After four and a half years as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Connecticut office, Gary Jones is set to leave his post in December.
By Cindy Mindell
HAMDEN – After four and a half years as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Connecticut office, Gary Jones is stepping down in December.
Jones was an active member of the ADL Connecticut regional board since 1988, Jones served as region board chair from 2000 to 2002. Before taking the leadership position in May 2010, he was chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Hartford and the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT). He has held lay leadership positions with the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, Hebrew Home and Hospital, and the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce.
A resident of West Hartford, Jones left a private law practice to head the ADL regional office. He first became involved with the organization 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.”
When longtime Connecticut Region director David Waren left to become ADL’s national director of education, he and other Connecticut ADL senior staff and board members encouraged Jones to apply for the vacancy.
“It was a bit of a leap of faith to leave my law practice,” Jones recalls. “However, I was very committed to ADL in Connecticut and had a great deal of respect for ADL’s Connecticut professional staff and the Connecticut Regional Board, which was led by Marsha Moses, a good friend and a great leader.”
Jones accepted the appointment. “I also believed that, if I did not take the leap of faith, I would have regretted it later,” he says. “And I honestly thought that I could help ADL to continue to grow in Connecticut and expand our impact.”
As executive director, Jones has focused on ADL’s primary work as a statewide provider of and partner in educational programming and services that address bigotry and bullying. He was called in to help craft responses to anti-Semitic and racist incidents throughout the state, most recently at Wilton High School and at West Hartford’s Hall High School.
The latter case involved swastika graffiti found on a classroom wall and racist chants exchanged at a Hall-hosted soccer game against Conard High School (West Hartford). This week, the principals of Hall and Conard announced a new partnership with ADL to bring anti-racism educational initiatives to the two schools.
“Gary has been a personal friend, wonderful guy, great collaborator with the Jewish community in Connecticut,” says Bob Fishman, executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT). “A lot of people know the name ‘ADL,’ but to know what it does here in Connecticut is very important, meaningful, and productive. Gary’s done a really good job in that regard, carrying the ADL with a very positive, forward-thinking, and effective reputation.”
In addition to working with Fishman in the state legislative arena and in response to anti-Israel activity on Connecticut’s college campuses, Jones joined forces with Fishman and leaders of the two Jewish Community Relations Councils in the state – Greater Hartford and Greater New Haven – to address other matters that raised concern in the Jewish community. The four organizations are working with University of Hartford administration to address an anti-Israel interviewer at the campus radio station, and with Bishop Ian T. Douglas of the Episcopal Church of Connecticut to strengthen relations between the Jewish and Episcopal communities in the wake of a controversial letter by Rev. Bruce Shipman published in the New York Times.
“I’m very sad that Gary is leaving”, says Steven Friedlander, CEO of UJA/Federation Westport Weston Wilton Norwalk and Eastern Fairfield County. “He is a valuable colleague who was always personally involved in whatever challenge arose. He stayed with the challenge until there was positive closure.”
When he took the job, Jones had no timeframe in mind, but planned to stay for at least two years. Over the last six months, he began to think about other professional opportunities. So as not to compromise his performance and effectiveness at ADL, he decided to give the organization a long lead time to find a replacement, and announced his decision to the regional board last month.
In a joint statement announcing Jones’s departure, Connecticut Regional Board Chair Mitch Weseley and Associate National Director of Regional Operations Bob Wolfson wrote, “[Gary’s] contribution to ADL and its mission has been lifelong and in a word, simply extraordinary.… During [his] tenure as regional director, ADL’s reach and impact on Connecticut continued to grow to unprecedented heights. We will miss Gary’s passionate and persuasive representation of ADL’s values, his effectiveness in carrying out our mission and his genuine devotion to ADL’s terrific staff, its unparalleled lay leaders and the various constituencies ADL is privileged to serve.”
Current board members and former board chairs Joel Kaye of Greenwich and Marsha Moses of Milford also weighed in on Jones’s legacy.
“Gary has been an invaluable member of the ADL family for a couple of decades, first as a lay leader – and even in an organization blessed with our very deep bench of extraordinary lay leadership, Gary has always been outstanding – and then as our professional director,” says Kaye. “With clear-eyed vision and an endearing personality that makes him a joy to work with, Gary has been a key person in so many of ADL’s initiatives. Just to name a few – and this does not even scratch the surface – he represented our board on the first-ever Connecticut ADL interfaith clergy mission to Israel; he has been an outspoken advocate for civil rights, whether it was regarding police discrimination against the Latino community in East Haven, or in testifying before the state legislature on anti-bullying bills, or helping to rectify religious display discrimination by a condominium board. I could go on. On more than one policy matter, I have arrived at a meeting with one position, only to be gently persuaded by Gary’s well-reasoned and informed argument, to come away on the other side. This is no small matter in an era where the art of persuasion seems nearly lost…In addition to passionate belief backed by facts and reason, I think that kind of persuasiveness depends largely on being consistently good-natured, rightly motivated, and unconditionally trustworthy, and I’m quite confident that if you look up those characteristics in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Gary Jones!”
Moses echoes Kaye and adds, “Gary, as the ADL Connecticut executive director, has shown depth of knowledge, passion, and leadership. In any forum where he speaks on behalf of ADL, we know that the ADL perspective will be well-articulated and well-represented. His commitment to the ADL mission has been unqualified and we have been extraordinarily fortunate to have had Gary as Connecticut’s executive director. To say that he will be missed is an understatement.”
Jones says that the ADL directorship provided an opportunity to combine his wide experience as an attorney and lay leader in a single organization that he has long been dedicated to. “More importantly, it gave me the opportunity to devote my entire working time to trying to do good,” he says. “That is a great blessing, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity. I have also found that I am good at this work, and have a wide variety of tools to help important organizations advance their missions. That is another great blessing. Finally, as a lay leader in ADL, I developed connections with many wonderful Jewish, civil rights, political, and law-enforcement leaders across the state.”
During Jones’s tenure, ADL Connecticut was recognized publicly for its work, selected twice among the Ledger’s annual “Movers and Shakers” – Jones himself in 2011, and ADL’s “Confronting Anti-Semitism” coordinator and Teen Trainers in 2012. The following year, the regional office received the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for the State of Connecticut.
“I have truly enjoyed my work with ADL and I think I helped [the organization] accomplish what I had hoped,” he says. “It has prepared me to be a good spokesperson for causes in which I believe. In addition, my experience working collaboratively and successfully both with lay leaders and professional staff will certainly be of value to such an organization. Finally, the experience I gained in responding to all sorts of crisis scenarios on behalf of ADL is hard to duplicate.”
Jones will continue to support ADL’s work in Connecticut. “I am too close to our professional staff and lay leaders for that relationship to end,” he says. He hopes to find a senior position in another mission-based organization.
Colleagues express that same aspiration. “Gary Jones is just one of those professionals who earns more and more respect with each interaction,” says Pam Ehrenkranz, CEO of UJA Greenwich. “One of the things I appreciate most about him is that no matter which issue I brought to him from our community or beyond, he always treats each situation with thoughtful analysis and follows up with appropriate action. I am sorry he is leaving ADL but very much hoping he will stay in the Jewish not-for-profit world so we can continue to work together.”