New York, NY — May 9, 2011
Media Contact: Rebecca Stone, Director of Community Engagement
Encounter Hires Yona Shem-Tov as New Executive Director, Effective Sept. 1, 2011
Encounter, an educational organization training Jewish leadership to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to heal internal Jewish rifts formed in its wake, has hired Yona Shem-Tov to step into the role of Executive Director. She will begin in the fall of 2011.
“Yona’s life and work have been deeply aligned with Encounter’s vision and mission, as she has guided and inspired communities to extend themselves across lines of difference and division,” says Rabbi Miriam Margles, Co-founder and Co-Chair of Encounter’s Board of Directors. “I am thrilled we have found such an excellent fit in Yona to steward the organization into its next stage, working with our incredible team to expand the impact of our powerful work in the Middle East and North America.”
“Encounter is the organizational embodiment of my most deeply held values,” says Shem-Tov. “I am deeply honored to grow the impact of one of the most effective forces for creating inclusive and compelling Israel engagement strategies for the North American Jewish community and for helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
A noted public speaker, Yona has presented on Israel and interfaith education before The Congress of Imams & Rabbis in Seville, the German Consul General and members of German Parliament in Berlin, and in many other prestigious venues across the country and world.
“After watching Yona present and facilitate dialogue among Jewish and Muslim leaders from around the world, our staff at The Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Foundations recruited her for her unique blend of charisma, strategic vision, theoretical knowledge and programmatic execution,” says Baroness Ariane de Rothschild. “Yona has an exceptional capacity to bring together people from diverse backgrounds, and outstanding programmatic vision that has helped us successfully seed an unprecedented network of Jewish and Muslim social entrepreneurs.”
Rabbi Elka Abrahamson, President-Elect of The Wexner Foundation shares, “Encounter has made an inspired choice in selecting Yona as the next Executive Director of this phenomenal organization. It is being passed into the capable hands, insightful mind and caring heart of Ms. Shem-Tov, a wise Jewish leader and a born bridge builder.”
In addition to helping envision and launch The Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship, a transnational network of Jewish and Muslim social entrepreneurs, Yona worked closely with Dr. Robert Chazan – the Co-Director of NYU’s Wagner-Skirball program, and a noted Jewish communal institution builder – to co-create a national network of Jewish history educators, of which she served as Associate Director.
Yona began her career as a Jewish history teacher at The Tannenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, the largest Jewish high school in North America, where she was a beloved teacher and valued member of the faculty. She pursued doctoral work at NYU as a Wexner Graduate Fellow, where her research focused on the teaching of citizenship and history education in both Jewish and Muslim-American schools.
“Encounter is very lucky to have Yona as its new Executive Director,” says Daniel Septimus, CEO of MyJewishLearning.com. “She is intelligent, determined, and empathetic, exactly the characteristics we need to properly grapple with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, open ourselves up to new and different perspectives, and deepen our relationship with the State of Israel.” David Bryfman, Director of the New Center for Collaborative Leadership and Teen Engagement at the Jewish Education Project in New York calls Yona “one of the emerging voices in Jewish education, and particularly Israel education, for the 21st century.”
Yona brings years of experience working and consulting for a broad range of American Jewish organizations, including American Jewish World Service, Mayan, Matan, RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network and Abraham’s Vision, where she taught at both the AJ Heschel School and the Al-Iman School in Queens, NY.
Encounter equips the gamut of rabbis, Jewish professionals, leaders and philanthropists with first-hand knowledge of Palestinian life, seeding a multi-denominational cadre of Jewish leadership charged with a two-pronged mission: to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to heal internal Jewish communal rifts formed in its wake. Since 2005, Encounter’s flagship program has brought over 1000 prominent and emerging Jewish leaders on trips to Bethlehem, Hebron and East Jerusalem to gain first-hand exposure to Palestinian life.
Firmly situated within the Jewish community and rooted in Jewish values, Encounter is seeding a new cadre of American Jewish leadership equipped to grapple with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Catalyzing change in communal institutions, boardrooms, classrooms, and across campuses, Encounter has shifted, indelibly, the American Jewish community’s capacity to communicate about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, renewing a commitment to its lasting resolution.