Dr. Rabbi Moshe Shualy, Ritual Director at Chizuk Amuno Congregation

“A very serious Jewish scholar,” “welcoming,” two, perhaps different but not contradictory perspectives of Dr. (Rabbi) Moshe Shualy, Ritual Director at Chizuk Amuno Congregation.  Born in 1948 in Prague to parents who survived forced marches in the dead of winter and the horrors of labor and extermination camps, his earliest years were spent in Israel before his family emigrated to the US in 1960.  His father’s family was very well established in the Hasidic community (Elie Wiesel and Moshe’s Father attended cheder together and Elie was a frequent dinner guest) and once the family arrived in the US, his mother placed him in a setting where he received a more intensive Judaic education than he received in Israel, “and I’m grateful to her to this very day.”  It is with the burden of his parent’s unspeakable Holocaust experience and his immersion in Hasidic learning, that Dr. (Rabbi) Dr. Moshe Shualy evolved into a beacon of inspiration, of Jewish knowledge and of boundless energy and commitment to invite people to make a subjective exploration of their Jewish reality and to be part of building a cadre to support each other in a self-motivated growth experience, reclaiming their Judaic inheritance. He earned his BA in Anthropology at the University of Delaware, an MA in Jewish Education from Dropsie University, and a PhD in Rabbinic Literature from the Annenberg Research Institute of the University of Pennsylvania.

Q: How do you set other up for success in your organization?

I seek out attendees at daily minyan, engage individuals in conversation: post and pre minyan, in person, by phone, at kiddush, via Zoom groups and listen to their responses, make a personal connection, and try to motivate and sell them on the possibility of acquiring and honing the skills to more actively engage in the minyan, Jewish learning, text explorations and discovery of the depths available in the classical Jewish texts.  For example, one woman was quiet and withdrawn with no Hebrew knowledge, now she leads minyan, reads Torah, attends Mishnah and Modern Hebrew lit classes and has become a daily presence, role model and leader in the congregation.

Q: What was your entry point into the leadership role you have now?

I entered kicking, screaming in desperation to make a work-life transformation.  I felt an urgency to find a way to make a difference, one person at a time.

Q: How has your journey as a leader changed?

Reaffirmed- redoubled my confidence that I can transmit and communicate, successfully help people experience reading Torah, enter the conversation and convergence of sense of self in doing so, achieve a level of liberation and transcendence and re-enter the stream of eternity.

Q: What are you reading now?

Torah, Mishna, classics, literary criticism, psych-analytic and small group dynamics, comparative literature, orthodox texts, Shoah material i.e. “Diary of Emanuel Ringelblum” from the Oneg Shabbat Archive, “Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto,” Zen, articles my father wrote…reconnecting to my origins.

Q: What is a challenge you are currently working on?

My own inadequacy and trauma, victimhood, institutional complexities, learning to thread the needle to be productive.

Q: What leadership strength do you bring to address these challenges?

Being true to myself, listening, “Shma” to be silent more and hear more, similar to learning to run in water, the best progress if you learn to work with the medium in which you are immersed.  Be respectful.  Be non-doctrinaire.

Q: What Life lessons do you take away from your experience as a leader?

There is no greater reward than working with the community, to refocus from most selfish self to gain the best rewards to listen to the stillness, especially as uttered by the still small voice of those we encounter.

Q: How do you find a balance between, your work life and the rest of your life?

There is no such challenge when you make your work life all of your life.  Defy obstacles.

Q: What would you tell your younger self when you first started on your leadership journey?

Speak less, listen more.  Take cues from people, broadcast intentions, learn to read people and their cues, read them carefully, be still…Shma.

Q: What do you do to relax?

I do more work to relax.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

Work is my obsession, being engaged with it, reflecting on it day and night; it is both cure and curse; revelation and redemption.

Q: What motivates you to wake up in the morning?

Work that I love.

Q: How have you shifted your leadership to lead virtually?

Maintain the minyan daily morning and afternoon/evening complete with the intimacy, story-telling, shmoozing, enabling people to suspend disbelief that virtual is in person, teaching 2.5-hour small group classes, kiddush after morning Minyan.  When you will it, it will be a reality, and so it is and it is a very real sense of community we maintain including all who join us, regardless of the impediments, even from 1,000 miles away or regardless of public health distancing requirements, we transform the virtual into a very real presence in each other’s lives.