Robert O. Trestan, a leader in the passage of the state’s landmark antibullying legislation, has pledged to crack down on hate crime on the streets and in cyberspace as he becomes the new director of the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional office.
The ADL announced Wednesday that the longtime attorney and civil rights advocate will lead the Boston-based office as the national organization enters its 100th year.
“I am so proud of the work the ADL has done over the last one hundred years, and I’m honored to lead the New England office into the next century,” Trestan said. “We have never been afraid to speak out when it was unpopular.”
Established to fight anti-Semitism, the ADL lobbies Congress, develops educational programs, and counsels law enforcement to fight all forms of hate crime, extremist activity, and church-state conflicts.
Trestan, who has served as the ADL’s Eastern States civil rights counsel since 2005, succeeds Derrek Shulman as director of the regional office.
“Trestan has a very sophisticated understanding of civil rights issues, which is the ADL’s bread and butter,” said Jeffrey Robbins, New England regional chairman of the ADL, who will work with Trestan on league activities. “Whether it be litigation strategy or working with schools and government officials, he knows these issues cold.”
Trestan, 48, said his first priority will be to bolster the ADL’s historic relationship with the Jewish community and build coalitions with the African-American, Latino, and Asian-American communities. He said he hopes to galvanize the ADL’s fight for immigration reform, an issue he said “affects every ethnic and faith community and provides an arena where we can all work together to ensure justice and equality.”
Trestan noted the New England office will continue advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights and marriage equality.
In his work as Eastern states counsel, Trestan led the group’s cyberhate reponse team, working with Internet industry executives at Facebook, Google, and Twitter to find better ways to report Internet hate crime and teach digital literacy.
“Hate manifests itself in different ways now than when the ADL was founded a century ago,” he said. “People are harrassing and bullying each other on the Internet, and we will fight this crime in new ways.”
Trestan also spearheaded a broad coalition of advocates including physicians, school officials, police, and district attorneys that helped spur the passage of the Massachusetts antibullying bill in 2010.
“The antibullying law was successful because everybody realized it affected them,” he said. “It’s a model for all of our work in building coalitions against bigotry and hatred.”
Robbins said that while that legislation was being signed, “Trestan was already thinking about the actual impact it would have and how to ensure compliance. That really makes him somebody special.”
Trestan said his office will work closely with law enforcement to provide counterterrorism training and education about extremist groups. Many first responders on April 15, Trestan said, had counterterrorism training with the ADL and the Israeli national police.
“The Anti-Defamation League does great work in making sure everyone in Boston, and the nation, has a voice,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “We know [Trestan will] continue to build on his proven track record as a passionate defender of civil rights.”