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May 26, 1989 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I PROFILE

Studio In Harvard Row Mall
i-e-1-2-7 6477 44

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aLiT-I

AIPAC 'Lady On Hill'
Is Passionate Activist

JAMES D. BESSER

Washington Correspondent

n the largely male pre-
serve of Capitol Hill,
Ester Kurz has already
carved out an important
niche for herself.
Kurz, the new legislative
director for the American
Israel Public Affairs Commit-
tee (AIPAC), has quickly

established her credentials as
a skilled and effective lob-
byist. Capitol Hill staffers at-
tribute her success to her
ability to distill complex
arguments down to
manageable nuggets; Kurz
herself suggests that a more
important factor is her in-
tensely personal commitment
to the cause she promotes in
the House and Senate office
buildings.
These qualities will be put
to the test in the next few
months, when a number of
issues critical to Israel's
security will be decided in
Congress against the back-
drop of Israel's continuing
problems in the occupied ter-
ritories — and the new and
uncertain environment
created by the • recent U.S.
decision to open contact with
the Palestine Liberation
Organization.
Contrary to the popular im-
age of lobbyists as "hired
guns," Kurz argues that her
passion for the pro-Israel
cause is a major factor in her
effectiveness.
"I don't see how you could
0"-
lobby for something you don't
feel strongly about," she said
in an interview. "For me, the
idealism is always there. I
think it's critical if you're
working an issue like this
that it be a passionate, per-
O
sonal tie; you work too hard
for it to be just a job."
Kurz came by her activism
honestly. She was born in Ita-
ly to World War II refugees;
her father worked for Jewish
Om" groups organizing the wave of
aliyah that followed the war.
As a young child, she starred
in an Italian feature movie;
today, she said, she
remembers almost nothing of
the language.
0'1After her family moved to
the United States, Kurz
developed a kind of schiz-
ophrenic life; rooted in this
0, country, but with a strong
orientation toward Israel.
After college in Israel and
graduate school at Harvard,
0° Kurz plunged into life on
Capitol Hill, working as a
staffer on both the Senate and
the House sides, including



stints with Sen. Arlen
Specter and the late Sen.
Jacob Javits, key congres-
sional supporters of Israel.
After seven years as assis-
tant to AIPAC's legislative
director Doug Bloomfield,
Kurz took over the top posi-
tion after Bloomfield's con-
troversial resignation in
December, the result of a long
internal struggle over turf
and strategy in the big lobby-
ing group.
As one of the top lobbyists
in Washington, Kurz says
that her gender affects her
work in different ways.
"Obviously, Congress is no
different from the rest of
American society," she said.
"When you come into any

'The level of
information in
Congress has not
kept pace with
changes in the
Middle East. It's
hard to compete
with thirty-second
sound bites:

professional situation, a
woman has to work harder
than a man."
At the same time, she sees
some advantages to being a
woman lobbyist. "Women
seem to have better 'people
skills,' " she said. "And that's
what lobbying is all about.
Also, as a woman you tend to
be remembered more than
your male counterparts."
Over and over again, Kurz
emphasizes the strong inter-
personal skills that she sees
as central to her lobbying
style. "Obviously, knowing
how to talk to different people
is critical. You have hundreds
of members, each of whom is
different; the hallmark of a
lobbyist is knowing what to
say to whom and when."
Another part of her job is
keeping a handle on a vast
amount of information. Effec-
tive lobbyists serve as a kind
of specialized information ser-
vice for congressional offices.
As a result, Kurz needs to
have an encyclopedic
knowledge of the numerous
bills that have the potential
to affect Israel — from the
dramatic, high-stakes foreign
aid legislation, to obscure
military programs tucked in-
to out-of-the-way bills.
Another major part of suc-
cessful lobbying is understan-
ding • the multi-layered
character of decision-making

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

27

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