American Jewish World Service Names Rona Peligal Vice President for Development

Human Rights Expert to Lead Fundraising to Advance Human Rights and End Poverty

New York, NY – American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has appointed Rona Peligal, Ph.D., an expert in both human rights and fundraising, as its Vice President for Development, effective immediately. Peligal comes to AJWS, the leading Jewish international human rights and development organization, from Human Rights Watch (HRW), where she served as Deputy Director for Africa and, previously, as Deputy Director of Development and Outreach. Peligal’s combined experience in program development and fundraising makes her a particularly valuable addition to AJWS’s leadership.

AJWS, which has an annual operating budget of more than $60 million, is unique among American Jewish organizations in raising most of its funds from American Jewish donors and investing in human rights advocates of diverse backgrounds worldwide. AJWS supports more than 500 grantee organizations in 19 developing countries to advance the human rights of women and girls, LGBT people, indigenous communities, ethnic minorities and advocates for freedom and democracy.

“Rona’s passion for seeking justice, her expert knowledge of the challenges faced by people whose human rights are at risk in the developing world, and her extensive experience as a fundraiser for human rights make her an ideal ambassador for AJWS,” said AJWS President Ruth Messinger. “Rona’s tenacious work as an advocate for women’s human rights in East Africa and for the protection of natural resource rights in West Africa provides her with deep insights into the challenges and opportunities facing our grassroots grantees worldwide.”

“I joined AJWS because it selects the most promising local leaders and invests in their capacity to catalyze social change,” said Peligal. “AJWS’s grantees are people I have worked with, and they are the world’s best hope for enshrining dignity and fairness for all people.”

Peligal, who is Jewish, sees human rights advocacy as a natural extension of her background.

“I have always equated being Jewish with participating in efforts to create a more just world, and I like to say that I express my Judaism through my work,” Peligal added. “AJWS is a place that brings together the Jewish values with which I was raised: empathy, education, generosity and a commitment to justice for all people, regardless of identity.”

In addition to working for HRW, Peligal has consulted for the Open Society Foundations and has worked at The Feminist Press, the Rutgers University Foundation, and the Central New Jersey Home News. She holds a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in history from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia. For the past three years, Peligal has been an adjunct instructor of human rights and economic development at Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.

Peligal lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband, Aaron Brenner, who conducts research and advocacy for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, a labor union. They have two daughters.

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