The Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia branch has a new executive director in Andrew Goretsky.
ADL Philadelphia announced the decision in a Jan. 10 press release, and Goretsky started in his new role on Jan. 24. He replaced Shira Goodman, who led the regional office for two years before moving to a new position as director of campaigns and outreach for the ADL’s national office.
Goretsky, 48, lives in Whitemarsh Township and spent the last six-plus years working as the dean of students for Arcadia University. He wants to lead the local ADL chapter because of the recent increase in “antisemitism, hate in all its forms and extremism,” he said.
“My son, Ari Shawn, is 10 and when I think about him, his friends and all children, I want a better world for him/them,” Goretsky added.
ADL Philadelphia is one of 25 regional ADL branches across the United States, along with the national office that is known for its annual report on antisemitic incidents. The local office serves “eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and the entire state of Delaware,” according to the press release announcing Goretsky’s hiring.
In that release, organization officials praised Goretsky’s experience working to promote diversity.
At Arcadia, he advanced the values of “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion through daily interactions with students, faculty and staff,” the release said.
Pre-Arcadia, Goretsky served on the diversity and inclusion committee at George Washington University and the Native American Special Interest Residential Community at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He also helped students with learning differences at Landmark College in Vermont.
“We are excited for Andrew to lead ADL’s efforts to combat antisemitism and bigotry of all forms in the Philadelphia region,” said Hope Comisky, ADL Philadelphia’s regional board chair. “Andrew has a reputation as a dedicated strategic leader, educator and administrator.”
The new leader is taking over a strong organization, according to his predecessor. Under Goodman, ADL Philadelphia increased the number of schools participating in its No Place for Hate program. Now, more than 200 institutions in the region use the “school climate improvement framework,” as the ADL’s website describes it.
Goodman also said that, despite working from home since the start of the pandemic, her regional office continued to increase the amount of money it raised on an annual basis.
“That means people believe in that work,” she added.
Goretsky hopes to build on Goodman’s progress, but he knows he won’t do that overnight. He plans to spend his first three months getting to know his staff of 12 and institutional leaders in the region.
The new director’s long-term goal is to continue building relationships with “synagogues, law enforcement, legislators, school administrations and others,” he said.
During the Jan. 15 hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, it was pre-existing relationships that helped the four hostages escape unharmed, according to Goretsky. In an interview with CBS News on Jan. 17, Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said courses with the FBI, ADL and Colleyville Police Department taught synagogue leaders what to do in that situation.
“What we learned from the hostage situation in Texas was how important it was that these relationships were already strong so that we didn’t have to start building them only in a time of crisis,” Goretsky said.
But Goretsky also understands that hate is now multidimensional. Since young people spend much of their time online, that’s where they often see expressions of antisemitism.
The way to combat that, according to Goretsky, is the same way you would combat it in physical reality: Teach young people to know the signs.
When the director was 7- or 8-years-old, he was given a magazine by some kids in his neighborhood. He brought it home and showed it to his mom. She saw that it was called PennySaver and then had to explain antisemitism to him.
Goretsky suddenly understood why the kids ran off laughing after handing him the magazine.
The same kind of incident happens when kids today are playing video games or on social media. He said it’s their job to do what young Goretsky did and tell an adult; then, it’s the adult’s job to play the role of Goretsky’s mom.
Through No Place for Hate and other educational programs, ADL Philadelphia can play the role of adult for the entire region.
“If we’re doing our job well, we will see an increase in reports because people will know to report to us,” Goretsky said. “I’m more concerned about incidents of hate, bias and extremism that no one reports.”
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