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L.A. Attorney to Head Anti-Defamation League

July 02, 1986|RUSSELL CHANDLER | Times Religion Writer

Burton S. Levinson, a Los Angeles attorney who has been active in efforts to improve conditions for Soviet Jews, has been named national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the prominent Jewish human rights organization.

Levinson, 55, has been chairman of the Anti-Defamation League's National Executive Committee for the last four years and will serve a four-year term in his new post, succeeding Kenneth J. Bialkin of New York.

The stated purpose of the ADL, founded 73 years ago, is to "fight prejudice, bigotry and discrimination, seeking justice and fair treatment for all Americans."

The ADL is the nation's leading producer of educational materials on reducing prejudice. The organization also monitors extremist groups and their members, and works with courts and elected officials to protect civil rights.

Norman Eisen, the ADL's assistant director in Los Angeles, said the ADL was instrumental earlier this year in bringing about the arrest and prosecution of leaders of the neo-Nazi faction in the Northwest called the Order. The ADL also led a coalition of minority and women's organizations to protest the alleged discriminatory admission policies of the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles, according to Eisen.

Levinson said Tuesday during a telephone interview that if Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev comes to the United States for a summit meeting with President Reagan, the ADL "will use the occasion . . . to highlight . . . the fundamental disregard the Soviet Union has for the rights of Soviet Jews."

One of Levinson's major goals for the New York-based ADL is to develop a wider range of support.

"The ADL is an institution of American life . . . but it needs higher visibility and recognition and more understanding by the American public," he said.

The non-membership organization has 31 regional offices, including the Pacific Southwest headquarters office in Los Angeles, with additional offices in Orange County and San Diego. Staff salaries and programs are financed by contributions from individuals and businesses.

Levinson, a senior partner in the Beverly Hills law firm of Levinson & Lieberman Inc., has made frequent trips to the Soviet Union, as well as to Poland, West Germany, Romania and several Latin American countries to meet with Jewish community leaders and government officials.

Levinson has headed the ADL's committees for Latin American affairs, community service, and national development. In 1979 and 1980, he chaired the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, which works to secure the rights of Soviet Jews.

A vice president of the Jewish Federation-Council of Greater Los Angeles, Levinson is also an officer of the federation's Community Relations Committee. He is a member of the International Presidium for Soviet Jewry, the executive committee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the board of directors of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

A graduate of Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, Levinson has taught contract law at San Fernando Valley College of Law in Sepulveda, and served on the law trial advocacy faculty of Hastings College of Law at the University of California, San Francisco.

Levinson and his wife, Anita, live in the San Fernando Valley with their three children.

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