Back to Encounter in the News

Encounter Hires Yona Shem-Tov as New Executive Director, Effective September 1, 2011

by Rabbi Miriam Margles and Shana Tabak, Co-Chairs
Published on May 9, 2011

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.

Share This

Our Mission

Encounter is an edu­ca­tional orga­ni­za­tion dedi­cated to strength­ening the capacity of the Jewish people to be construc­tive agents of change in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Moti­vated by the relent­less Jew­ish pur­suit of hokhma (wis­dom) and binah (under­stand­ing), Encounter cul­ti­vates informed Jew­ish lead­er­ship on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict by bring­ing…

Read More

Contact Encounter

Encounter welcomes all your ques­tions, comments, stories, and queries.

For general inquiries, including upcoming program infor­ma­tion and dates, please write to:


– or –

Visit our Contact Us Page