Dr. Laura Shaw Frank on Jewish resilience
Photos: Courtesy of Dr. Laura Shaw Frank
2024 Anshai Torah’s Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Laura Shaw Frank and her husband Rabbi Aaron Frank, with their family, from left, back row: Jonathan Brauner, Ateret Frank Brauner, Yanniv, Neri and Elinadav Frank.

Anshai Torah’s 2024 Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence, Jan. 26-28

By Deb Silverthorn

Dr. Laura Shaw Frank, national director of the William Petschek Contemporary Jewish Life Department of the American Jewish Committee, will share the heart of Jewish resilience, thousands of years strong, as Congregation Anshai Torah’s 2024 Arnie Sweet Scholar-In-Residence the weekend of Jan. 26. Events will take place both in-person at Congregation Anshai Torah and online.

“The Arnie Sweet Scholar-in-Residence is Anshai’s signature event and we’re again thrilled to open our doors to the entire community,” said Warren Harmel, event chair. “While we began speaking with Dr. Shaw Frank before Oct. 7, the topic of Jewish resilience is even more appropriate now.”

Harmel thanked presenting sponsors, Janice Sweet Weinberg and Art Weinberg, Cathy Sweet Brook and Joel Brook, Cindy Sweet Moskowitz and Mitch Moskowitz; he also expressed gratitude to Debbie and Manuel Rajunov and all the event sponsors.

That support has, over the past 14 years, provided the learning and inspiration of Rabbis Bradley Artson, Sharon Brous, Dr. Jonathan K. Crane, Ed Feinstein, Daniel Gordis, Yitz Greenberg, Donniel Hartman, Brad Hirschfield and Naomi Levy as well as academics and experts Yossi Halevi Klein, Yehuda Kurtzer, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt and David Makovsky.

“How fortunate we are to have Dr. Shaw Frank with us for our always special and meaningful weekend,” said Janice Sweet Weinberg. “The convergence of her education, experience and exposure to the reality of day-to-day life in Israel and for us all will engage us as we ponder our infinite Jewish resilience.

“The timing for this conversation couldn’t be better,” said Sweet Weinberg. “We have always been a people of strength; we’re no different now and that will continue to carry through our whole Jewish people.”

A New Jersey native raised at Temple Israel (now Congregation Beth Israel), Shaw Frank is the daughter of Evelyn and the late Henry Shaw and the sister of Daphne (Paige) Shaw and Jessica Shaw (Steve Levin). She says that, after transferring from public education to the Golda Och Academy (formerly Solomon Schechter Day School) in the fourth grade, she “felt at home the first day. Every part of my Jewish soul was fed.”

Dr. Laura Shaw Frank holds her father’s academic cap after presenting her dissertation via Zoom mid-pandemic.

She added, “My father was a refugee immigrant and that’s so much a part of my story. From Szjabowicz to Shaw, from Poland to New Jersey, it’s the resilience of who I come from that has led me to where I am. My grandfather went to night school and my father, who was the first of his family to graduate high school, earned a Ph.D. and then an MBA, in that order.”

Shaw Frank spent her childhood as a camper, then staff member, at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. From early childhood her family visited relatives in Israel; as a high school senior, she spent a semester there. She met her future husband, now Rabbi Aaron Frank; their children are Ateret Frank Brauner (Jonathan Brauner), Yanniv, Elinadav and Neri.

Shaw Frank, a graduate of Columbia University’s undergraduate and law school programs, began her career working in corporate law. When she and her husband and, at that time, two children spent two years in Israel, she worked for a domestic firm as well as an Israeli team. The family returned to the States and her husband began his career in Jewish day school leadership.

While working in Baltimore, where Rabbi Frank was a divisional principal of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Shaw Frank received a call to teach. “I was told that’s what the rebbetzin does,” she said. “A group of women gathered around my dining room table and I taught about women in Jewish law. I began teaching at the day school: Tanach, Jewish history and rabbinic literature. I became the Jewish history department chair and with four children, I earned my Ph.D. over 12 years.

Shaw Frank writes, teaches and speaks throughout the country about American Jewry, antisemitism, Israeli society and history, Israel-Diaspora relations and Jewish advocacy. 

 “Completing my dissertation, I wanted to find a national opportunity to teach and to engage,” said Shaw Frank. “In January 2020 a position at AJC became available. Since Oct. 7, it’s like we’re drinking out of a firehose. We’re experiencing the most unbelievable outpouring of Jewish grief and pain, along with a desire to do and nurture, as the Jewish community all comes together.”

Shaw Frank oversees AJC’s Jewish educational initiatives, Jewish communal research and programming and is responsible for AJC’s engagement with university administrators, assisting them in preventing and responding to antisemitism.

“There are many examples of our ability as Jews and for Judaism as a whole to pivot and to flourish,” she said. “If we ever needed to feel we can get through this, it’s now and the answer is, yes, we can. Yes, we will.”

At noon on Friday, Jan. 26, Shaw Frank will lead an interactive lunch-and-learn session. During Kabbalat Shabbat services that evening, beginning at 6:15 p.m., she will provide a d’var Torah and, after dinner, presentthe weekend’s keynote address. On Shabbat morning, Shaw Frank will continue to speak on the theme of Jewish resilience and then share more after a Kiddush luncheon; that evening at 8, she will meet with synagogue leadership and scholar-in-residence sponsors at a dessert reception. On Sunday morning she will speak with Anshai Torah’s Religious School students.

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Shaw Frank and I’m impressed by her unmatched knowledge and expertise,” said Rabbi Michael Kushnick. “In a world that is seeing such an uptick in antisemitism, we owe it to ourselves to learn from one of the world’s experts and to equip ourselves with the tools needed to address one of the most significant concerns of our time.”

Anshai Torah member and AJC Dallas President Stuart Blaugrund remembers Shaw Frank’s May 2023 visit, which included her addressing AJC Dallas’ annual meeting and audiences with B’nai B’rith Youth Organization leaders, appearances at a number of local synagogues and a meeting with high school students and grandparents.

“Laura is a top-notch intellect with a keen mind and a presentation that is so relatable,” Blaugrund said. “She is a most effective and dynamic speaker. In this moment she is theright person to lead and inspire us all.”

He added that AJC has launched the 10/7 Project, promoting continued U.S. bipartisan support for Israel; accurate and complete coverage of the Israel-Hamas war; and a stronger focus on the victims of Oct. 7. It is partnering with the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America in this endeavor.

“AJC, Anshai Torah and our community are amplifying our message and standing on the side of humanity,” Blaugrund said.

To RSVP (required to receive Zoom links), visit anshaitorah.org/aboutsir or call 972-473-7718. For sponsorships, email Robin Feldman at programming@
anshaitorah.org.

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