Welcome Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin; ALEPH’s Incoming Executive Director

Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin
Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin
Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is delighted to announce the appointment of Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin as Executive Director, effective December 15, 2014.  Shoshanna’s appointment marks the start of an exciting new chapter for ALEPH and Jewish Renewal.

Shoshanna is a dynamic Jewish organizational leader with over 15 years of experience in leadership development, high-level fundraising, programming, planning and education.  Shoshanna brings not only organizational expertise but also a next-generation approach to renewing the heart and soul of Judaism, and a compelling life narrative that reflects ALEPH’s trans-denominational blend of innovation with tradition, and scholarship with spirituality.

“Shoshanna personifies so much of ALEPH’s commitment to inclusion, innovation and generational evolution,” said Rabbi Jeremy Parnes, chair of the ALEPH Board of Directors.  “Shoshanna’s own experience weaves the many threads of Jewish denominational and institutional life, international affairs, organizational leadership, scholarship and development – all with a keen talent for bringing core values to life.  I’m thrilled that Shoshanna will help lead ALEPH into the future, and I know Reb Zalman would be proud.”

“I am deeply honored and humbled to be selected as ALEPH’s next Executive Director,” Shoshanna said.  “American Judaism is dynamically moving beyond the 20th century’s seemingly strict denominational lines into an exciting period of trans-denominational Jewish expression, heightened spirituality and organic innovation.  I’ve seen how Renewal is helping infuse Jewish life, and how its spiritual potential is truly limitless.  With gratitude for the many innovations and spiritual technologies that are Rabbi Zalman Schechter-Shalomi’s legacy for us all, I believe that ALEPH and Jewish Renewal – collaborating with partners across the breadth of spiritual life – can help shape the future of Jewish spiritual life around the world.”

Shoshanna continued, “As a Jewish historian and academic, I am keenly aware that our tradition is a rich and diverse fabric of religious expression that has grown and transformed over time.  As the recent Pew study showed, too many Jews today are unaware of the richness of Jewish spiritual life.  ALEPH is helping reveal, restore and renew those riches, helping answer the call of so many who yearn for more or who have felt spiritually empty – especially the ‘next generation’ already finding its own way beyond the usual synagogues, community centers, Federations and other traditional institutions Jewish life.  To quote ALEPH vice chair David Evan Markus, ‘If the Pew study is the question, ALEPH is the answer.’

Shoshanna comes to ALEPH from the Jewish Community Federation, where she served as Director of Women’s Philanthropy, Israel and Overseas Programming in Richmond, Virginia.  She began her career in education and development with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary, focusing on leadership training for post-Holocaust and post-Communist Jewish communities. Shoshanna also served with a variety of Jewish agencies and institutions including Young Judaea, Camp Ramah, Hillel, Taglit-Birthright and JDC-Entwine.  Shoshanna also has a wealth of experience in adult and religious school education, LGBT inclusion programming, and Jewish service learning.

As Executive Director, Shoshanna will lead the growing umbrella organization of Jewish Renewal, which includes the ALEPH Ordination Program for rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors and spiritual directors; a fast-developing global network of synagogues and affiliated communities; retreat and adult education programs in embodied spirituality, chant and other spiritual technologies; ALEPH’s birthright program; the international Kallah; programs in deep ecumenism and interfaith studies; and innovative paradigm-shifting scholarship in Jewish law and spiritual life.

Originally from suburban Washington, D.C., Shoshanna is an alumna of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Jewish Studies from the University of Maryland, and her Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies (focusing on Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies) from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.  Shoshanna completed several years of rabbinical school, and is a prolific Jewish educator and writer.  Shoshanna will continue to serve as faculty member in the Departments of Religious Studies and Women’s Studies at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia.

For her first month, Shoshanna will work in tandem with outgoing Executive Director Joe Laur, who will step down in January 2015 to focus on his own rabbinic studies and consulting work.

Said Rabbi Parnes, “On behalf of the ALEPH Board of Directors and the entire community of Jewish Renewal, I want to congratulate Joe Laur on his stupendous service to ALEPH over these last years – and especially during Reb Zalman’s ‘December days.’  In so many ways, Joe kept ALEPH true to its values while helping spread her wings and fly.  When the next chapter of ALEPH’s history is written, many of its headlines and celebrations will bear Joe’s indelible imprint.  We will miss him, and we bless Joe on his continuing journey toward his own ordination studies.”

Shoshanna is married to Rabbi Royi Shaffin of Congregation Or Atid in Richmond, Virginia, and is the proud mother of three daughters, Netanya, Elianna and Kinneret.