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Profile in Leadership ― John B. Harris

  • February 28, 2013

John B. Harris

• Name: John B. Harris
• Community: Westchester, New York
• Occupation: Attorney – Partner at Stillman & Friedman P.C.
• ADL Role: Chair, New York Regional Board

1.     What is your earliest memory of ADL? 

Growing up in a largely non-Jewish part of the Midwest, I have memories of ADL’s name being invoked whenever serious acts of anti-Semitism took place.  But I don’t think I really came to appreciate the voice and perspective of the ADL until I heard Abe Foxman speak at a lawyers’ gathering more than 20 years ago about the Crown Heights riots and the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum.  The talk highlighted how hatred and prejudice smolder below the surface and can ignite during times of crisis.  It was a message that we could not be complacent and it continues to resonate with me.

 2.    How did you first become involved in ADL?

My involvement with the ADL came after my partner, Charles Stillman, co-founded the lawyers’ division.  I began to attend lawyers’ division events, including the annual legal conference, and was impressed by the depth of knowledge and commitment of both the lawyers involved and the board members I met.  I think my first serious role was presenting the issues in the Michigan affirmative action case (Grutter) to the regional board more than 10 years ago.  I was impressed and, I’ll admit, a little surprised by the intensity of the debate and the process by which the board reached consensus.                 
3.     How do you envision ADL’s Centennial Theme Imagine a World Without Hate™?

I find the imagery of “Imagine” very appealing and was especially moved by the vision in the short ADL video of what the world would have been like without the acts of religious and ethnic hatred that took the lives of Martin Luther King, Yitzhak Rabin, Daniel Pearl and so many others (including Yankel Rosenbaum).  I’m also mindful of Graham Greene’s comment that hate is a “failure of imagination” and think he was probably right … imagining what someone is really like helps us overcome the ingrained prejudices and stereotypes that infect people when they encounter someone “different.”