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Yona Shem-Tov: A Young Leader to Watch

by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer
Published on May 18, 2011 in Multifaith World

Yona Shem-Tov

Yona Shem-Tov, the newly appointed exec­u­tive direc­tor of Encounter Programs brings to this posi­tion a remark­able set of expe­ri­ences as a multi­faith educa­tor and activist. Last night I learned more about Yona while attend­ing a Gala to honor the outgo­ing direc­tor of Encounter, Rabbi Melissa Weintraub.

Yona was educated in Toronto in a Jewish day school, so she comes to this work with a strong ground­ing in her own iden­tity and tradi­tion. At the same time, Yona has always appre­ci­ated national and cultural diver­sity. Her mother survived the Holocaust as a child in Europe; her father was born in Iraq and was part of the first airlift of Jews from that coun­try to Israel in 1951.

While Yona began her career as a passion­ate Jewish educa­tor, serv­ing as a Jewish day school history teacher, her inter­ests extended outward toward other faith commu­ni­ties and the chal­lenges they face. She even­tu­ally stud­ied for a PhD at New York University; her research involved the teach­ing of history in Jewish and Muslim-American schools.

Yona’s multi­faith engage­ment includes envi­sion­ing and launch­ing The Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship, a transna­tional network of Jewish and Muslim social entre­pre­neurs and teach­ing in a path break­ing program for youth involv­ing a Jewish and a Muslim Day School through Abraham’s Vision.

Last night, Yona spoke movingly of her vision for Encounter, a program that brings American Jews to the West Bank to expe­ri­ence Palestinian life. Close to 1000 Jewish lead­ers (and emerg­ing lead­ers) have already partic­i­pated, gain­ing a more nuanced under­stand­ing of the conflict. Yona shared with us the metaphor of a kalei­do­scope. She chal­lenged the audi­ence to bring new pieces of real­ity into their line of sight. The beauty of the image capti­vated me. While inter­re­li­gious engage­ment is some­times fraught with pain, it is also a place where new and beau­ti­ful visions can arise.

I found the idea completely lovely, and I look forward to keep­ing my eye on Yona Shem-Tov and on Encounter.

Click here for the orig­i­nal arti­cle.


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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