LEADERSHIP

Executive Leadership

Avishag Bar-Tal

Vice President of Operations

Avishag Bar-Tal is the Vice President of Operations at Shalem College, where she is responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating operations in support of the college’s growth. In addition to the oversight of special projects, Bar-Tal, who has more than 11 years’ experience in developing organizational infrastructures, manages the daily operations of the administration, IT, and personnel departments.

Before joining Shalem, Bar-Tal was a senior placement coordinator at Hever Hon, one of Israel’s leading human-resources firms. Prior to that, she served as coordinator for the high-net-worth clients team at Bank Leumi.

Bar-Tal holds a BA in social sciences from Bar-Ilan University, where she also earned an MA in legal studies. Currently she is completing a certificate in conflict management from the Gevim Group, one of Israel’s leading professional firms.

Seth Goldstein

Senior Vice President

Seth Goldstein is Senior Vice President at Shalem College. In this role, he works to advance the educational mission of the college and oversees the finance, operations, communications, admissions, alumni, and fund-development teams. Before joining Shalem, Goldstein served as deputy to the president of Yeshiva University, with a focus on philanthropy and community. In this capacity, he was part of a small leadership team that guided the overall university, and played a central role in the university’s historic $1 billion capital campaign. Prior to his time at Yeshiva University, Goldstein worked as a litigator at Dewey Ballantine LLP in New York City, where he handled complex commercial litigations. He is a graduate of Cornell University and the New York University School of Law.

Daniel Gordis

Senior Vice President, Koret Distinguished Fellow, and Chair of the Core Curriculum Department

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President, Koret Distinguished Fellow, and Chair of the Core Curriculum at Shalem College. Previously the vice president of the Mandel Foundation in Israel and director of its Leadership Institute, Gordis was also the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. Author of numerous books, a regular columnist for Bloomberg View and The Jerusalem Post, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, The Times of Israel, and other leading news outlets, Gordis lectures throughout the world on Israeli society, American-Israeli relations, and the challenges facing the Jewish state.

Gordis is a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award, first for Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End (Wiley, 2009), and then for his Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn (Ecco, 2016), a comprehensive yet accessible single-volume history of the state of Israel from its inception to the present day.

Gordis’s other books include Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul (Nextbook, 2014), an original examination of Israel’s sixth Prime Minister, and The Promise of Israel, Why Its Seemingly Greatest Weakness is Actually its Greatest Strength (Wiley, 2012), which was named by Jewish Ideas Daily as one of the “best Jewish books of 2012.”

Academic Biography

Rachel Jacobson Gold

Chief of Staff and Director of Fund Development

Rachel Jacobson Gold is Chief of Staff and Director of Fund Development at Shalem College. In this role, she works to advance the President’s key strategic priorities and oversees the College’s fundraising operations.

Prior to joining Shalem in 2014, she served as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Orayta gap-year program, and before that, as the Director of Development at Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, TX.

Jacobson Gold received a B.A. from Yeshiva University in Jewish history and English, and an M.S.W. from Wurzweiler School of Social Work with a focus in community organizing. She also holds a certificate in Fund Development from Rice University’s Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership.

 

Leon Kass

Dean of Faculty

Prof. Leon R. Kass is Dean of the Faculty at Shalem College, Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and Scholar Emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. A lifelong enthusiast of liberal education, he was trained in medicine and biochemistry before shifting from the practice of science to thinking about its meaning. For more than 50 years, he has been engaged with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advances, and more recently with broader cultural issues and the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible.

Kass taught at St. John’s College and Georgetown University before returning, in 1976, to the University of Chicago. He served there until 2010 as an award-winning teacher, noted for his deep involvement in undergraduate education and his commitment to the study of classic texts. Together with his late wife, Amy Kass, he helped found a core humanities course titled, “Human Being and Citizen,” as well as a degree-granting major, “Fundamentals: Issues and Texts,” which emphasizes big questions and great books. His own books include The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (University of Chicago, 1999); Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics (Encounter, 2004); The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis; Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times (University of Chicago, 2006); and his recent Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus (Yale, 2021).

From 2001-2005, Kass was Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, which, under his direction, produced seven books on topics ranging from human cloning and biotechnical enhancement to the care of the elderly. Kass was involved from the earliest stages in developing the ideas and educational philosophy behind Shalem College; from 2016-2019, he served as Distinguished Visiting Professor at Shalem, offering seminars for both students and faculty.

Academic Biography

Menachem Kellner

Chair of the Philosophy and Jewish Thought Department

Prof. Menachem Kellner is the Chair of the Philosophy and Jewish Thought Department at Shalem College. An expert in medieval Jewish philosophy and modern Jewish thought, Kellner taught at the University of Haifa for 33 years. Among other positions at the university, he acted as chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations and dean of students, and held the Sir Isaac and Lady Edith Wolfson Chair of Religious Thought. He has been a visiting professor at the Sorbonne and at Northwestern University.

Author of twenty-three books and well over one hundred scholarly articles, Kellner has twice been short-listed for the National Jewish Book Award. Two of his translations of classic texts have appeared in the Yale Judaica Series

Academic Biography

Martin Kramer

Chair of the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department

Martin Kramer is Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Shalem College, for which he was also the founding president.

An authority on the history and politics of the Middle East, contemporary Islam, and modern Israel, Kramer earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, where he prepared his thesis under the supervision of Prof. Bernard Lewis. He then spent 25 years at Tel Aviv University, where he directed the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. Kramer has taught as a visiting professor at Brandeis University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University, Georgetown University, and The Johns Hopkins University (SAIS). He has also served as a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington and Harvard University's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. He is presently the Walter P. Stern fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Kramer is the author or editor of eight books.

Academic Biography

Jonathan Mensh

Vice President of Finance

Jonathan Mensh is Vice President of Finance for Shalem College. He brings a diverse accounting and finance background to his role, including experience at publicly-traded corporations. Prior to joining Shalem, he was the corporate controller for IDT Global Israel, an organization of over 1,000 employees, where he was responsible for establishing and managing the firm’s accounting and finance operations. He has also served as assistant corporate controller for Pediatrix Medical Group (now MedNax), the largest provider of neonatal medical services in the United States, where his responsibilities included supervising the reporting, accounting, payroll, and payables functions.

Daniel Polisar

Executive Vice President

Dr. Daniel Polisar is Executive Vice President and co-founder of Shalem College. Polisar served as president of the Shalem Center from 2002-2013, after holding posts as director of research, academic director, and editor-in-chief of the center’s journal Azure. Before joining Shalem, he was founder and director of Peace Watch, a non-partisan organization monitoring Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the Oslo Accords, and head of the Peace Watch observer team during the January 1996 Palestinian elections. Polisar received his B.A. in politics from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, where he was the recipient of Truman and Fulbright scholarships, as well as of a Mellon Fellowship. His research interests include the history and philosophy of higher education, education in Israel, and Israeli constitutional development.

Polisar has testified before the Knesset Constitution Committee on Israel’s character as a Jewish state. Since 2005, he has served on the board of Metzilah, the Center of Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanist Thought, and in 2006, he was appointed by the prime minister to be the first chairman of the National Herzl Council, responsible for commemorating the legacy of Theodor Herzl, a position he held for three years.

Academic Biography

Russ Roberts

President

Prof. Russ Roberts is President-Designate of Shalem College. An economist, writer and teacher, he is also the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the founder of EconTalk: Conversations for the Curious, an award-winning weekly podcast with more than 750 episodes and millions of unique downloads. Past EconTalk guests include Yuval Noah Harari, Martha Nussbaum, Milton Friedman, Thomas Piketty, Angela Duckworth, Christopher Hitchens, Agnes Callard, Bill James, Emily Oster, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, A.J. Jacobs, Mariana Mazzucato, Alan Lightman, Dwayne Betts, and Michael Lewis.

His latest book is Gambling With Other People’s Money: How Perverse Incentives Caused the Financial Crisis (Hoover Institution Press, 2019). Roberts explores the role that past bailouts played in the risk-taking that led to the financial crisis of 2008. In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness (Portfolio/Penguin 2014), Roberts takes the lessons from Adam Smith’s little-known masterpiece, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and applies them to modern life.

He is also the author of three economic novels, all of which teach economic lessons and ideas through fiction. The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity (Princeton University Press, 2008) tells the story of wealth creation and the unseen forces around us that create and sustain economic opportunity. The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance (MIT Press, 2002) looks at corporate responsibility and a wide array of policy issues, including anti-poverty programs, consumer protection, and the morality of the marketplace. His first book, The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism (Prentice Hall, 3rd edition, 2006) is on international trade policy and the human consequences of international trade. It was named one of the top ten books of 1994 by Business Week and one of the best books of 1994 by the Financial Times.

Together with filmmaker John Papola, Roberts has produced two rap videos on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, both of which have had more than 11 million YouTube views, have been subtitled in 11 languages, and are used in high school and college economics classrooms around the world. He is also author of the poem and animated video “It’s a Wonderful Loaf,” which elucidates the patterns of daily life that emerge without coordination. His series on the challenge of using data to establish truth, The Numbers Game, can be found at PolicyEd.org. Roberts archives his videos and other work at RussRoberts.info.

Roberts has taught at Stanford University, the University of California, Los Angeles, George Mason University, the University of Rochester, and Washington University in St. Louis, where he was the director of what is now the Center for Experiential Learning. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago and received his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Academic Biography

Chava Shane

Senior Adviser: Strategy, Teaching and Learning

Dr. Chava Shane is Senior Adviser at Shalem College. In this role, she is responsible for expanding Shalem College's academic programs as well as its capacity to serve as a center of excellence in leadership development. Prior to joining Shalem, Shane directed programs at the Mandel Leadership Institute, where she oversaw major initiatives in curriculum development and faculty enhancement. She received her BA, MA, and PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was a visiting scholar at the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). Her research examines the development of excellence in the teaching of the humanities, and her teaching in this area earned her the Hebrew University’s outstanding lecturer award.

Sharon Weber

Vice President of Human Resources

Sharon Weber is Vice President of Human Resources at Shalem College. She joined Shalem in 2002 as part of the marketing team, with responsibility for promoting Shalem Press books among Israeli universities. She was later promoted to director of marketing, and in 2010, she was appointed director of human resources.

Before coming to Shalem, Weber worked for the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center, which promotes dialogue between Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, and immigrant and native-born populations. She also served as a group leader for various Jewish Agency projects, including Birthright, and as an assistant to the Attorney General of Israel. Weber holds a BA in political science and art history and an MA in Conflict Management and Resolution, both from the Hebrew University. During her military service, she served as a rescue-operations instructor in the Homefront Command, teaching doctors, engineers, and reservists how to rescue civilians from disaster sites.

Board of Governors

David Messer, Chairman

Alan Adler

Segev Aframian ’22

Yitz Applbaum

Jed Arkin

Trevor Asserson

Harvey Beker

Elie Brender

Mark Charendoff

Sanford Colb

Tal Eitan ’17

Jeffrey Farber

Louis Frenkel

Anita Friedman

Isaiah Gafni

Sapir Ganz Eldar ’23

Micah Goodman

Daniel Herman ’20

Terry Kassel

Yudi Levy

Polina Liberman

Pini Lozowick

Elisa Palter

Jay Pomrenze

George Rohr

Yair Shamir

Lisa Wallack

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