"I had two aspirations as a teenager; one is that I would make aliyah, two is that I would represent my new, old country," recalled Vinovesky, who in 1987 emigrated from the Jewish settlement of Rosario, Argentina, to Israel. His parents and his siblings immigrated separately.
Now, after many steps in between, he's living out his dream in Philadelphia. Last month, Vinovesky assumed his new diplomatic post as consul at the Israeli Consulate in Center City. He took over from Shahar Shelef, who, after a two-year stint here, returned to Israel with his family. Vinovesky will be working directly under Consul General Uriel Palti.
The consulate here covers all of Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Delaware.
"I remember a conversation I had with my daughter," said Vinovesky, a married father of two. "She asked me, 'What is your job?' I told her, 'Basically, I am going to make friends for Israel.' At the end of the day, we have many ways to do that."
As part of his job, Vinovesky will attend public events, speak with members of the mass media about the situation in the Middle East, and help oversee the day-to-day running of the consulate, from the seemingly mundane matters like visa applications to helping to arrange local performances for Israeli musicians and artists.
Vinovesky knows that making new friends for Israel can at times be a challenging proposition, especially following the nation's recent war with Hezbollah, during which much of the international media portrayed Israel as the aggressor.
During the conflict, Vinovesky was finishing up his three-year assignment at the Israeli Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay. He recalled being heartened by the repeated displays of solidarity by the Uraguayan Jewish community — even if terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas seem to be gaining more support among some sectors of the population in South American countries.
Like many Israelis, Vinovesky found it incredibly difficult to be away from the Jewish state during that time.
"My parents live in the north of Israel, as well as my brother and my sister, and I was very worried about them," he relayed, adding that his relatives did not flee the area and spent a great deal of the time in bomb shelters. "They would always try and tell me, 'Leo, don't worry about us. Everything is going to be okay.' "
'A More Complicated World'
Vinovesky and his wife, Monica, are also members of Kibbutz Magal, which is close to Hadera, a city that was hit by Hezbollah rocket fire. When his term ends in 2008, the family will return to their house on the kibbutz.
"I think that we are facing a more and more complicated world," stated Vinovesky, who speaks Spanish, Hebrew and English. "Our feeling is that the world began to understand our special needs, and reached the conclusion that the problem of terror is a worldwide problem, not just an Israeli one."
He said that the most rewarding part of his job is acting as a bridge between Israel and the rest of the Jewish world.
"When my grandparents decided to come to Argentina [from Ukraine], they probably didn't know what Argentina was," he said. "They could probably have immigrated to the States. They could have made aliyah to Israel. That's the Jewish people. Your story could be mine, and my story could be yours."