Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Jewish Culture and Education Appoints Inaugural Chief Learning and Engagement Officer
Just over a year ago, Shalom Austin Board Chair Dan Kraus commissioned the Jewish Life and Learning Task Force and asked Abby Rapoport, granddaughter of Bernard and Audre Rapoport of blessed memory, to serve as its chair.
Representatives from across the community, in a professional and lay capacity, were asked to participate, including Rabbi Rebecca Epstein, Rabbi Alan Freedman, Edward Fudman, Karin Lester, Shelly Prant, Harvey Raben, Cathy Schechter, Rabbi Daniel Septimus and Ian Spechler.
The task force was charged with examining Jewish life and learning throughout the community and providing recommendations on how to move forward.
One of the recommendations was to hire a senior Jewish educator who could fulfill the vision of creating a higher Jewish life and learning profile across the region. The task force launched a search process to fill the position.
The position received overwhelming interest, and one candidate was determined the perfect fit for the position—Rachel Stern.
Stern will serve as the first chief learning and engagement officer of the newly established Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Jewish Culture and Education at Shalom Austin. A seasoned educator and mentor with more than 20 years of experience, Stern is one of the most highly regarded professionals in the field of Jewish education.
For the past 15 years, Stern has served as a consultant and then director of education at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. During her tenure, Stern grew the ISJL’s regional education program from a four-state, 22 religious school site pilot project in 2005 to a fully-formed, ever-evolving program serving 12 states and 76 religious schools in 2018. She serves as a mentor for 50 education fellow alumni, all of whom she directly recruited, hired, trained and supervised.
Stern also serves as an education consultant and adult education instructor to congregations and organizations, guiding them in strategic planning around defining their education goals.
Before joining the ISJL, Stern served as director of outreach education and supervisor of clinical learning at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where she trained rabbinical students, directed all community education programs and ran the Para-Rabbinic Fellows Program.
During her tenure as community Jewish educator of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton, she created the Dayton Community Hebrew High School, brought the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School to the community and coordinated the community day of learning, Yom Limmud.
"I chose this position because I was so impressed by the community in creating this center and in doing so prioritizing Jewish education. From the onset I saw how committed the entire community was from the Rapoport family, to my fellow colleagues, to the Shalom Austin leadership, to creating this center and making sure that Jewish education is accessible to everyone at every stage," Stern explained.
Stern is passionate about continuing to explore new ideas and keeping Jewish education engaging, enriching and exciting while inspiring others through her gift of mentorship.
"Jewish education is about connecting people to Jewish experiences and content and there is so much that we can and will do through the new center. My plan is to get to know the amazing Austin Jewish community and together set goals for Jewish education that best serve the needs that we identify," she said. "I can't wait to get started."
Moving forward, Stern will partner with the task force and congregational and organizational partners in the region to create a vision to elevate Jewish culture and education in our community. She will begin her tenure in early September before the High Holy Days. ■