Rabbi Hyim Shafner
Bais Abraham Congregation, St. Louis, Missouri
Mar 1, 2007
Rabbi Hyim Shafner grew up in the small town of New London, Connecticut where his family has lived for five generations. He attended the Hebrew Day School of Eastern Connecticut in nearby Norwich, Connecticut, the Yeshiva Bais Moshe of Scranton, Pennsylvania, the Yeshiva of Providence, Rhode Island and Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in Forest Hills, Queens, New York. He received a BA degree, semicha, a Masters of Social Work degree in Clinical Social Work, and an MA degree in Jewish Philosophy all from Yeshiva University.
Growing up in a small town as one of the only Orthodox Jews, Rabbi Shafner never imagined becoming a rabbi himself. However, during his time at Yeshiva University, he realized that it could bring together his talents and loves of exploring Torah, studying philosophy and counseling individuals.
Presently, Rabbi Shafner is the rabbi of Bais Abraham Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri, where he succeeded his mentor, Rabbi Abraham Magence. Well over a century old, Bais Abraham Congregation, which is located adjacent to Washington University in St. Louis, is experiencing a renaissance today as a shul for younger people. Rabbi Shafner is honored to perpetuate Bais Abraham Congregation’s tradition of being a diverse community that successfully interweaves deep passion for Torah with an attitude toward others, both Jews and non-Jews, which is embracing and loving. Prior to his appointment as rabbi of Bais Abraham, Rabbi Shafner served as the rabbi of the St. Louis Hillel at Washington University, and as rabbi of Bombay, India, under the auspices of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
He said this about his recent decision to leave Hillel and become the rabbi of a shul: “I have often felt that the Jewish people are having trouble today because we have lost track of the essential nature of our religious life that should be one of inspiration and joy. Prayer often becomes the recitation of words, engagement with mitzvoth often emerges out of communal pressure, and Torah study can sometimes be but a desire to compete. Though I was not looking for a job, I became the Rabbi of Bais Abraham because I feel it is a community that is committed to living a Judaism that is joyous, inspiring, embracing and a light unto the wider world.”
Rabbi Shafner teaches that we must utilize all the spiritual tools within Judaism to create a deeper relationship with G-d. To this end, Bais Abraham hosts classes on meditation, nature hikes, prayer groups and study and leadership opportunities for women, and tries its best to target its education and social opportunities to all Jews, regardless of their level of knowledge or personal background. With the help of a grant from the Jewish Federation, Bais Abraham is spending this year exploring the role that the arts can play in Torah and mitzvot.
In addition to being a chaver of the RCA, Rabbi Shafner is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical Council of the Vaad Hoeir, the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, and The Chicago Rabbinical Council. He has served on the local boards of the Jewish Community Relations Council, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Fund for Human Needs.
He is married to Sara Winkelman and they have thee children, Benyamin Yitzchak, Yonah Uri and Hava Shirah.