Shalem College
November 11, 2018

AIPAC Veteran Dr. Sharon Goldman Joins Leadership of Shalem College

AIPAC Veteran Dr. Sharon Goldman Joins Leadership of Shalem College
Dr. Sharon Goldman, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Shalem College.

When Dr. Sharon Goldman, Shalem’s new vice president for strategic initiatives, describes the role Israel has played in her life, she laughs that it sounds more like a passionate love affair than a steady relationship. “In 2006 I had a deeply fulfilling job in American academia and every reason to believe I’d be doing the same thing for the foreseeable future. But then the Second Lebanon War broke out,” she explains. “It upended my world. The pull to do something concrete to help Israel, to be more involved and make a difference on its behalf, was irresistible. I was swept up and have never lost that burning sense of purpose.”

For Goldman, who earned her doctorate in political science from Yale, the result of that change of course twelve years ago was a position in AIPAC’s Northeast regional office. There, she exchanged texts by Plato, Machiavelli, and Martin Luther King for handbooks on grassroots organizing and political engagement. She explains that, on a fundamental level, she was still serving as an educator: “Instead of teaching college students political philosophy, I was now teaching activists how to mobilize, and briefing political candidates on relevant policy concerns.” Goldman moved up the AIPAC ladder, adding business development, public relations, and political strategizing to her growing list of accomplishments. Eventually, in 2016, she was appointed Deputy Regional Director for the Northeast Region, AIPAC’s largest regional office.

Despite her successful career, when her youngest child graduated high school this past year, Goldman didn’t hesitate to take her support for Israel to a new level: In July, she made Aliya. In doing so, she was reuniting with her older daughter, who had already been serving as a lone soldier and commander at the IDF’s base for at-risk youth, Havat Hashomer.

Why was AIPAC the answer to your desire to play a more supportive role for Israel?

During the Second Lebanon War, I watched as the whole world condemned Israel—save for one country, the United States. I wanted to understand why that was, and the more I looked into it, the more convinced I became that the ‘unbreakable bond’ between the two countries could be attributed as much to the efforts of America’s pro-Israel movement as to the core values the two countries share. Since the organization at the forefront of that movement is AIPAC, I felt that it was the best home for me, as both an ardent American patriot and a passionate Zionist.

So was joining Shalem an extension of your work for AIPAC, or a departure from it?

I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to strengthening Israel. When I lived in America and worked for AIPAC, that meant promoting foreign policies that both appreciate Israel’s security concerns and ensure its protection. Now that I’m in Israel, I can work to strengthen the country from the inside. By being a member of Shalem’s leadership, I’m addressing internal threats, the ones that, if left unaddressed, will undermine the founding aspirations of the state and the character required for its sustenance and survival.

What is your role at Shalem, exactly?

I’m glad you asked that question. I’ll be wearing a few different hats, one of which will take me back to the classroom—which I couldn’t be happier about. I’m currently designing a curriculum for a semester-long course on American-Israeli relations, with an emphasis on the role Jewish Americans have played in the sometimes fraught but always tenacious partnership. The idea behind this course, which I will also be teaching, is that since many of the decisions that emerge from the American political process have a significant impact on the region, on Israel, and on the American-Israeli relationship, Israel’s leading citizens need to have a foundational knowledge of that process.

At the same time, I’ll also be working to build a forum with our closest partners in Israel and America. In this role, I’ll be harnessing much of my experience at AIPAC toward the creation and development of a cohesive group of investors who will work with Shalem’s leadership to explore ways to leverage our core strengths, with the aim of multiplying our impact on Israeli society.

That should keep you busy.

I like busy; otherwise I get bored. I also get to work on other strategic and educational concerns. I came to Shalem largely because of the challenge its leadership presented to me: help us transform the college from an educational start-up to a long-standing, established institution. I look forward to participating in strategic conversations about Shalem’s future. What are new opportunities for growth? Where should we invest resources now, so that we see real, meaningful payoffs in the future? What are the programs and courses that train leaders for Israel, and what are the activities that contribute to and impact Israeli society now? It’s incredibly exciting to be part of this kind of enterprise. It’s nation building 2.0.