“It's slogging work. It's slow. It's hard… The only way to keep it going is to be part of a community that you trust and work well with…Otherwise the difficulty of actually making a change becomes overwhelming and you want to quit.”
August 21, 2015
Retired physician Carol Winograd has been a national leader of the pro-Israel/pro-peace organization J Street since 2010. She contributes her special talent for engagement with the political world and her passion for supporting women and grassroots peace initiatives to the movement.
It has been a long road to Winograd’s involvement. When she first traveled to Israel in 1959 with the Conservative Movement’s United Synagogue Youth (USY), she found the experience extraordinary. She loved praying three times a day and living near the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. On Shabbat, she would joyously sing and dance “in the streets” in an era before most Israelis had cars.
But the deep connection she felt to Israel was severed during the Six Day War. While everybody around her was ecstatic, Winograd thought, “This is going to be trouble.” Although this feeling was incongruent with her prior background, the Occupation upset Winograd so much that for decades she would have nothing to do with Israel. Now a retired MD and emerita professor at Stanford University, Winograd has returned to her early passion for Israel, presently serving as vice chair of the national board of directors of J Street.
Winograd’s slow reengagement began through a Jewish-Muslim-Palestinian dialogue group created in the wake of Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron. Subsequently, she took several trips to the region. Her decision to become a peace activist was sparked during a 2009 tour with the Middle East Peace and Democracy Circle of the Women Donors Network. Seeing the devastation in Gaza galvanized her, and in 2010, she joined J Street.
Winograd and her husband began their engagement with the political world as contributors to the Obama campaign in 2008. After having previously made “virtually no political donations,” they became very involved in the campaign as significant donors. It was a natural transition for them to join the political arm of J Street, in which campaign contributions play a significant strategic role.
A passion for Middle East peace and a talent for lobbying have made political activism Winograd’s encore career. “You're a natural at it," one Congress member told her. While Winograd finds the work to be demanding, she enjoys the conversations. She has especially taken pleasure in meeting other activists, many who are “hardworking mensches (people of integrity and honor) with good neshamas (souls).”
A highlight for Winograd occurred on a 2012 Women’s Congressional trip to Israel and Palestine jointly sponsored by the Women Donors Network and J Street. Participants included “six members of Congress, of whom five were African American.” After having lunch in Hebron at a Palestinian community center located next to a settlement, the group began walking back to their bus. The IDF stopped them in-route because they said the group did not have a permit. The group did have the requisite permit, but were nonetheless detained ) for nearly 30 minutes.
Winograd recalls that standing in front of the heavily barricaded Jewish settlement: “Two of the African American Congresswomen started singing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ so I joined them. It was a moment I will never forget.” They reminisced about the incident at a Senate fundraiser that Winograd held for trip participant Representative Donna Edwards (D-CA).
Winograd used her savvy lobbying skills at Nancy Pelosi’s 2015 Congressional gathering in Napa, California to encourage undecided Congress members to support the Iran nuclear agreement, a position strongly endorsed by J Street. “There were about a dozen undecided members of Congress. So, my agenda was to talk to every single one of them, which I did. I got no sense of his vote from one of the congressmen I talked to, and I have pretty good antennae.” To her surprise, the next day that Congress member publicly endorsed the agreement!
As a founding member, Winograd has also been very involved in the formation of the J Street Women's Leadership Forum (WLF). The group organizes presentations about UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and hosts conference calls with female Israeli political and grassroots leaders, building on the many connections in Israel each has developed. Currently they are tracking women peace builders in Israel and Palestine and publicizing their work among J Street members.
It’s going to be a “long haul” to the two-state solution, and Winograd recognizes that it may not happen in her lifetime. But “it has to come,” she believes, “or else there won't be an Israel.”
Winograd has advice for activists:
"It's slogging work. It's slow. It's hard…. The only way to keep it going is to be part of a community that you trust and work well with and to have somebody who is a confidant who will support you, both personally and economically, so that you're not out there alone…. You have to like the people you're working with, and you have to feel good about the way they work. You have to feel that they have integrity, that they are thinking well, that you are sharing a value system. Otherwise the difficulty of actually making a change becomes overwhelming and you want to quit, because you don't like to hit your head against the wall all the time. If you have a community that you can strategize with, gripe to, complain to, and laugh with, it makes it easier."
Carol Hutner Winograd was born in New Jersey in 1945. She attended Wellesley College for her undergraduate education and Harvard and the Boston University School of Medicine for her post-graduate studies. Winograd taught medicine at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School from 1980-83 and at Stanford University Medical School from 1983-1995.
Dr. Winograd’s involvement in the Middle East began in high school. As a regional vice president of United Synagogue Youth (USY), she participated in the group’s third pilgrimage to Israel in 1959. Winograd continued to be involved in Israel-related activities until the 1967 War.
In 1994, Winograd helped organize a Jewish-Muslim-Palestinian-American dialogue group through her synagogue. After focusing on domestic issues in its early years, the group began to discuss topics related to the Middle East. They continued to meet until the start of the Second Intifada in 2000.
Winograd was involved in other dialogue activities. She attended a Palestinian-Jewish Family Peacemakers Camp called Oseh Shalom – Sanea al-Salam from 2003-2007 at Camp Towanga in California. She also went on an Encounter trip to Hebron and Jerusalem in 2009.
In 2006, Winograd joined the Women Donors Network (WDN), a group of women philanthropist-activists dedicated to progressive change, and is a member of the group’s Mideast Peace and Democracy Circle (MEPDC). It was the 2009 WDN tour to Israel, Palestine, and Gaza that ignited Winograd’s desire to become involved with J Street.
From 2006 to 2013 Winograd was a board member of Abraham’s Vision, a group that developed conflict transformation programs for high school and college students of both Jewish and Palestinian backgrounds.
Winograd has also been involved in building civil society in Israel as a member of the New Israel Fund (NIF) Regional Board from 2006-2011 and a member of the NIF International Council since 2012.
Since 2010, Winograd has served on the national board of J Street, currently as vice chair. She has served on the J Street Executive Committee since 2012, and the Women’s Leadership Forum Steering Committee since 2013. Winograd received the annual J Street Tzedek v’Shalom Award in 2014, honoring her ongoing commitment to the “pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.”