Yona Shem Tov
Encounter is the organizational embodiment of Yona's most deeply held values.
Executive Director, Encounter
Yona joined the Encounter team as Executive Director in 2011.
Before coming to Encounter, Yona pursued doctoral work at New York University as a Wexner Graduate Fellow, where her research focused on citizenship and history education in Jewish and Muslim-American schools. She has worked and consulted for a broad range of American Jewish organizations, including American Jewish World Service, Mayan, Matan, RAVSAK, and Abraham’s Vision, where she taught at both the AJ Heschel School and the Al-Iman School in Queens, NY.
As a consultant to the Edmond & Benjamin Rothschild Foundation, Yona helped envision and launch The Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship, a network of Jewish and Muslim social entrepreneurs in France, the UK and USA. She also co-created Re/Presenting the Jewish Past, a network of Jewish history educators from across Canada and the USA, where she served as Associate Director.
She is a noted public speaker, having presented on Israel and intercultural education before The Congress of Imams & Rabbis in Seville, the German Consul General and members of German Parliament in Berlin. As someone who grew up in a home of “rich cultural complexity where Hebrew, Arabic, Polish and English intermingled and seamlessly intertwined” — her mother survived the Holocaust as a child in Europe and her father was born in Iraq — Yona brings to Encounter an exceptional capacity to guide and inspire communities to extend themselves across lines of difference.
As Yona herself noted recently: “Encounter is the organizational embodiment of my most deeply held values. 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”.