The Anti-Defamation League has named Shayna Alexander director of its New Jersey region, filling a post that has remained vacant since Jeffrey Salkin resigned last October.
Ms. Alexander, 29, started working at the ADL even before she graduated from Rutgers University in January 2007. After spending three years at ADL’s national headquarters in New York researching white supremacists and neo-Nazis for its civil rights division, she headed west to Denver to become associate director of its Mountain States regional office.
The ADL is “the only place I’ve wanted to work,” she said.
She started work in the region’s office in Florham Park on April 1, the same day that the organization released its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in 2013. For New Jersey, its findings are a mixed blessing, indicating that anti-Semitic incidents in the state declined by 55 percent in 2013, but that New Jersey ranked third highest in the nation in the number of incidents.
“While the drop in anti-Semitic incidents is encouraging, 78 incidents of anti-Semitism are 78 too many,” Ms. Alexander said on her next-to-last workday in Denver.
“It would be a mistake for us to declare victory in this war because of the decline in anti-Semitic incidents in our community,” she continued. “We know that anti-Semitic incidents and other bias crimes are vastly underreported. Certainly we are encouraged by this drop, but at the same time, we must be vigilant against anti-Semitism and bigotry.”
The fact that the number of incidents makes it the third-highest state “motivates us to continue our work,” she said. “Our mandate is clear. We must continue to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure fair justice and fair treatment for all.”
At the ADL’s Mountain States office, Ms. Alexander responded to complaints of anti-Semitism and discrimination in Colorado and Wyoming. She worked as a liaison with law enforcement offices, took part in Holocaust remembrances, conducted interfaith dialogues, and worked on Jewish institutional security issues.
Ms. Alexander considers the ADL as “a 911 for the Jewish community, and that extends to our work with people of all races, religions, sexual orientations, genders, ethnicities, and national origins. I am not going to say that anti-Semitism is any more deserving of attention than any other ‘ism’ or any other reason why someone would not feel safe and welcome because of who they are.”
Among her top priorities are working with law enforcement agencies “on the threats that extremists pose and working with synagogues and Jewish institutions to promote safe and secure spaces.”
She also is eager to conduct anti-bias and anti-bullying programs in schools, workplaces, and communities. “We want to empower students, faculty members, and community members to take a stand against hatred – to proactively and reactively respond to incidents of bigotry and create inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities.”
Ms. Alexander’s responsibilities extend from New Jersey’s northern border to Mercer, Ocean, and Monmouth counties. The southernmost part of the state falls under the jurisdiction of the ADL’s Philadelphia region.
Ms. Alexander grew up in Freehold, where she attended public schools and a Conservative synagogue. She has just moved into a home in Jersey City.
Rabbi Salkin now heads the Reform Temple Beth Am in Bayonne.
This story first was published in the New Jersey Jewish News.