HAMDEN — Business law was his forte for more than 20 years. But in May, Gary Jones turned his focus to fighting injustice full time.
After volunteering with the Anti-Defamation League for more than two decades, Jones has been named as the Connecticut Regional Director. Last month he left his job with Levy & Droney P.C. to take on his new position with the ADL.
Since 1913 the ADL’s mission has been to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all people. Jones explained that this means the ADL is dedicated to standing up against racial, religious and sexual prejudices. Training people throughout Connecticut about diversity and working with students and teachers throughout the state are some of the many ways ADL fights bias.
“Things happen and you need people to stand up for you,” Jones said.
“I believe people aren’t born to hate or fear,” he said. “You have to be taught. And, you have to believe that appreciation and tolerance can be taught too.”
He said the religious community can help ADL with its mission.
For the past two years the human rights organization has sponsored interfaith missions to Israel and one of Jones’s goals as director is to continue spurring an interfaith dialogue across the state.
“People across faith gaps can help each other, can support each other,” he said.
Jones has already been a guest speaker at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield and said he’s eager to find more ways to get involved with the religious community.
Supporting and honoring those who are different than you is how defamation is conquered, he said.
“You’re not supposed to feel isolated, or alone, or a victim because of what race, ethnicity or what religion you belong to. You’re supposed to be respected and appreciated,” he said.
Though he had heard of the Ant-Defamation League before, Jones became enchanted with its mission in 1987 when he was invited by a friend to hear a former skinhead speak about the dangers of hatred. Jones and his family hadn’t lived in Connecticut long and he was trying to find ways to get involved with the Jewish community.
He said ADL felt like home to him because the organization was showing how people can learn from the bad behaviors of others.
“I felt like this is a place where the Jewish values and American ideals come together so I became a long term, very dedicated volunteer,” Jones said.
When he was asked to apply for the director of the Connecticut ADL, he said it was a no-brainer.
Because change in leadership can sometimes be detrimental to an organization, Jones has spent his first month as director trying to make the transition smooth. Since he has a close relationship with the small staff, he said he’s depended on them to show him the ropes. David Warren, who served as the Connecticut regional director for 10 years, will now be serving in the national ADL office. However, he is temporarily working in the Hamden office on Fridays, which Jones said also helps smooth the transition.
Robert Fishman, executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, said Jones is the perfect person to lead the ADL.
“Gary has been a board member for JFACT and very effective member, and with all the other work he’s done in the community as a lay leader, to move him into this position is very positive,” he said.
Marsha Moses, ADL’s Connecticut regional board chair agreed.
“Under Gary’s stewardship, ADL will continue to effectively fight hate, build hope and safeguard liberty throughout the state, and will flourish in its crucial work building bridges of understanding among the people and communities of Connecticut. We look forward to a seamless transition and to the great success we know Gary will bring to his role as regional director.”
You can find out more information on the Connecticut Anti-Defamation League here.
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