Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, and one of the longest-serving and highest-profile American Jewish organizational leaders, is retiring from his post. But he will not step down until July 20, 2015, while the organization searches for a successor.
“My years at ADL, particularly the 27 spent as national director, could not have been more rewarding,” Foxman, 73, said in an ADL news release.
On Tuesday President Barack Obama hailed Foxman’s work.
“Michelle and I wish him well as he prepares to leave the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League – an organization that he built, and led with such passion and persistence,” said the president in a statement. “Abe is irreplaceable, but the causes that he has dedicated his life to will continue to inspire people in the United States, Israel, and around the world.”
Foxman announced his retirement at the ADL’s annual National Executive Committee meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. The organization said its search for Foxman’s successor will be conducted by the executive search firm BoardWalk Consulting and will be guided by ADL leadership.
A lawyer by training, Foxman, a child survivor of the Holocaust, started at the ADL in 1965 and became its national director in 1987. Under his leadership, ADL has expanded to 30 regional offices across the United States and an office in Israel.
In 2011, the last year for which data is available, the ADL reported nearly $54 million in revenue. The organization monitors anti-Semitic activity, offers discrimination-sensitivity training and runs anti-bigotry programs.
But it is Foxman’s personage for which the ADL may best be known. Seen as a spokesman for the Jewish people, Foxman has used his position as a bully pulpit to advocate for Israel, warn against discrimination and, perhaps most often, issue declamations of what does or does not constitute anti-Semitism. Whether they be condemnations of foreign leaders or pardons of celebrities who have made ill-considered utterances, Foxman’s has been the authoritative voice on what is or is not acceptable to Jews.
After he steps down, Foxman will serve as a part-time consultant to ADL and sit on the organization’s national commission and national executive committee, the organization said.
At the same gathering, ADL presented its America’s Democratic Legacy Award to Bush during a gala Thursday night.
“We will never forget, Mr. President, how the vision you laid out of ‘two states, living side by side, in peace and security’ still informs our consciousness and our parlance today,” said Foxman. “You solidified an unbreakable affinity between two democracies challenged by extremists and terrorists — and an ironclad shared understanding — that security is one of the most important foundations for peace.”
Foxman also hailed Bush’s support for immigration reform and his leadership after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “When you were called on to respond to unspeakable terror, hate and violence, you refused to let America give into stereotypes,” Foxman said. “You answered calls for anti-Muslim revenge with calls for respect and understanding.”
Bush spoke at the dinner, which was held at The Breakers resort and was reportedly closed to the media. Previous recipients of the award, which the ADL has been giving out for more than half a century, have included American presidents as well as other government, business, literary and religious figures.