One of the organizations helping refugee populations in Pittsburgh will have a new director in August.
Jewish Family and Community Services announced Thursday that Ivonne Smith-Tapia will become the new director of refugee and immigrant services. Leslie Aizenman, the longtime director, will step down at the end of July, after serving at JFCS for nearly two decades.
Smith-Tapia came to Pittsburgh in 2013. She has worked with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh on programs that address issues facing refugees and immigrants.
Smith-Tapia leads the All for All Coalition, a network that helps refugees and immigrants in the area, and is a board member of Casa San Jose, which supports the area’s Latino population.
She earned a master’s degree in social work from Pitt, in addition to a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of the Andes in Colombia.
“Ivonne has the qualifications and expertise to grow the services we offer to have a lasting impact on our region,” said Jordan Golin, President and CEO of JFCS.
Aizenman has worked to ensure a brighter future for refugees and immigrants in the region, Golin said, and Smith-Tapia will continue that work.
“I am honored to join an organization that recognizes the value of welcoming and supporting refugees and immigrants to rebuild their lives and prosper,” said Smith-Tapia. “I am thrilled to lead a phenomenal team and look forward to continuing to provide quality services, raising the voices of refugees in our region and expanding collaborations.
JFCS has its roots in the 1843 founding of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, Pittsburgh’s first Jewish charitable organization, and provides a range of social services to the Jewish community and beyond. Its resettlement work took root in the 1970s to serve Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union.
The transition to JFCS comes ahead of World Refugee Day, celebrated on June 18.
JFCS is one of several organizations assisting the county’s refugee population, which numbered over 3,000 in 2013, the latest figures for the year were available.
Last week, Pittsburgh officials held training for landlords through the city’s Welcoming Pittsburgh program to learn how they can help refugee resettlement agencies in the city.
At the Three Rivers Arts Festival next week, the city’s international community will also be celebrated at a World Square event in the city center’s Market Square.