No Kid Gloves: Anne Lieberman


Anne Lieberman’s a fighter — but only for the good.

A program officer for sexual health and rights for American Jewish World Service (AJWS), Lieberman travels to global hot spots, sometimes in the wake of disaster, to assess conditions and meet with grassroots partner organizations providing healthcare and disaster relief. She also monitors AJWS’s work on sexual health and rights.

She values “standing in solidarity with people” — a team-oriented approach she says reflects AJWS’s philosophy. “It’s one of the key components of our work. I always try to keep that very much in mind.”

Known around the office for her initiative, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, Lieberman hit the phones, going above and beyond to locate partner organizations, according to a supervisor. She brought to bear her experience having volunteered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina where, while gutting houses and clearing away debris, she says she learned “those who are most marginalized before a disaster are often more marginalized after disaster strikes.”

Lieberman’s varied background reflects her eclectic interests: while majoring in African studies at Fordham University, she received a Fulbright to research women’s participation in Muay Thai boxing, Thailand’s national sport. Not content to simply conduct interviews, in Thailand she got into the ring and trained; she now fights regularly in amateur Muay Thai matches here. In December, she boxed in Friday Night Fights, a televised event (her fight was broadcast online). She aspires to get in the ring professionally, and outside of it, she’ll continue to fight for others, including children: an upcoming project at AJWS will focus on early and child marriage in India, and she’s transitioning to oversee the organization’s work protecting sexual health and rights in Thailand. She’s also interested in helping partner organizations advocate for LGBT rights, women’s rights and sex workers’ rights.

Jewish womanpower: When she was growing up in Pittsburgh, Lieberman’s mother wanted Anne to be a ballerina, but instead, she chose to study the Korean martial art Tang Sodoo. Today, her Muay Thai boxing trunks bear her last name. After her last match, she was amused when a relative reported overhearing a stranger in the crowd rooting, “Go Jewish girl!”

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