You Should Know… Shelby Gadol

Courtesy of the Gadol Family

Shelby Gadol, 28, grew up in Dallas and attended a Jewish day school all the way through high school. By the time she graduated, she was over Judaism, she says.

As she got ready to enter Tulane University, Gadol felt like she wanted to study something that wasn’t Judaism, so she tried some other options, and it brought her back to the Jewish world.

Today, Gadol is an assistant regional director at the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington, D.C., office.

What brought you back to the Jewish world when you were at Tulane?

My senior year of high school I did March of the Living. That was really impactful, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

Then at Tulane I took about everything you could imagine. Some [classes] were on Jewish studies. One was on the Holocaust through film and literature. I slowly realized this is what I’m passionate about. I declared [a Jewish Studies major] in my junior year of college and took it from there.

Being so young, I was 18 when I went on that trip, I don’t think it settled how important and meaningful it was. I couldn’t ignore all this Jewish history I learned through day school. A lot of it had to do with the survivors. I was lucky to go on a trip with Max Glauben, one of the founders of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. I just remembered his story and the stories of other survivors. I realized not everyone is going to be this lucky to hear these stories.

There was one survivor who came back for the first time and just lost it. Seeing the impact of them, that’s not something you can forget.

And at Tulane they really encourage you to take different classes. If I hadn’t done that, I’d always have been like, “Why didn’t I take this class or this other class?” I had to explore it. When you grow up with something all your life it’s all you know. Sometimes it takes getting away from it to bring you back.

You went from Tulane to Columbia University for your master’s in Jewish studies. What made you decide to keep studying Judaism?

Junior-senior year, everyone’s looking at internships and applying to jobs. I was like, “I love studying Jewish history. I don’t know nearly enough.”

I focused my discipline in Holocaust history. But the peripherals. I did a lot of work on hidden children. Christian-Jewish relations. Pre and post war. I was trying to get away from things I already knew and learn other things. I wrote my thesis on Polish survivors’ experiences and their feelings toward non-Jews right after the war. I came into it thinking a lot of survivors would be so bitter; they’d blame their neighbors. They forgave so many of them. I think that’s such a beautiful testament to these survivors.

I wrote that in the end. If they can forgive, what can we do?

Then you went on to the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. What did you do there?

What really attracted me was I heard they were building a new museum, and larger, and adding human rights to the name. You can’t fight one hate without fighting the others.

I was the marketing coordinator. We have to take the lessons from the Holocaust and put them on other genocides and human rights violations in our country. The more I worked there, the more I felt like I needed to take a more active role in fighting antisemitism. I was seeing it on social media, on our posts and on the news.

Is that what brought you to the ADL?

My old rabbi [Adam Raskin of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac] who taught me in sixth grade in Dallas was like, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I’d love to work for the ADL.” He’s like, “Would you move? I know the regional director in D.C. Let me see if they have any openings.” I applied and a month or so later I moved to D.C.

There’s so much opportunity here. There’s the center on extremism. There’s the center on technology and society. There’s the center on antisemitic research. I’m learning so much.

[email protected]

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here