The Anti-Defamation League’s Nancy Baron-Baer has already seen her fair share of local and world events after a dozen years of working for the organization.
Nancy Baron-Baer has had no shortage of incidents and world events to respond to since being named interim regional director of the Anti-Defamation League at the start of the year. Earlier this month, she received a permanent appointment to the position.
But after a dozen years of working for the organization, Baron-Baer appears to have the instincts needed for a job that requires knowing when to push the panic button.
Just in the last month, Israel and Hamas concluded a bloodywar; a pro-Palestinian student at Temple University allegedly hit a pro-Israel student after an argument; a butcher’s shop in the Northeast was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti; and the Philadelphia-based clothing company Urban Outfitters released a Kent State sweatshirt that evoked memories of the 1970 massacre in which three Jewish students were killed.
“When I talk to people about the world situation, about what’s happening in Europe, about what’s happening locally, I hear more concern and fear in their voices than when I talked to them a year ago or five years ago,” said Baron-Baer. “I don’t think people necessarily — especially in this area — need to be ‘more on-guard,’ but I think it’s important for people to stay educated and to become advocates, not bystanders, to respond when they see things in the newspaper that don’t read right, to stand up in their community when something occurs.”
Baron-Baer follows Barry Morrison, who retired at the end of 2013 after 35 years with the organization. She is the first woman to take the top post locally — a distinction she played down.
“While I’m the first woman regional director here in Philadelphia, there are many women regional directors across the country, and so for me, it’s just an honor to be the regional director,” she said of the office that has been around for more than 50 years.
She said she doesn’t think enough people in her region, which covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, know the “breadth or the depth of the work that ADL does.”
“There are certain opportunities that become available during anyone’s tenure because of incidents that are taking place locally or nationally where hopefully we will be able to lend our voice and there will be an imprint that we will make,” said Baron-Baer, who is married and has three adult children — two daughters and a son.
Baron-Baer said one of the things she enjoys most about the job is working with the Jewish community. Earlier this month, the organization sponsored a training, along with members of the Philadelphia Police Department, for leaders of synagogues, Jewish day schools and organizations, to help them keep their buildings safe. Baron-Baer suggested that the April shooting at a Kansas City Jewish Community Center and the recent Gaza war might have been on participants’ minds.
As such, fortunately — or, in this case, unfortunately — people “seemed more ready and more willing than usual to attend and participate in the security training.”