The Jewish Federation of Omaha is delighted to announce Marty Ricks as the 2020 Humanitarian of the Year. This award is given to an individual who has performed an outstanding service to humanity. Marty will be honored at the JFO Awards Night and Annual Meeting, which will be held June 7 at 7 p.m. in the Alan J. Levine Performing Arts Theater. For those not able to join, a recording of the event will be available.
For 14 years, Marty Ricks served the Omaha Jewish Community with dedication, expertise and excellence as the Executive Director of the JFO Foundation, and then for four years as the Chief Development Officer of the JFO. Under his leadership, the Foundation and Federation flourished. Marty provided sound guidance and direction through uncertain economic times, and he always maintained a strong network on a national level, continually expanding his knowledge and proficiency in the field of financial resource development.
Marty was raised in Missouri Valley, IA, one of only two Jewish families in town. His family moved to Omaha in 1957 so he could attend Central High School. After graduating in 1961, he attended Creighton University, The University of Nebraska Omaha and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1965. In 1969, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Creighton. He then moved to California and became a CPA specializing in tax accounting. His commitment to the Omaha community is unique in that, as an Omaha native, he left to pursue his career, but later returned to Omaha. Between the two of them, Marty and Iris have four children. Paul Waitz lives in Chicago and works in residential real estate. Jennifer Zeidman lives in Portland, Oregon, with her spouse and child and works for Nike. Andrea Nevitt is a hair stylist and lives with her spouse and two children in Moorpark, California, and finally Marc Ricks, who is married, has three children and is the president and COO of Sidewalk Labs in New York.
Marty considers it bashert that he landed back in Omaha. “My sister Jan Schneiderman and my brother-in-law Les were out for dinner and ran into Sheldon Bernstein. He told them there was a position open and asked her to call me.”
The timing was good: Marty’s commute in Los Angeles at the time was 150 miles round-trip and it was wearing on him. He interviewed with Harley Schrager and about eight other board members of the JFO Foundation. After the interview, he was asked to wait in the lobby:
“It took about 10, 15 minutes,” Marty said, “before they came out and offered me the job.”
He didn’t accept right away, “because I had to discuss it with Iris. But inside, I was ecstatic!” Of course, the rest is history: Iris agreed to move to Omaha and readjusting to life in Nebraska wasn’t hard.
Marty says without any doubt, of his 46 years of post college employment, the last 18 in Omaha were the most gratifying. A bonus: “My mother was overwhelmed by our return.”
Marty’s commitment to the Jewish community extends beyond his professional responsibilities. He and his wife Iris have reached out to countless community members, newcomers and visitors, developing strong relationships and ties in Omaha and throughout the Jewish world.
As a member of Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks, California, Marty held the positions of president, vice president of finance, treasurer and financial secretary. An interesting side note: Craig Marantz was the student rabbi at Marty’s Temple in Thousand Oaks.
“One day,” Marty said, “I received a phone call from Temple Israel, asking me what my impression was of Rabbi Marantz. They ended up hiring him as assistant rabbi. It’s nice to think I had a small part in that.”
He was honored by Temple Adat Elohim as Person of the Year in 1993. Marty knows what it means to be both a fundraiser and a philanthropist. Marty Ricks is, very simply, a mensch.
“Marty teaches us what it means to be part of a community,” JFO CEO Alan Potash said. “He continues to be dedicated to the Omaha Jewish community as a professional and as a leader. He has always embraced the responsibility with passion and optimism. Marty also teaches us the values of philanthropy by giving unconditionally and helping people understand the value of giving. He exemplifies the Talmudic teaching by Rabbi Tarfon: ‘It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it; If you have studied much Torah, you shall be given much reward. Faithful is your employer to pay you the reward of your labor; And know that the grant of reward unto the righteous is in the age to come.’”
Marty continues to serve on the Foundation board and talks to its current Executive Director, Howard Epstein, all the time.
“The work was always so enjoyable for me,” he said. “It is so much more than a job. It also means I cannot give up being involved with philanthropy. The last 18 years have been the best of my career, because I just love the people in the Omaha Jewish community. I love their passion, the level of caring, how they step up every single time when there is a need.”
The Jewish Federation of Omaha congratulates Marty with this honor. Please join us June 7 to celebrate and say ‘thank you.’