Alan Ronkin has been serving the Jewish community for over 30 years, most recently as Regional Director for the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a role that he has filled for the past decade. At the AJC, Ronkin has worked tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for the Jewish community and combat the challenges of antisemitism and increasing political radicalization.
What are your responsibilities as Regional Director of the AJC?
Our region is one of 25 regional offices. We also have 14 offices in different countries overseas. My job covers Maryland, Virginia, D.C., and West Virginia. And my job is to make sure that AJC’s mission is achieved in our areas, which is to enhance the quality of Jewish life through positive contributions to the community, as well as combating antisemitism … For example, opening doors and opening opportunities for Israel, being an Israel advocacy organization … we’re constantly paying attention to Israel’s well-being and her position in the world and trying to build strong relationships to benefit Israel and her people. And finally, to pursue democratic values. We’re deeply concerned about polarization in our country. We’re deeply concerned about conspiracy theories and things that threaten to rip our country apart, and we want to be part of bridge-building and finding common ground that is strictly nonpartisan. We believe that in a nonpartisan space, we can really bring people together.
Can you tell me what has changed for you over the course of your 10 years at AJC?
I would say coming to Washington really opened my eyes to the reality of how things really work in government and in diplomatic circles. My previous experience had been in the community working with other ethnic and religious partners, media, building relationships, and I continue to do all that, but the level that AJC works on has impacted my understanding of how to really build strong relationships with the highest levels. And in so doing, we create community, which I think is really important.
What do you hope to achieve in the next 10 years with the AJC?
Well, I think one of the things that we’ve started to do now that I would really like to see increase is the collaboration between the Jewish organizations. I think it’s really important, particularly in this moment that we’re in, and I don’t think this moment is going to end for a while … Second, I’d like to see greater engagement of younger people. The next 10 years will represent a generational shift within our community, and we need to understand that people in their 20s and their 30s, even the high school students today, they’re no longer the leaders for tomorrow. They’re the leaders of today. We need to be able to adapt institutionally to the evolution of the community as we get younger and really tap into that energy to achieve our goals. I hope that we’ll see a decrease in antisemitism, both here and around the world. Honestly, if someone had asked me 10 years ago what it would be like to be in the United States in 2023, resurgence of antisemitism would not have been my answer. I hope that in 2033, we can talk about the falling rates of antisemitism, the return of civil discourse and the repair of our social fabric. I think we can make a difference. I think we can improve our community.
Can you tell me a little about yourself outside of work?
I grew up in a pretty traditional Jewish home and synagogue and things like that have always been at the center of my life. I’ve got a great family, a wonderful dog, and we like to be outside as much as we can. We like to travel and really just try to enjoy all the things that this community has to offer. There’s so much that we couldn’t possibly cover it at any one time. I think there are just endless possibilities of things to enjoy in our community, and I try to get out and enjoy as much of them as I possibly can.
What does it mean to you to have served the Jewish community for this long and why is it important?
I started in the community over 30 years [ago] and I have always viewed it as holy work. I have the opportunity and the privilege to work on behalf of the community to make the world better for Jewish people and for all people. That’s a tremendous privilege, and there’s a reason I’ve dedicated my life to it. I think everyone has their own way of making a difference in this story that we’re telling. My opportunity has been to do this professionally. I’ve worked with tremendous people along the way. Community volunteers, community leaders, elected officials, Holocaust survivors, young people. It’s been an enriching and energizing rare opportunity and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.