In the 1930s, leaders from different faiths refused to be bystanders in the face of hatred, intolerance, bigotry, fear and deeply embedded prejudice. These leaders came together nationally in response to organized campaigns of hatred spreading throughout America.

The Ku Klux Klan was active in most areas across the country, directing vicious bigotry towards Catholics, Jews, blacks and “foreigners.” The rise of Hitler and Nazism spawned hate groups targeting Jews at a time when anti-Semitism was already overt and pervasive. Al Smith was subjected to hatemongering when he ran for President because he was Catholic. Acknowledging the need for action, leaders including Teddy Roosevelt, Benjamin Cardozo, Jane Addams, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, created The National Conference for Christians and Jews – NCCJ. They mobilized citizens against the forces of violence, ignorance and exclusion, and contributed significantly to an expanded definition of “who is an American.”

In 1938 in Omaha, Nebraska, local leaders also refused to be bystanders. Otto Swanson, owner of the Nebraska Clothing Company, was visited in his office by a fellow businessman. He listened with growing disbelief and indignation while the man told him of the formation of an organization in Omaha which would promote a secret boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. The group would encourage patronage to the benefit of Swanson’s store because it was “Christian owned.”

After Swanson showed the visitor out, he sat back and considered what had just occurred. He is quoted as saying, “I couldn’t believe anything like that could happen, not in the United States and certainly not in Omaha.” Otto Swanson was committed to the cause of working toward human understanding…the element he knew would contribute to the end of religious and racial bigotry. Swanson, along with W. Dale Clark, banker; Milton Livingston, businessman; and Ralph Svoboda, attorney, joined with other leading citizens and established the Midlands NCCJ chapter, now known as Inclusive Communities.

Since 1938, this 501 (c)3 non-profit organization has served Nebraska, Iowa and the region by directing our efforts in the areas of youth, community and workplace human relations and leadership programming to achieve our mission of creating inclusive communities.


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