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Gov Council’s Politics Trumps Decency

Nominee’s Good Works Only Add to Credentials

By Robert Trestan and Jeffrey Robbins

This article originally appeared in The Boston Herald on December 3, 2013

That the rough and tumble of politics frequently trumps decency comes as no surprise to anyone. The current controversy over the nomination of Joe Berman for a Superior Court judgeship has, sadly, become another example of politics pushing decency aside.

As the Governor’s Council considers Berman’s nomination, what by rights should be regarded as a strength of his candidacy — his longtime work with and commitment to the Anti-Defamation League — is being cynically used against him for the narrowest of political advantage and the most simple-minded of expediency.

The suggestion that Mr. Berman’s ADL involvement somehow cuts against his qualifications to serve effectively on the Superior Court is outrageous, and offensive.

Consider this: What if a judicial nominee were a member of the NAACP, and some politicians did not like a particular position that organization had taken, and used it to block his nomination?

A well-qualified judicial candidate approved by eminent lawyers and selected by Gov. Deval Patrick has had his candidacy all but derailed by a single-issue political constituency seeking to discredit him and his reputation. Their basis? His affiliation with an organization whose bona fides as a powerful advocate for civil rights have been acknowledged by leaders of every faith, religion, and ethnic background for the last 100 years.

Berman’s decision to support ADL is not related to a single ideological belief or to a blind acceptance of the many policies and positions this historic civil rights organization has taken over the past century. His passion for and commitment to justice, equality and fairness have enriched our internal discussions on a variety of issues related to ADL’s mission to combat anti-Semitism and promote equal justice and fair treatment for all people.

One of ADL’s greatest strengths is the breadth and depth of our agenda. At times, we will take positions that are unpopular with a segment of the community and some of our own leaders. Our organization has never shied away from that approach. While our supporters do not always agree with each of our positions, they understand and remain committed to our basic mission.

The fact is that no organization works on behalf of the residents of Massachusetts on so many fronts as vigorously as ADL.

Bullying? It was ADL that led the statewide coalition and worked with the Legislature to pass a comprehensive anti-bullying law.

Hate crimes? ADL led the country supporting legislation and training for law enforcement.

Youth prejudice and violence? ADL continues its multifaceted approach, including the A World of Difference Institute, to provide anti-bias training and programs to thousands of students.

And, in 2008, we publicly stated that the massacres perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians constituted genocide.

Over the course of the past year, ADL has celebrated its centennial. During these 100 years, the Anti-Defamation League has played a major role in combatting anti-Semitism and fundamentally changing the essence of Jewish life in America. The League begins its second century based on a solid reputation and record of advancing equality, defending democratic ideals and fighting against prejudice and bigotry,

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic magazine, commented on the occasion of ADL’s 100th anniversary that the organization has done more to “delegitimize prejudice” in America than any other.

So how did it come about that an ADL supporter ends up being vilified for his principles? Politics over decency.

Joe Berman deserves better, the ADL deserves better and, most of all, the people of Massachusetts deserve better.

Robert Trestan is New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Jeffrey Robbins is board chairman.

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"So how did it come about that an ADL supporter ends up being vilified for his principles? Politics over decency. Joe Berman deserves better, the ADL deserves better and, most of all, the people of Massachusetts deserve better."

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