By Cindy Mindell
Gary Jones of West Hartford, an active member of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Connecticut regional board since 1988, has been appointed the organization’s regional director. Jones takes over the top spot from David Waren who, after 10 years at ADL Connecticut, has been promoted to serve as ADL’s national director of education in New York. Waren began his new position in March.
A West Hartford-based private-practice attorney, Jones served as ADL Connecticut region board chair from 2000 to 2002. He is currently chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Hartford and the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT), and has been in lay leadership positions with the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, Hebrew Home and Hospital, and the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce.
The Connecticut office, based in Hamden, is one of 28 regional offices throughout the U.S., all coordinated by the national office in New York City.
Jones, 55, first became involved with ADL in the mid-’80s, when he attended a program featuring a former skinhead who had become an FBI informant. “I learned that in ADL, you find the confluence of Jewish values and American ideals – freedom, protection of civil liberties, and respect for minorities and minority rights,” Jones says. “We’re all in the same boat and if some are suffering from bigotry and intolerance, we all suffer as a society.”
Jones became chair of the ADL Connecticut board in 2000, when David Waren was named regional director. At the same time, the peace efforts of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Pres. Bill Clinton were thwarted by PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat, who left the negotiating table in favor of terrorist acts. Jones was chair during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.
“Both events were formative in my understanding of the world we live in,” he says. “I recognized that Israel wasn’t likely to have the secure and just peace it wanted, quickly.” As a result, Jones became more involved in Israel advocacy work.
Waren asked Jones to consider applying for the director’s position several months ago, after consulting with senior staff.
“I’ve been a lawyer my whole professional career and I enjoy it,” Jones says. “But I thought that if I didn’t apply for the position, I might end up second-guessing myself about the opportunity to work with a great group of people and help an organization I’ve been devoted to for a long time.”
Jones will focus on ADL’s primary work as a statewide provider of and partner in educational programming and services that address bigotry and bullying. “Our role will become more important over time because people are hearing more malicious and hateful rhetoric, and antisemitism is expressed more openly and comfortably,” he says. “Our job is to prepare people to address that phenomenon and to make sure that our college-campus organizations and our children have a better background in understanding the Jewish people and Israel. If you can teach people to hate, you can teach them to respect and be considerate of each other.”
“What ADL does is, unfortunately, more important now than when I first joined the organization,” he says. “There are many more threats to Jews and others by virtue of a stronger global extremist presence. If I can be helpful through ADL and to the state of Connecticut in exposing these incidents and continuing our educational programs, that will be a good use of my time.”