When high school senior Adam Shapiro first met Ken Stein, then a professor at Emory University in the late 1990s, no one would have guessed that the young man from the Philadelphia area would one day succeed Stein as president of the Center for Israel Education. CIE wouldn’t be founded by Stein until 2008. But in September, Shapiro indeed became the president of the Atlanta-based independent center focused on Israel education.
After his meeting with Stein, Shapiro applied early decision to Emory. It was the only school to which he applied. He recalls filling out the application on the plane ride back home. Shapiro, a “day school kid,” found his passion for educating students while at Emory. Eventually, both Stein and Emory Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies Deborah Lipstadt became his friends and mentors.
Following his graduation from Emory, Shapiro earned his master’s in Jewish studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He wrote his thesis on Israel education in the Jewish day school setting. From there, he embarked on “what would be an 18-year career.” He joined the Golda Och Academy, a pre-K through 12th grade Jewish day school in West Orange, N.J., beginning as a teacher and eventually becoming head of school.
“First and foremost, academics aside, Ken taught me what it was like to have a teacher who cared about your success,” Shapiro said. “He always made the material relevant and come to life in the classroom, and that made its way into CIE. He also taught me – as he knew I’d be an educator – ‘don’t ever stop teaching, never leave the classroom,’ even as a principal. That kept me grounded.”
Shapiro, who joined the CIE board in 2008, adapted a course on the history of modern Israel for Golda Och Academy based on CIE material. “CIE has the absolute greatest treasure chest on Israel. I believe content should be the engine that makes all educational programs go. My hope [as president] is that if I’m doing my part, I will make sure people know what CIE does.”
The father of three young children, Shapiro will continue living in New Jersey and commute when necessary to Atlanta.
As for Stein, he will take on the title of chief content officer. “I get to do what I want to do, write and show people archival material. I do my best work when I’m writing analysis,” said Stein, noting that he typically adds four or five new items once a week to the CIE archive.
Stein is enthusiastic about Shapiro following him as the second CIE president. “It’s always good to pass the baton to someone who is highly qualified and can run just as fast and is 35 years younger,” Stein said. “He understands social media better than I do and he’s closer to teaching children and young adults. It’s a rarity to find an individual who knows Israel education because he’s done it.”
Despite the pair’s long history of working together on CIE, Stein said he insisted on conducting a professional search for his successor. “We put together a description of the job for president and sent it to 25 to 30 people. There are many professional educators but there are not many Israel teachers. My focus has always been on content and that’s what the board and general public want.”
Shapiro said his goal as the new CIE leader is to “do everything I can to make everyone on the team better. Give them all the resources they need to amplify our message.”
After working at a Jewish day school for 18 years, Shapiro said he was “eager to try something new. This is different and it aligns with my passion. Plus, it’s an opportunity to work with a mentor of mine and work on Israel education, which is so vitally important for people to understand. We’re all students in need of good trustworthy information.”
According to Shapiro, “when people look for answers, they turn to social media. They want content that is relevant and answers their questions and gives context. There’s so much noise in the world today. CIE has established itself as a trusted source.”
The next step, he said, is “how do we bring more people in through these channels? My goal is to maintain our high standards and make it as accessible as possible. There’s no one better for creating content than Ken. No one holds a candle to Ken in creating and curating the information.”
Shapiro’s job, on the other hand, will be to “take the reins of the organization and focus on fundraising and marketing, and to move CIE to the next level.”
CIE mostly depended on one financial source, Avi Chai, for years, but that organization stopped all of its funding. “Avi Chai became critical to our growth and development,” said Stein, pointing out that CIE is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. “No single foundation in the city of Atlanta ever put major funding behind CIE. I didn’t spend much time raising money. We should be three times our size.”
- Jan Jaben-Eilon
- Center for Israel education
- Adam Shapiro
- Ken Stein
- Israel Education
- Emory University
- Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies
- Deborah Lipstad
- Jewish Theological Seminary of America
- West Orange New Jersey
- Golda Och Academy
- social media
- Avi Chai
- Jewish Day School