When the Anti-Defamation League’s Omaha office celebrates its 70th anniversary on Sunday, Sept 19, it will also celebrate two longtime board members for their dedicated advocacy work over the years.
Carol Bloch and David Gilinsky will be honored with the newly established “Spirit of Justice Award” during ADL-CRC: Strong at 70, a casual cocktail party planned for 4 to 6 p.m., in the front plaza (outdoors) of the Jewish Community Center.
According to ADL-CRC Regional Director Gary Nachman, the award is based on several criteria: to honor an individual or institution whose actions have embraced ADL’s mission of securing justice and fair treatment to all; to recognize those whose actions have improved the lives of, or given meaningful voice to, others; to honor those who have shown significant dedication, personal commitment and leadership in fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate, bigotry, and social injustice.
“Incredibly, Carol and David’s combined years of service to the ADL-CRC add up to 40 years,” Nachman said. “Whenever they’ve been needed, they have never failed to step up. I cannot think of any two people more deserving of this honor.”
Since the 1980s, Bloch has distinguished herself locally and nationally as a vital community activist for social justice, women’s reproductive rights, and civil rights. Working with the ADL-CRC came naturally, complementing her volunteer efforts with the National Council of Jewish Women, Planned Parenthood of Omaha-Council Bluffs, and the Nebraska Pro-Choice Coalition, among other organizations. In addition to the ADL-CRC, she currently sits on the boards of Nebraska Appleseed, and the Courts Matter Coalition of Nebraska, which she co-founded in 2009.
Bloch joined the ADL-CRC board in 2004, after receiving encouragement from then-regional director Bob Wolfson. She jumped in with both feet, becoming chair of the Nominating and Bylaws committees, as well as co-chair of the Civil Rights Committee, a position she continues to hold today. Her work with the latter has focused on the separation of religion and state, religious freedom, advancing voting rights, instituting fair immigration laws, and most recently, the Ruby Platt Allyship Initiative.
She has spent countless hours monitoring issues of discrimination, bias, and antisemitism, all in the name of raising public awareness.
“One of my priorities is education,” Bloch said. “I want people to learn about the issues, and then I want them to take the next step by contacting their representatives, writing letters to the editor, and getting involved. Even if our elected officials do not agree with us, they need to hear from us.”
She expressed gratitude to the local ADL-CRC staff for tackling a never-ending workload.
“Unfortunately, our work is never done,” she said. “With so many volatile issues currently before us, I see no ‘mission accomplished’ sign on the horizon. I take great pride in being associated with an organization that never resigns from its endeavor to create justice for all in our society.
“These dedicated staff members show up single day to educate students about bias, train teachers, and work with the local criminal justice system, all while addressing constant antisemitic incidents, racism, extremist threats and other crimes of hate. The challenges are endless.”
Ellie Batt, ADL-CRC board co-chairman, praised Carol’s decades-long dedication.
“Carol’s work on our board and the civil rights committee has been incalculable,” she said. “She has always been an ardent and steadfast advocate of social justice issues for both the Jewish and secular communities. She has been ceaseless in her work, a true galvanizing force.”
Gilinsky credited Ann Goldstein, of blessed memory, for getting him involved with the ADL-CRC.
In 1994, he had just completed the Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Omaha program. He recalled Ann (the director of Leadership Omaha at the time) saying to him, “‘So, what are you going to do now? You need to get involved on a local board. I’m on the board of the ADL. Come to a meeting with me.’
“She really challenged me to get involved in something I’m passionate about and to make a difference,” he said. “And here I am today! I am forever grateful for her leadership and influence.”
As a board member, Gilinsky has taken on a variety of leadership roles, including a recent stint as board chairman. His involvement in the Jewish community and greater Omaha community has included serving on the boards of the Jewish Federation, Temple Israel, the Jewish Federation Foundation, and CHAD (Community Health Agencies Drive).
His passion for ADL’s work has not wavered over the past 27 years.
“We live in world of fear and xenophobia, which has created tremendous divisiveness, and the ADL is actually doing something about it by attacking it from more than one angle,” Gilinsky said. “First, the ADL’s focus on promoting understanding and inclusiveness through education and dialogue is the key to healing the wounds in American society today. And, just as important to address, there is a fringe vocal minority which is constantly stoking the fires of hate. These groups end up influencing a much larger audience. There is simply nothing like the ADL’s Center on Extremism, which tracks these groups and aids law enforcement in limiting their influence and abilities worldwide.”
Lauding Gilinsky’s dedication, ADL-CRC board co-chairman Ron Giller noted that, “With his passion and sense of humor, David has always led the way in inspiring others to support the ADL-CRC and other important causes. He has served in multiple roles on the board – from chair of the Nominating and Finance committees to board chairman – and has made a significant contribution in each of those roles.”
Giller and Batt emphasized the tremendous spirit of generosity that guides both of the honorees in their endeavors, whether public or behind the scenes.
“Every board should be as lucky to have a David Gilinsky or a Carol Bloch,” Batt said.
The community is invited to raise a glass in honor of Bloch and Gilinsky during the Sept. 19 event. Tickets are $70, and may be purchased by visiting www.adl.omaha.org/70strong, or by contacting Pam Monsky at 402.334.6572, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ADL-CRC gratefully acknowledges the following sponsors of the anniversary celebration: The Norman and Frances Batt Family Fund; Bergman Incentives; Steve and Carol Bloch; Gary and Lisa Epstein; Paul and Sandy Epstein; Fraser Stryker Attorneys at Law; Jerry and Cookie Hoberman; Rich and Fran Juro; Howard and Gloria Kaslow; Carl and Zoë Riekes; the Special Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation; the Staenberg Family Foundation Anything Grant; and Aaron Weiner and Therese Vaughn.