Dr. Jane Sherwin Shapiro - 2017 Award Recipient
As Co-Founder of OROT: Center for New Jewish Learning in Skokie, IL, Dr. Jane Sherwin Shapiro teaches students of all ages from across the religious spectrum. Founded in 2014, OROT serves over 500 students each year through weekly classes and immersive learning experiences where students learn to integrate serious text study with alternative creative expression, in learning spaces that range from artists’ studios to Yoga studios, and from botanical gardens to kitchens.
“English is my native language, but my soul speaks Hebrew. I tell students that Hebrew is the key to the castle. If they want to pick up the treasure within, they should use every bit of Hebrew they can. For myself, acquiring a deep love of Hebrew led to an even deeper love of Jewish literature of all sorts: Midrash, Talmud, poetry, and most of all Torah. When reciting the blessing ‘chayei olam natah b’tocheynu (He bestowed upon us eternal life),’ we are meant to experience this as a deep convergence between the words and our own life force (hiyut). This is an example of the type of study towards individual spiritual practice that I want to encourage in my students.”
Dr. Jane S. Shapiro co-founded Orot: Center for New Jewish Learning in 2014. Orot seeks to empower Jews of all backgrounds to discover new entry points into the richness of Jewish wisdom. The organization works to bring the light of Judaism into direct conversation with real-life experiences and helps to reshape a new paradigm for Jewish learning as a vehicle towards personal meaning and communal and social reinvigoration. Orot offers classes, programs, and retreats and designs learning experiences that integrate ancient Jewish wisdom with meditation, yoga, music, art, and creative writing. The goal is to empower and support individuals as they open themselves up to experiencing new pathways into Jewish meaning and look to use Judaism as a source for personal and communal transformation. Orot course offerings include Jewish Mindfulness Meditation, Yoga and Hasidic Thought, and Kavanot and Personal Transformation in the Weekly Parsha.
Dr. Shapiro founded Jane Shapiro Associates in 2003. Using a variety of customized techniques, such as interactive teaching, mentoring, coaching, and curriculum development, she helps her clients make a deep connection between their vision and practice, both on the individual and organizational level.
From 2010 to 2015, Dr. Shapiro served as the Coordinator of Mentoring for students in the Master’s in Jewish Professional Studies program at Spertus Institute for Learning and Leadership. In that capacity, she mentored students and developed cohorts of student mentors. From 1987 to 2003, Dr. Shapiro served as the Associate Director of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning (formerly the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School). She oversaw faculty development and worked with teachers across North America and Israel, assisting new communities in the development of Melton school sites. She also served on the faculty there, teaching a variety of courses in Jewish text and thought.
Dr. Shapiro has taught for or consulted with a wide variety of organizations, including AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy (formally American Jewish Committee), The Jewish Federations of North America, The Jewish Theological Seminary, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, and Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, among others. In 2004, she founded Kol Sasson, a partnership minyan in Skokie committed to enlarging the roles of women in the observant Jewish world, where she now serves as Gabbai. Dr. Shapiro is a frequent lecturer on topics ranging from adult education, marketing, and program development to professional development for adult educators and communal leaders.
Dr. Shapiro graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (1976). In 2016, she received a doctorate in Jewish Education with a concentration in Adult Education from The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary.
From Her Letters of Nomination and Support
“Jane is respectful of each student. It doesn’t matter whether you know little about Judaism, are a rabbi, or are a Jewish educator. Jane listens to all comments and queries from her students with equal attention. She responds with more ideas and questions, with equal parts intelligence, humor, and inspiration. She is an innovator and an example of a kind, caring, knowledgeable, engaged, and observant Jew. Jane personifies what it means to be a mensch and has a high emotional intelligence quotient, too.”
North Suburban Synagogue Beth El
Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning
“One of my favorite things about teaching with Jane is meeting with her to brainstorm and generate ideas. Her knowledge of sacred texts is deep. She embraces and supports the personalized, flexible approach that I, in my role as a visual artist specializing in Judaica, take to help people find their creative voice. A talented musician, Jane understands and cherishes the creativity within herself. She brings this creativity to teaching and to understanding and supporting the creative process for artists.”
Artist and Educator
North Suburban Synagogue Beth El
“At Jane’s core is a love of and passion for Jewish living and learning. Through her personal commitment to Judaism, Jane has developed an authentic sense of purpose and an understanding of the promise of Judaism. This combination enables her to ignite sparks of energy in a wide range of learners. Jane is the redwood tree of teachers, tall and timeless. She has taught in a variety of settings: Ann Arbor Jewish Day School, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, Orot, and beyond. Through her teaching, Jane continually helps her students reflect on a critical question: ‘So what? What does this text/custom/holiday mean for me?’”
Dr. Zachary Lasker
Director, Melton Research & Education Project
The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, The Jewish Theological Seminary
“Shadowing Jane during her classes, I observed ways in which she did not merely teach from a curriculum or study a text in a conventional way. Rather, she would always bring her soul and the world at large to the text or topic at hand, seamlessly interweaving text, art, philosophy, poetry, and current events. Jane believes that Jewish wisdom can only be enhanced by bringing Jewish sources into deep conversation with other fields. Her mode of teaching is integrated, holistic, and reflects her deep engagement with and investment in her students. Her loving relationships with her students spill outside the classroom walls. She has devoted students who have been learning with her for decades. These students are a testament to the power of her influence as a mashpiah, a guide and role model. Jane views each student as a soul to be nurtured and commits untold hours to shepherding students and new teachers along their own paths.”
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Orot: Center for New Jewish Learning