5.30.14 Issue

by Liz Feldstern and Annette van de Kamp-Wright

What do we mean when we call someone successful? Often, we refer to financial success, being good at one’s job, climbing the ladder in one’s field until one can climb no more. But the true measure of success is the ability to do well, and subsequently spread good fortune to others. Not only working for one’s self and immediate family, but to truly make the world a better place. And when someone in our community is successful in that sense, we must recognize it.

On Thursday, May 22, Inclusive Communities, formerly known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, honored six people at their Humanitarian Dinner. Howard Kaslow received a  Lifetime Achievement Award, the Deryl and Ramona Hamann family and Annette and Paul Smith were presented with the Humanitarian Award, and Marcia Bredar received the Otto Swanson Spirit of Service Award.  Kevin Custard was given the Inclusive Communities’ Volunteer of the Year Award. Inclusive Communities also hosted Robert Edsel, author, founder and director of the Monuments Men Foundation, at the dinner.

It comes as no surprise to the Omaha Jewish community that Howard Kaslow would be chosen for such a prestigious award – and as the inaugural recipient to boot!

Howard grew up in Omaha and together with his wife, Gloria, has championed our community in more ways than we can write about. In the broader community he has generously given of his time and talents to organizations Boys Town, Fontenelle Forest, Bellevue University, the Omaha Community Foundation, Inclusive Communities and others.

More specifically for the Jewish community, Howard has fulfilled many leadership positions over the years, including secretary, vice-president, and president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha. He has chaired JFO search committees and the task force that led to the establishment of the JFO Foundation, as well as one of the planning committees when the JCC was moved from downtown to its present location more than 30 years ago. Since then, nearly every agency has benefitted from his support, advice and trusteeship. He helped create and has served on the Governance Council of the Institute for Holocaust Education since its inception. Howard has been a devoted and involved member of Beth El Synagogue. Once upon a time, he was even a BBYO Advisor.

Howard Kaslow has filled these many roles because of his intense passion to be a part of the Jewish community and to see it grow and prosper. He was also inspired by his parents, who set an example as generous and active members of this community. When Howard is asked to help and the cause is worthy – he does.

But according to Howard, there are two reasons in particular why he has been involved with numerous non-profit organizations over the years:

“First is the possibility that my active involvement might contribute to the success of an organization’s mission that is important to me. Second is the opportunity to become acquainted with people whom I might otherwise never have had the chance to know and to work with them for a common cause. Without the efforts of volunteers, the work of the many non-profit organizations that serve our community simply could not be accomplished. The community would be poorer for that loss, so I am glad to help where I can.”

When his name comes up in conversation, Omahans repeatedly describe him as “the consummate professional,” “the lawyers’ lawyer” and “a mensch”. His reputation is that of one who sets the highest standard for being a compassionate and trustworthy human being.

After working closely with him for just over a year, the IHE’s Executive Director Liz Feldstern shares, “Howard is one of those rare people who commands respect with his quiet strength as soon as you meet him, and continues to earn even more respect as you get to know him.”

So, while this “Lifetime Achievement” Award might seem a bit premature since Howard plans to continue his humanitarian roles in the community for many years to come – it is undoubtedly well deserved.

Inclusive Communities was established in 1938 by four local businessmen who refused to participate in a city-wide boycott of Jewish businesses. Instead, they formed an organization geared towards bringing the community together.  Ever since, Inclusive Communities has worked tirelessly to confront prejudice, bigotry and discrimination through educational programs and advocacy.