ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Rori Picker Neiss, who previously served as a congregational intern at Beit Chaverim Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk, has been named director of programming, education and community engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation, a modern Orthodox synagogue located in St. Louis, Mo.
In her new role, Neiss will work closely with the congregation’s spiritual leader Rabbi Hyim Shafner to oversee and guide lay committees, work with volunteers to expand Bais Abe’s outreach and engagement initiatives, and develop and execute new Torah classes and religious enrichment opportunities. She will also offer congregants Jewish guidance and study as well as help coordinate and implement holiday and lifecycle events and rituals.
“Men and women have different strengths, different ways of seeing the world and of approaching life, thus women’s voices in Jewish communal leadership in the Orthodox community are vital,” said Shafner, in announcing Neiss’ appointment. “I am thrilled that Rori Picker Neiss will be joining me in leading the Bais Abraham community. She comes to us with an impressive history of Jewish communal and religious leadership, and as a soon to be Maharat her level of Jewish education in Jewish law and thought is wide and deep.”
Neiss joined Beit Chaverim in Westport in the fall of 2011 as a congregational intern, when she was a second-year student at Yeshivat Maharat in Riverdale, N.Y. Founded in 2009 by Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Yeshivat Maharat was the first institution to train women to be fully integrated into the Orthodox community as spiritual leaders and halachic authorities.
She received her Bachelor’s degree in religious studies and political science from the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Hunter College and has studied at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and Seton Hall University.
“My entire professional career has been devoted to creating community and to building bridges with individuals across barriers— be they gender, political, or religious. I am deeply honored to be joining the Bais Abe community, where they place such value on diversity and are known for their embracing attitude toward all Jews and its social responsibility to all G-d’s children,” Neiss said.
While living in St. Louis with her husband Russel and their daughter Daria, Neiss, who is expecting the couple’s second child in May, will continue remotely to complete her final year at Yeshivat Maharat.