By Dan Aznoff, Jewish Sound Correspondent
The recently named regional director of the American Jewish Committee in Seattle will need cooperation from the Chamber of Commerce and the tourism bureau to implement the changes she hopes to bring to the advocacy organization.
Texas native Lila Pinksfeld took on the leadership role in the regional office in late July after a nationwide search to replace Wendy Rosen, who left late last year. Pinksfeld’s goal is to make Seattle an example of cooperation to diplomats and government officials.
“We need to increase the knowledge of what’s happening locally and nationally,” said Pinksfeld. “That will require support and collaboration from leaders in the business community who understand the issues and know the truth.”
Pinksfeld described the nationwide AJC organization and the Seattle chapter as being in a state of transition. She explained that organization has been an advocate for civil rights and immigration issues since 1906, but has needed to readjust its focus on issues that include the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, terrorism, and the possibility of a nuclear Iran, as well as advocacy for Israel.
“These are the same atrocities of the Middle Ages repeating themselves right now in Europe,” she said. “The only thing the experts can all agree on is that education is our best weapon against ignorance.”
Her plan to secure the safety of Israeli citizens and Jews around the world begins with opening an interfaith dialog with members of the Christian and Muslim communities.
“The regional offices cannot turn on a dime, but we can make a good start right here in Seattle as an example of what is possible,” said Pinksfeld. “We want Seattle to become a shining example to political and religious leaders of the walls that can be torn down through communications and education.”
The ambitious goals laid out by Pinksfeld made her the obvious choice to fill the executive director position in Seattle, according to Carlyn Steiner, president of the regional AJC board. Steiner said she was motivated to extend an offer to Pinksfeld during her initial interview.
“The AJC board wanted to distance ourselves from the Jewish Film Festival and get back to our mission of advocacy for Israel and Jews around the world,” Steiner said with conviction. “Lila is the right person to respond to the shifting threats against Jews around the world.”
The board president witnessed the renewed mistrust of Jews all across Europe during a recent trip to Paris and Belgium. According to an update released by the AJC in August, the organization has bolstered its presence in European cities to monitor the situation as it develops.
Steiner added that the AJC has also established an office in Kiev to respond to both Jewish and humanitarian needs in the Ukraine.
Pinksfeld explained that the AJC needs develop partnerships between parliaments in Europe and government officials in the U.S. to support the critical needs of Jews.
“The geographic position of Seattle and the base of industry in our community — high-tech, aerospace — puts our region in a position to become a leader in the fight to protect and support Jewish interests in Asia, in Europe and in Israel,” she said.
Before accepting her new role as regional director for the AJC, Pinksfeld served as the leadership management director for AIPAC in Houston and Seattle. She was responsible for educating the communities about the lobbying process and how it impacts the U.S.-Israel relationship.
In the three years between her two assignments for AIPAC, the NYU graduate lived on a kibbutz in Northern Israel, where she assisted the resource development department at Kinneret College to introduce itself to the English speaking world.
Pinksfeld’s development experience began at the Hillel at Tulane University in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She participated in the first birthright trip to Israel in 2000, which inspired her to earn her undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies and a master’s in history from Haifa University.
Lila’s husband was a member of the IDF when they met while waiting together at a bus station. The couple has two young children, ages 3 and 6, and belongs to Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle.