New Kol Rinah assistant rabbi will focus on education

Rabbi Scott Shafrin

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Kol Rinah has hired an assistant rabbi who will join its shul this summer.

“The Jewish community has been so friendly and incredibly welcoming, embracing my family and some of the ideas I have for the synagogue community,” Rabbi Scott Shafrin said. “The city itself is just an exciting place to be right now for a young family coming in and looking to make a life.”

Shafrin, 33, will begin his full-time duties Aug. 1, taking over as director of the religious school at St. Louis’ newest congregation, which formed from a merger of Shaare Zedek and Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel in 2013. Kol Rinah’s senior rabbi, Noah Arnow, said Shafrin will replace a half-time employee who is retiring.

Shafrin, a native of Milwaukee, Wisc., is married with one son, a 10-month-old named Amitai. His wife, Jessica, is also a rabbi.

He also will work with Arnow on a variety of rabbinic functions, including programming and services. Arnow said Shafrin impressed everyone as a kind and gentle person with Midwestern roots. 


“He connected so well with little kids, with elementary school kids, with teenagers and, really importantly, with their parents, too,” he said. “He won everybody’s hearts in his short weekend here.” 

Arnow said Shafrin’s experience in the science of teaching methods and in curriculum design was perfect for his new position.

“He’s worked for the last three years in a day school in Atlanta, so he knows education both intellectually and academically, but also he’s lived it every single day for the last three years,” Arnow said. “He knows how to manage a classroom, how to supervise teachers. He knows how to inspire a school. We are really excited to have his energy here.”

Shafrin’s day school experience comes from his work at the Epstein School, a Solomon-Schechter Day School in the Atlana area. He also has served as a rabbinic partner at Congregation Etz Chaim in Marietta, Ga. A graduate of Brandeis University where he double-majored in Judaic studies and psychology, Shafrin was ordained in 2013 from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, where he also received a masters from the Fingerhut School of Education.

Shafrin said he taught at various religious schools in the Los Angeles area and even got to serve as Jewish programming director at his childhood camp.

“I got to plan out all the ritual and all the Jewish learning components for the camp, which was a lot fun and gave me a chance to put some of my curricula and learning ideas into practice and see how they pan out in a group full of young people,” he said.

He also acted as a rabbinic intern at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.

Shafrin said that he has cousins in St. Louis and that his grade school best friend went to Washington University and still lives here.

He said that he’s excited to take on challenges at the religious school and that he and Arnow have been talking a lot about creating a vision of Jewish education in a synagogue setting.

“People’s Jewish life doesn’t start and stop during certain hours,” Shafrin said. “It is all day long, all year long, throughout their lives, as you get to see families grow and change. The learning they do in a formal class setting like a  religious school should tie into the Shabbatot that they attend and tie into their weddings, births and all their wonderful and sometimes painful things they go through in life.”

He said he has some background in community organizing and hopes to draw on that in his new position.

“I see my job as facilitating people’s journeys,” Shafrin said. “When people are going through some of the big moments that can be intimidating, like losing a loved one or getting married and moving to a new stage of life, it is helpful to have someone who can help them hold that space, understand that moment and really give them the resources to cope with that.”

Shafrin said joining a merged congregation is an energizing prospect.

“The exciting thing about the position is that this community is really looking to define itself for the future, not just for the coming year but hopefully for many years going forward,” he said.

The rabbi wants to keep Judaism relevant for congregants and students alike.

“We’re all learning and growing on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “The wonderful things about the Jewish tradition, having survived for thousands of years, it actually has things to say about the big questions we have and big moments we go through.”