With a deep appreciation for the civil rights era and the Anti-Defamation League’s roots in the South, Allison Padilla-Goodman has taken on the role of ADL’s Southeast regional director, based in Buckhead.
She has moved from ADL’s South Central Region office in her native New Orleans at a time of rising incidents of anti-Semitism across the country as well as increasing examples of anti-Jewish harassment in public and non-Jewish private schools in the Atlanta area.
Padilla-Goodman earned a doctorate from the City University of New York in sociology with a focus on race relations and minor in public education, immigration and urban development. She holds a master’s in Latin American studies from Tulane University and a bachelor’s in sociology and anthropology from Middlebury College.
Her work experience includes community organizing and public education.
As the daughter of an ADL board chair, Padilla-Goodman grew up with the organization in the household. She credits ADL with saving her mother’s life by interfering with Ku Klux Klan plans for bombings affecting her family in the Mississippi Delta.
Padilla-Goodman became an ADL board member in New Orleans, then was hired as the regional director in April 2014.
“I’ve found the melting of all of my passions in one place,” she said.
Padilla-Goodman hopes to bring to Atlanta initiatives she oversaw in New Orleans, including community ties with law enforcement. In line with ADL’s national priorities and the interests of local advocates such as the Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism, she is working to promote hate-crimes legislation in Georgia, one of five states without such a law.
“I am excited to build on our work and training around law enforcement while providing the necessary resources,” she said. “We see so many more hate groups surfacing in the wake of Charlottesville, which means there are more situations to address them with the help of law enforcement.”
Padilla-Goodman looks forward to building coalitions to work on civil rights issues.
“ADL has been involved with some amazing work under Shelley Rose working with various community groups across the city, which has built some important relationships, and I think there is a lot to work to build off that,” she said.
Rose, the No. 2 official in ADL’s Atlanta office, served as the interim regional director from June 2016, when Mark Moskowitz left to take a position with the Jewish Agency for Israel, until Padilla-Goodman arrived in mid-August.
Padilla-Goodman praised ADL’s success with its educational program in the Southeast. “It is one of the strongest I’ve seen, as we are in over 200 schools in the region, and every Atlanta public school is involved in our No Place for Hate program,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of anti-Semitism in schools, but we are also seeing a lot of schools respond very well when it happens.”
She commended grassroots movements, parents and other local organizations working to end anti-Semitism.
She and others across the country have pushed for a strong response to hate in the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., neo-Nazi demonstrations, such as a commitment to anti-bias education. Some 300 mayors have signed a compact against hate, she said. “The compact provides an amazing foundation for our work, as well as a powerful statement for cities nationwide who wish to create a strong counternarrative.”
Her move 400 miles east is not the first time she has left New Orleans for a job, and while it may not be as exotic as Hong Kong, where she once worked as a university instructor, Atlanta does have connections going back to the beginning of ADL in 1913.
“The work of ADL is very exciting in Atlanta. It is still in the Deep South, which possesses a particular relevance,” Padilla-Goodman said. “Atlanta is home to the civil rights era and Leo Frank. It represents a large part of ADL’s work and where the organization contains its roots. I am excited to take that energy and growth from New Orleans and bring that to Atlanta.”