New ADL director to tackle anti-Israel campus actions

Dan Sandman keeps a framed piece of paper with the name “Edmund Sandemain” on the wall directly above his office computer.

Because of the similar last names, Sandman not only feels a connection to Edmund Sandemain — an 8-year-old who perished in the Holocaust — but seeing his name every day constantly reminds him for whom he works.

Dan Sandman

“Today we’ve got anti-Semitism,” said Sandman, the 36-year-old director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Central Pacific Region. “I’m not an alarmist, but it’s important that people be aware of what’s going on. We have to be vigilant in beating back hate and bigotry.”

Sandman has been at his new post in San Francisco for about a month. The Chicago native leads a five-person team that monitors and works to eradicate anti-Semitic activity; partners with law enforcement officials to bolster community vigilance and safeguard the rights of attacked groups; and enhances and develops educational programs and interfaith initiatives.

In terms of the ADL taking a more proactive role to combat acts of bigotry, Sandman said that’s always the aim of the agency’s work.

“One of the ways we combat that is with education,” Sandman said.

In Silicon Valley, for example, the ADL is striving to reduce cyber-hate and cyber-bullying with targeted programs as part of its national educational campaign.

And last month, the ADL trained a group of San Francisco Police Department recruits on the latest trends in extremist and hate movements.

“The ADL is raising its profile in terms of addressing anti-Israel and anti-injustice issues,” Sandman said, “and other concerns of communities that suffer at the hands of bigots.”

A major item on Sandman’s plate right now is anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses. He said Jewish students “should not [have to] fear being assaulted, attacked or marginalized because of outspoken groups, many of which are driven by hate.”

He added that while the ADL stands up for free speech, there is a “fine line” between that and words that could incite violence. The same is true for the anti-Muslim rhetoric, he said. 

“The fact that people want to burn the Quran is 100 percent unacceptable,” Sandman said, referring to the Florida pastor who had planned to do just that on Sept. 11. Through the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, “We’ve joined together on a national level to stand with our friends in the Muslim community when they are unfairly targeted with Quran burnings and hate crimes.”

Before taking the ADL post, Sandman chaired a public safety committee in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood. Prior to that, he was a trial attorney with firms in Chicago and Los Angeles, and then the director of business and legal affairs for the Tennis Channel.

A graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, he started as a television news producer for the NBC affiliate in Miami before deciding to become a lawyer. He then attended the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

These days, he and his wife, a Berkeley native, are spending their free time taking in Bay Area sights. That includes a lot of time at their standard poodle’s favorite spot, the dog-friendly Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond.

On the job, Sandman is working to incorporate three elements that have helped define his professional career: communication, teamwork and advocacy.

“The ADL is the only agency solely dedicated to stamping out anti-Semitism,” Sandman said. “But we don’t discriminate. The best way to eradicate hatred against Jews is to eradicate all hate. That’s a type of organization anyone would want to be a part of.”