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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.


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...

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