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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 07 June 2006

Cookie Lommel

LOS ANGELES—How can understanding the Passover Celebration of Liberation in the Jewish tradition inspire us to honor the diverse cultural traditions of our global community?

Ask Cookie Lommel, executive director of the western region for the Jewish Labor Committee, and also the first African American to lead such a group. Lommel's specialty is cultural understanding — she has been described as "a one-woman bridge" by The Los Angeles Times.

The committee is an independent secular organization that helps the Jewish community and the trade union movement work together on important issues of shared interest and concern.

"African American women are at the nexus of multiple forms of oppression, which puts us in the unique position of being able to engage diverse communities, in understanding our global society," said Pamela Brooks, assistant professor of African American Studies at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. "These natural abilities stem from who we are."

Before Lommel's work with the Jewish Labor Committee, she was the founder of Operation Unity, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles. Its mission is to promote cultural understanding in urban youth through international and national programs. The group uses the model of the successful Israeli Kibbutz system as a vehicle to change the lives of young people.

Youth Capturing Cultural Diversity is the traveling exhibit that features photographs taken by youth who participated in the kibbutz program and essays that highlight their experiences in Israel.

"This exhibit tells a great cultural diversity story. It paints a visual and verbal picture of how youth can help bridge racial gaps and work together, promoting harmony through diversity," Lommel said.

Lommel is also the author of several books about notable African Americans such as Madame C.J. Walker and Johnnie Cochran. She has earned a number of awards for her outreach efforts and has worked in various media capacities as a journalist and editor.

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