Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | September 23, 2022 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is pleased to announce that the recipients of this year’s Alex Odeh Award is Nadia and Jim Bettendorf. The Bettendorf’s were chosen with the blessing of the Odeh family, and will be recognized for their exceptional leadership, a dedication to public service, and unwavering commitment to ADC and the Arab American Community.
The award is presented annually in honor of Alex Odeh, the late civil rights hero who served as the ADC West Coast Director at the time of his assassination in 1985. Alex was a tireless Arab American peace activist who committed his life to protecting civil and human rights in the U.S. and abroad. As his wife, Norma Odeh, described him, “He was a support organizer with a unique talent for bringing people of all races and religions together to work side by side for the common good of all mankind.” Each year, ADC remembers Alex and honors his legacy with the presentation of the Award.
The Award will be presented at the Alex Odeh Memorial Gala, which will be held on the evening of Saturday October 8, 2022 in Anaheim, California. To register for the Gala, and learn more about the Conference, please click here.
About Nadia and Jim:
Nadia Bettendorf (née Saad) was born in Al Majdal, Gaza and moved to Jaffa in 1947 along with her three sisters and one brother. During the Nakba Nadia’s family sought refuge in her school, but were not allowed to return to their home following the cease-fire. They were able to find housing in Ajami, an area of the city designated only for Palestinians.
Nadia lived under Israeli martial law until 1960 when she graduated from high school. Since, at the time, Hebrew University did not accept Palestinian students, Nadia worked with the U.S. Embassy to obtain a scholarship in order to attend St. Catherine College, a private women’s college in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was while she attended St. Catherine that Nadia both met her future husband Jim, and developed a lifelong passion of talking to Americans about the Palestinian Nakba. She began by speaking on campus in classes and clubs, and eventually found herself speaking before local high schools and Rotary Clubs. After receiving her undergraduate degree, Nadia was accepted into a Masters program in the French Department of the University of Minnesota.
James (Jim) Bettendorf was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended Catholic Schools in St. Paul and was a student at the University of Minnesota when he met Nadia Saad. Jim joined a Medical Air Force Reserve unit while in college and served for six years in the United States, Europe, and Japan. While dating Nadia, Jim learned about the Palestinian Nakba both from her, and the many speakers that the Arab student group brought to the University of Minnesota including: Fayez Sayegh, the first Palestinian representative at the United Nations; James Abourezk, former Senator for South Dakota and founder of ADC; and Reform Rabbi Elmer Berger, former executive director of the American Council for Judaism, an anti-Zionist organization.
Nadia and Jim married in 1966 while she was teaching French at the University of Minnesota and working on her master’s degree. Following Nadia’s graduation, and the birth of their first son in 1970, the couple moved first to San Diego, then to Orange County.
In the early 1980’s, Nadia and Jim took advantage of the increase in Arab organizations, joining local, national, and international groups that promoted the civil and human rights of Arabs and Palestinians. Among those organizations was the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) which had recently appointed a close friend, Alex Odeh, as its West Coast director. When Alex was brutally assassinated by a pipe bomb, Nadia and Jim were devastated. Nadia turned her grief into good works, and became deeply involved in organizing dialogue groups between Arabs and Jews in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties. In 1990, her efforts were recognized by her alma mater who honored her with an Outstanding Alumni Award for her leadership.
Some of the other civic and humanitarian organizations that Nadia has served include: Access California Services, a social service organization for immigrants from the Middle East, Mexico, and Asia; American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace), an Israeli peace village comprised of Palestinian and Jewish families committed to mutual understanding; The Orange County Human Relations Commission for 15 years; and the Middle East Fellowship which preceded the Friends of Sabeel in Los Angeles, a group supporting peace and justice between Israel and the Palestinians.
October 7 – October 8, 2022
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