As associate regional director in the ADL’s Washington office, Eric Wachter pursues the veteran organization’s mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”
The 37-year-old Atlanta area native lives in Washington’s North Cleveland Park neighborhood with his wife of two months, Miriam. They met two years ago at an ADL event, when Wachter was a regional board member and was active with the young professionals group.
Before joining the ADL staff last year, Wachter was an associate at King & Spalding LLP in the law firm’s Washington office. He was recognized as a 2013 “Rising Star” by Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers magazine.
Wachter graduated magna cum laude from Yale University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in ethics, politics and economics and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2003.
WJW spoke to him about how ADL is involving young professionals, Washington’s diversity and continuing the fight for civil rights.
What are your main responsibilities at ADL?
I oversee all aspects of ADL’s programming within the region of Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. A lot of that includes leadership engagement, both with young professionals and our regional board and senior leadership. I’m involved in overseeing our civil rights advocacy and responding to reports of anti-Semitism and other forms of hate or discrimination incidents. I’m involved in helping to communicate ADL’s message within the region and partnering with other community and civil rights and religious organizations throughout the region.
How does your law background translate to your job at ADL?
I rarely directly practice law at ADL, but many of our involved lay leaders are lawyers. The civil rights issues tend to be appealing to lawyers and that was certainly true for me. The legal background is helpful when we’re dealing with policy issues that we’re trying to understand and articulate positions on, and it’s also helpful when we get reports of different things that might be happening in the community as to what the legal aspects of them might be. Like a lot of nonpracticing lawyers, my legal background can be helpful even if it’s not the main focus of what I’m doing day to day.
What are the most urgent issues the ADL is addressing?
I would say anti-Semitism is always first and foremost on our agenda. We’re seeing the rise of it around the world and particularly on campus and in some political rhetoric relating to the BDS movement and the anti-Israel movement. But ADL also goes beyond anti-Semitism to stand up for the rights of all vulnerable groups. We have a big hate crimes initiative nationally, called 50 States Against Hate, where we’re trying to strengthen hate crimes laws around the country. We’re seeing continued discrimination and sometimes violence against the LGBT community, different racial minorities and particularly against the Muslim community. Campaign rhetoric and the political environment feeds into that as well.
Tell us about the launch of ADL NextGen, a young professionals initiative?
We are considering it a fresh approach to our young leadership engagement in the D.C. region. Previously there might be a few events a year that people could come to, and those who really wanted to be involved could take part in our Glass Leadership Institute, which is our 10-month intensive leadership training where people really get an inside view of ADL. Those are still here, but we were looking for a way other than just a limited board of young professionals that created limited opportunities for a set number of people to get more deeply involved. We want to create a structure that’s a little more flexible in providing lots of different opportunities in ways that young professionals can get involved with ADL’s work.
What are the main differences between living in Atlanta and Washington?
Washington is definitely a more diverse place. I sometimes miss the Southern hospitality and politeness, but D.C. is really a nice mix of North and South and East and West and international.