For the second installment of its Middle East-themed virtual series, Bet Chaverim Congregation of Howard County presented Barbara A. Leaf, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 to 2018, on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Leaf is the Ruth and Sid Lapidus Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Studies and director of the Beth and David Geduld Program on Arab Politics. 

Leaf spoke about “Middle East Policy in the Biden Administration.” In particular, she discussed Israel’s recent historic accords with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan. (Some political analysts believe that an accord between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, is also in the works.)

During her diplomatic career of 33 years, Leaf served in high-level positions at Foggy Bottom and abroad. Before arriving in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi in 2014, she served as deputy assistant secretary of state for the Arabian Peninsula in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and as deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq.

Leaf also directed the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Iraqi city of Basra, and served as the State Department’s first director of the Office of Iranian Affairs. In addition, she had postings in Jerusalem, Rome, Sarajevo, Paris, Cairo, Tunis and Port-au-Prince during her foreign service career. She speaks Arabic, French, Italian and Serbo-Croatian.

Leaf, 62, graduated from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., with a bachelor’s degree in government and has a master’s degree in foreign affairs, with a focus on Soviet Affairs, from the University of Virginia.

Leaf lives in New Alexandria, Va., with her husband, Chris Querin, and their two daughters, Maro and Asja.

Her late father, Lt. Gen. Howard W. Leaf, was a decorated fighter pilot during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and served as assistant vice chief of staff at the Pentagon. An award is given in his honor for outstanding achievement by a U.S. Air Force test team engaged in the testing and evaluation of a defense acquisition program.

On Nov. 8, Baltimore-based cookbook author and foodie Elite Jakob led a Zoom demo presentation titled “Israeli Cooking for the Whole Family” for the first installment of Bet Chaverim’s series.

On Saturday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m., the congregation will host Dr. Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He will speak about his book, “Among the Righteous — Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands” (PublicAffairs).

For information about the Bet Chaverim series, call 443-802-8809 or email events@bet-chaverim.org or benzingman@gmail.com.