With a career encompassing national and international security, defense and counter-terrorism, former Tucson Hebrew Academy student Gerri Pozez has taken the Jewish values she learned from THA, her family and the Tucson Jewish community to a global level.
Practicing tikkun olam, making the world a better place, and l’dor v’dor, giving back to the next generation, have always been of central importance to her.
“Being able to help and give back is a huge part of what I learned at THA,” says Pozez. “I try to do that every day for the next generation of Americans and American Jews — and so much of that is because of where and how I grew up.”
As a THA student in the 1990s from second through seventh grade, Pozez vividly recalls THA’s sense of community. Class sizes were small and many of the friendships she forged are still going strong. “Three of us got married last year, and we were all at each other’s weddings.”
After she attended The Gregory School, a fascination for current affairs led her to major in international relations and political science at Simmons College in Boston. “To broaden my horizons,” she added a certification in Combatting Bioterrorism and Pandemics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She landed a job at the Consulate General of Israel in Boston, working on Middle East programming on campuses in New England, and later worked on policy research at a Washington, D.C. think tank. Then she returned to school, earning a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, focusing on international security policy with an emphasis on counter-terrorism.
“I was always interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict, but coming from a Jewish background, I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into just one issue,” explains Pozez.
It was the start of a career spanning government and private industry that reads like the setting for a thriller — including stints at the U.S. Department of State, the United States Department of Defense and the Joint Warfare Analysis Center.
In her current job with a Washington, D.C.-based tech startup, she uses an internet platform to collect open source and social media data for use by commercial companies, defense, law enforcement and other clients, both domestic and international.
From THA through adulthood, her dedication to tikkun olam and fighting persecution has remained constant — from supporting U.S. special operations forces in Europe to working as a high-level intelligence and targeting analyst. “We learn a lot in counterterrorism from our Israeli counterparts,” she says.
Her professional interests and Jewish identity are closely intertwined. “American values are similar to Judaic values,” says Pozez. “In embracing national security and patriotism, I took my core values of Jewish family and community to a much broader place.”
“The cultural traditions of Judaism, all of which I learned at THA and were reinforced at home, continue to play a strong role in who I am today,” she says. “It’s been interesting living in D.C., and marrying an amazing woman, who is not Jewish, and figuring out what pieces of Judaism work for us as we begin to start our own family and life together.”
Kaye Patchett is a freelance writer and editor in Tucson.