Assistant Director, International Jewish Affairs | American Jewish Committee (AJC)
What do you do?
My title is Assistant Director for International Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Committee (AJC). I work with my Director, Rabbi Andrew Baker, in support of one of AJC’s programmatic priorities: combatting global anti-Semitism. My department is responsible for maintaining AJC’s network of relationships with international Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora and addressing their needs and concerns, as well as programming and seminars for non-Jewish people to learn about American Jewish life and the role of civil society in democracy. For example, right now I’m planning a seminar for German political aides from the Christian Democratic Union (Angela Merkel’s party), visiting the U.S. to learn about American Jewish life and the experiences and priorities of our community. On this seminar we’ll meet with Holocaust survivors and visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, make visits to Capitol Hill and the State Department, and meet with prominent scholars and members of the Jewish community in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston.
Even though it’s not part of my official job description, over the past year I have incorporated my passion for diplomacy into my role. AJC’s work in Washington encompasses promoting strong American leadership and a strong transatlantic relationship, which allows me to maintain contacts with embassies in DC and put diplomatic engagement under my portfolio. It’s an amazing time to be a U.S. advocate because even when the Administration is questioning the importance of international institutions (such as NATO), AJC is respected for being a policy-driven organization. I feel fortunate because, while I don’t dictate AJC’s policies, they align very closely with my values and I’m able to explore the world of diplomacy from the comfort of my city.
What did you study, and why did you choose that subject?
I have always been interested in history and international studies. My grandmother is Swedish, but I grew up in South Florida and it didn’t feel like I grew up somewhere that had a rich history or culture – it didn’t feel cosmopolitan. I knew I wanted to attend college in a big city, where people speak different languages and diversity is celebrated, and I loved how close GW was to downtown which would allow me to have internships around my class schedule.
I studied at GW’s Elliot School of International Affairs where I focused on conflict resolution and geopolitics. For me, international affairs is the perfect marriage of history, culture, and current affairs, which are all subject areas I love to explore. I’m also interested in how personal narratives affect people’s version of the truth, which I think is why I became so interested in the Middle East. I studied abroad for a semester at Tel Aviv University, which was invaluable for my education of Israeli politics and the region.
How much do today’s politics affect your daily job?
It does affect my daily job, but because I’m at an non-governmental organization (NGO) it doesn’t have a direct impact. As a non-profit our funding isn’t really affected, but the Administration’s changes to policies have ripple effects on the work that I’m doing.
Anti-semitism seems to be resurging around the world, how is AJC working to combat this trend?
It is a scary thing to see. This trend towards populism and the resurgence of the right has allowed people who are xenophobic to feel more emboldened to voice their views. People aren’t becoming more anti-Semitic, but they feel more comfortable espousing their anti-Semitic vitriol.
AJC as an agency is advocating for adoption of the “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism,” an educational tool for civil society monitors, for educators, and for police, prosecutors, and judges, to expand what is typically considered anti-Semitism, beyond the prejudice and hatred of Jewish people, to include how conspiracy theories about Jews, Holocaust denial or distortion, or the demonization of the State of Israel, are anti-Semitic. AJC works on this by working with the highest levels of government around the world to affect policy change, by putting on conferences and seminars on Jewish community concerns and on combating global anti-Semitism, and through our grassroots campaigns conducted by our 22 regional offices around the U.S. and 11 overseas postings around the world. I feel strongly that combatting anti-Semitism is important for Jewish people to feel secure, especially in Europe because that is where my family comes from.
What is one thing you have learned since graduation that you wish you had known when you started your career?
As amazing as the work is, and as important as it feels, no work is going to be more important than the work you do on yourself. When anxiety is high because a panelist backs out, or a brochure did not print, you have to remember it’s not the end of the world. In the last few years there have been more discussions on self-care which I believe would have helped me a lot in college.
From a professional standpoint, I recommend having several news subscriptions to keep up-to-date on current events. Also, be prepared for job interviews: do research on their programs, their positions, their language.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career thus far?
My experience is not typical for most junior staff at AJC, and I’m lucky to feel very seen at my job and have my passion reflected in my work. I have to nitpick to find a true challenge, but I will say that I don’t see enough women in leadership positions. While I can identify mentors in my field, I wish there were more.
What are you proudest of having achieved?
I recently spoke on a State Department panel hosted by the Office of International Religious Freedom, within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL/IRF). I tease myself that I was the “token young woman” of this panel, because I didn’t feel like someone who should speak in an expert way on combatting anti-semitism in Europe, but it was a huge honor to represent AJC.
Anything you would like to share with our readers?
I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done with Jewish Women International (JWI), an organization that works to empower women and girls so they can thrive in healthy relationships, control their financial futures, and realize the full potential of their personal strength. I’ve spent the last two years as a member of the DC Board, and until last month was President of the Board. Because I’m passionate about the mission of this organization. I wanted to help create programming that was social, but also impactful. This experience re-affirmed for me why I love advocacy, because it helped me realize I can make an impact and get others involved as well.