks is correcting assumptions that ADL is an organization of Jewish people serving only the Jewish community. “Since its inception, ADL has believed that any minority is safe only when all minorities are safe,” he says, “and ADL has emerged as a diverse and formidable anti-hate organization because of its ironclad commitment to protecting the rights of all people to be treated fairly regardless of their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or level of ability.”

To that end, in addition to responding to anti-Semitism, ADL’s local efforts have included highlighting education equity issues largely impacting Latinx and other students of color, providing educational programming for teachers and students about how their own identities and experiences influence and sometimes inhibit the way they understand and interact with others, and directly responding to incidents of bias, hate and extremism. 

ADL provides education programs for educators, students, and non-school workplaces as well.

“ADL has been a transformative experience,” says recent Oak Park High School graduate Sam Barney-Gibbs. “ADL came to my school, educating students on combatting the manifestation of hate and promoting acceptance, and they also helped me find the kind of person I want to be both professionally and in my day-to-day life.”

“Given the marked increase of online hate and polarization in recent years, ADL’s work is as important as ever,” Meisel notes, “and it has been both invigorating and heartwarming to be a part of ADL’s effective efforts to “fight hate for good.’”

A Global Challenge

It has always been important to recognize that injustice and discrimination occurs in the United States and not only in far off lands. 

Over the past decade, Human Rights Watch – among the world’s leading human rights organizations – has poured its experience, energy, and incredible potency into combating domestic threats to the rights of everyone in the United States.

Whether working to ban child marriage in Florida, helping to ensure that juveniles can’t get sentenced to life without parole, or stopping traumatic family separations at the southern border, Human Rights Watch is there – advocating for good, and making positive change.

Across the globe, Human Rights Watch’s roughly 450 researchers, lawyers, journalists, and advocates relentlessly defend human rights. They do this by rigorously investigating abuses, exposing their findings through unparalleled media attention, and then driving change by advocating to governments and organizations – dismantling systems of oppression and uplifting entire populations.

HRW’s impact is immense. The organization won a Nobel Peace Prize for its work with partner organizations to ban landmines, establish the International Criminal Court to bring the world’s worst warlords to justice, and elevate global standards to improve the lives of women, children, and the vulnerable around the world.

At a time when the challenges facing our community and our world can feel overwhelming, we need an organization ready and able to face them head on. We need Human Rights Watch.

“At this inflection point in human history, we have an extraordinary window of opportunity to make bold, transformational change,” says Lis Leader, the Director of Human Rights Watch Santa Barbara.

As a filmmaker who travelled the world producing documentaries for National Geographic, PBS, and the BBC, Leader witnessed “some unbearably heartbreaking visions of human suffering.” So when local writer, philanthropist, and activist Vicki Riskin suggested she lead HRW’s recently established committee in 2014, Leader didn’t hesitate.

For Leader, the connection between an HRW researcher working to end child marriage in Yemen, and the needs of Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable are all the same.

“Although we are a global organization, we make positive change on a community level,” Leader says. HRW Santa Barbara regularly hosts civic dialogues with key figures from its deep bench of programmatic staff who bring global and domestic issues home to the Central Coast.

The organization is now engaged in a “global challenge” meant to create “the future we want,” HRW proclaims. Leader and the Santa Barbara Committee invite you to stand with HRW as it faces some of the most dire threats to humanity here and abroad.