Anita Gray, who served most recently as director of development and past regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for six years, retired Jan. 15, excited to start her next chapter of life.
“I think I care an awful lot about this organization and in today’s environment, if you’re a Jewish professional, the best place to be is at the ADL fighting all this hate and growing anti-Semitism in the world,” Gray said. “As I approached my 70th birthday, I started thinking, ‘Nobody does this work at age 70. You ought to consider stepping down.’”
Despite loving the work she was doing, Gray refused to leave until she found a suitable replacement. When she met James Pasch, she said she knew she had found the perfect person to lead the regional office, which is responsible for Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and the western half of Pennsylvania.
“When you love an organization as much as I love the ADL, you don’t just step away from it and say, ‘Bye now, gotta go,’” said Gray, 71, of Beachwood, a suburb of Cleveland. “That’s not the way it works. If you care about something, you want to leave it in capable hands. And James has hands that are ultra capable, more capable than mine. He’ll take this and build it, and he’s well on the way to doing that.”
After she stepped down as regional director in 2018, Gray and Pasch worked together so that he’d understand the position and how to run ADL.
“Anita has placed this office and this region in a position for us to be successful for years to come,” Pasch said. “She has been immensely helpful in introducing me to people and leaders throughout the region and advising me on areas of improvement as we move forward.
“I think more than anything, she leaves behind a legacy of caring about people. If you ask anybody about Anita, the first thing that comes to my mind is that she cares and she wants to help.”
After stepping down as regional director, Gray took on the director of development position and decided she would officially retire close to board chair David Malik’s retiring date, as the two became friends during their four years working together.
“She was essentially the glue that held the ADL and Cleveland together at a time when people didn’t pay much attention to anti-Semitism,” said Malik, whose term ends in February. “She had a vision to make the ADL a part of this community, and I think she succeeded.”
Gray looks forward to a world of retirement, from sleeping in past 6:30 a.m. and going to Rome to “do a little jig under the Arch of Titus where it says ‘Jews are captive,’” she said.
“I’d like to figure out who I am when I grow up,” she said. “The helping people aspect of my work is tremendously important to me, and I’m smart enough to know that there’s an awful lot of work still left to be done in the world. I’d like to find my new niche and figure out what that is.”