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Michael Lieberman, BA in Judaic Studies and International Relations, 1978

JD, Duke University School of Law, 1981

Washington Counsel for the Anti-Defamation League


Job Responsibilities:

“I am one of three registered lobbyists for ADL and I help coordinate the League’s involvement in congressional and executive branch initiatives. I have the domestic portfolios—hate crime, church-state, First Amendment, counterterrorism, religious freedom, LGBT rights, police and criminal justice reform, and state legislative initiatives.

“I also track ADL’s involvement in Supreme Court cases. This term, for example, we have filed briefs in six cases. My other important role is as an officer for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the most important civil rights coalition organization in Washington, with more than 200 national organizational members. I am the Policy and Enforcement Chair for Leadership Conference.”

Notable Projects:

“The Obama Administration has made unprecedented progress in expanding anti-bullying programs. And the Administration—primarily the Justice Department and the FBI—has done fantastic work in outreach and training on its new enforcement powers under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (HCPA), the most important federal hate crime enforcement law in 40 years. We are now working to institutionalize these initiatives, including efforts to address anti-Semitism and anti-Israel intimidation and harassment on college campuses. In addition, we are working to address backlash crimes against Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, and South Asians following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November and in San Bernardino in December. These crimes have continued to occur at a disturbing rate, exacerbated by the nasty rhetoric and the appeals to prejudice and bigotry that have emerged in the 2016 election campaign. I am really proud that ADL is helping to lead efforts to combat this bigotry and Islamophobia. 

“My other significant focus now has been on the intersection between religious liberty and equality, especially LGBT equality. Religious liberty is fundamental to Jewish security in America. ADL has been a staunch defender of religious freedom and church-state separation. But in recent years, we have seen opponents of LGBT equality and same-sex marriage argue that their religious beliefs should exempt them from anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBT communities. Essentially, they want to use religious liberty as a sword, not a shield, against discrimination. I have been deeply involved in working with other ADL colleagues to help us find the proper balance between religious liberty and equality facing these tough issues.”

Why his work is rewarding:

“ADL is a respected organization, with decades of experience as an organization that has led the fight against bigotry and extremism, and promoted civility and intergroup relations. But even with this respect, we recognize that ADL can do almost nothing by itself. We have learned that building coalitions is the key to any successful legislative or Executive branch initiative, and my work as Washington Counsel, as a legislative lawyer, requires the ability to build coalitions. That work—meeting and working with mission-oriented people like me in other organizations—has been really rewarding. 

“I am ADL’s point person on federal and state response to bullying and bias-motivated crimes—two subjects I wish I knew less about. Since 1990, I have chaired the hate crime coalition of religious, civil rights, law enforcement, education, and civic organizations in Washington that promotes improved federal response to hate violence. This coalition worked for 13 years to pass the HCPA. A highlight of my career was when Congress finally approved the HCPA in 2009 and President Obama signed it into law. I received the Department of Justice’s 2015 Meritorious Public Service Award for my work in building coalitions to help pass the HCPA and to prevent and address hate crimes.”

How the Frankel Center helped shape his career:

“I came from a pretty traditional home and I was a regional leader in Young Judaea growing up in Ohio. That, plus my Judaic Studies academic background at Michigan, definitely helped shape my career and my work aspirations. Working with ADL combines so many of my interests; it’s very Jewish, but the League’s broader mission, ‘…to secure justice and fair treatment for all,’ is in the finest traditions of Tikkun Olam.”

Advice to students considering Judaic Studies:

“I would definitely encourage students to major in Judaic Studies, or take courses in the department. And I hope that many Frankel students would consider using that background to launch careers in Jewish communal services. In a way, I still feel the way I did as a Young Judaea leader in high school—as an activist deeply involved in meaningful work for the Jewish community. It’s fantastic to be able to continue to learn and teach on issues that I care deeply about while building coalitions that can amplify our own significant voice.”

Michael Lieberman receiving the Attorney General’s Award for Meritorious Public Service in October 2015. (L to R) Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Michael Lieberman, acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Vanita Gupta, and former Northern District of Ohio US Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach.