President's Column: Meet Ralph Grunewald

Meet Ralph Grunewald Edward A. Mallett President's Column January/February 2001 7 It is with pride and great optimism that I introduce your new NACDL Executive Director, Ralph E. Grunewald. His selection ends a nation-wide, six-month search for someone who can take us to greater national prominence a

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It is with pride and great optimism that I introduce your new NACDL Executive Director, Ralph E. Grunewald. His selection ends a nation-wide, six-month search for someone who can take us to greater national prominence and service to our members. Ralph Grunewald is that person.

Mr. Grunewald comes to us, most recently, from the 110,000-member American Jewish Committee, where he held the position of Assistant Executive Director for Policy and Program. For those of you not familiar with the AJC, founded in 1906, its purpose is to safeguard the welfare of Jews throughout the world and to strengthen pluralism as a defense against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. During WWII, it was one of the first organizations in the United States to bring Hitler's plan to exterminate European Jews to national attention.

Prior to working for the AJC, Ralph was with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for eleven years, first as the Deputy Director and Counsel for the museum's successful capital campaign, and then as Director of External Affairs. His duties included promoting the museum's goals abroad and liaison with public officials, the diplomatic community, and foreign governments. He also served in Jimmy Carter's White House. He is a graduate of the University of California at San Diego (summa cum laude) and both the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the National Law Center at George Washington University.

During the course of interviewing Ralph for the position, we discussed at some length how his experience working primarily with Jewish organizations would translate to working at NACDL. “My family was chased out of Germany by laws and by lawyers,” he commented. “We're on the same side. I have studied the NACDL. Your issues spoke to me, as a Jew.” He is particularly aware of the distinction between the law and justice, and the extent to which law can be used for purposes that may be technically legal but are morally corrupt. He got our attention, and ultimately, the job.

Ralph brings more than a sense of issues shared to the Association. He has “people skills.” He understands Washington and has helped educate people throughout the country, throughout the world, about their personal stake in eradicating hate, apathy and injustice.

My predecessors and I have often written on these pages about the need for better public understanding of criminal justice issues. I believe that Ralph will enrich our presentation of a strong, clear, national voice for reform on important issues: abolition of the death penalty, dramatic improvements in indigent defense, and challenges to the cold heartlessness of mandatory sentences. He, like us, understands that not to speak out, to be a bystander, is in the end to collude with those who seek to limit, if not eliminate, civil and eventually all rights for those people they don't like.

Our conversations touched, as was inevitable, on the death penalty. Philosophically, he agrees with the abolitionist stand, although understandably, he does not fault Israel for executing Adolph Eichmann for the genocidal murder of millions of Jews in the Nazi death camps and in ghettos. We can look forward to more lively discussions with Ralph on this and other topics in the future. It is different experiences, and compatible perspectives, which I think will make Ralph a tremendous asset to the Association. Tolerance and lively debate make for a healthy organization.

The first “official” event where you will have a chance to meet Ralph and his wife, Marilyn, is the midwinter meeting February 21 - 24 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Of course, I would urge you to attend anyway, but Ralph's appearance makes it even more important that you join us in welcoming him to the NACDL. After all, we want him to be as excited about coming to work for us as we are about having him onboard.

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Also in Las Vegas will be our newest Honorary Life Member, retiring Executive Director Stuart Statler. Because of Stuart's imagination and hard work, our membership has grown from 7500 to approximately 11,000, our administrative staff and office space have doubled and we have become  player in Congress and on the national scene. Many thanks to Stuart for his leadership over the past six years.

See you in Las Vegas! 

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