Leah is founder and director of The Compassionate Listening Project. She is internationally recognized as a leader in Jewish-Palestinian reconciliation. She has led numerous training delegations to Israel and Palestine, as well as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon; she speaks and writes about Middle East peace-building, and has produced documentaries about the conflict, including Children of Abraham and Crossing the Lines. In 2002, she co-founded the Jewish-German Compassionate Listening Project. Her work has been profiled in numerous books and articles, including Gary Zukav’s Soul Stories, and Peace, Justice and Jews: Reclaiming Our Tradition. Leah is a 2003 recipient of the Yoga Journal’s Karma Yoga Award. She holds a masters degree in Public Policy from the University of Washington.
During my last year at HSU, I studied abroad at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, pursuing my passion for languages and Middle East politics. It was an intense year that brought me face to face with life and death issues in ways I could never have imagined from my quiet life on the redwood coast. Israel invaded Lebanon the week I arrived and some of my classmates never came home from the front. I was fortunate to have courses taught by Israeli political leaders and historians, and I became active in Jewish-Palestinian reconciliation efforts – a path that I’ve been on ever since.
After graduating from HSU, I completed four years of graduate work at the University of Washington. I was generously supported with Foreign Language Area Studies fellowships (federal government grants) for Arabic language study.
I received an internship to work in the Political Department of the U.S. Embassy, in Cairo, Egypt, but made the difficult decision to turn it down. I had always worked at the grassroots level as a community activist, beginning with my student days at HSU, and was very drawn to human rights work.
I put my Public Administration skills to work for County government in Seattle for several years as a recycling planner, until I mustered up my courage and founded a non-profit organization called Mid-East Citizen Diplomacy. I brought American citizens to Israel and Palestine for cultural immersion programs and to meet people on all sides of the conflict.
Eventually, my work began to focus primarily on conflict resolution and reconciliation and the organization evolved into “The Compassionate Listening Project.” I, along with our team of trainers, now teach Compassionate Listening as a tool for conflict resolution and peace-building all over the world – in schools, organizations, congregations, mediation centers, and even to elected officials.
I’ve produced four films and we are respected as one of the oldest Citizen Diplomacy organizations working in Israel and Palestine.
I feel excited to work on the front lines of peace-building and to be introducing new models that are helping people all over the world – from families to peace leaders. Some of my most memorable work has been Jewish-German reconciliation – working with children and grandchildren of both victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust.
I arrived at HSU in 1977 and instantly fell in love with the college, the land and the people. My deep affection continues to this day; Humboldt County remains one of my favorite places to visit.