The John C. Anderson Mansion, built 1882
|Eliezer, or Chai Society|
Shabtai (formerly known as Eliezer and Chai Society) is a global Jewish leadership society based at Yale University. Time magazine has referred to Shabtai as Yale's "modish club du jour" and the campus' "secret society of a different stripe."
Founded in 1996 by then-graduate-students Oliver Benjamin Karp, Noah Feldman, Cory Booker, and Michael Alexander and Rabbi Shmully Hecht, the society aims to attract Jewish and non-Jewish leaders on Yale's campus in order to create a dialogue between various branches of Judaism and between the secular and religious worlds in an intellectual salon setting. The society's Friday night meetings, discussion-based format and ethos of mutual improvement have drawn comparisons to Benjamin Franklin's Junto Club. As one journalist described it, "like Yale's famous secret societies, Shabtai is elite and exclusive, but unlike the infamous Skull & Bones or Scroll & Key or Book & Snake, it is not clandestine." Another observer described it as "not that different from the men's clubs at Harvard," however, the society has never been gender exclusive. In 2014, a gift by Benny Shabtai and family began the endowment process and facilitated the purchase of the Anderson Mansion, a late-nineteenth century mansion in New Haven's Orange Street Historic District.
Shabtai's exclusive membership boasts a diverse group of Yale students, alumni, and current and former faculty, including:
|Michael Oren||Former Israeli ambassador to the United States|
|Matt Brown||Former Democratic Rhode Island Secretary of State|
|Edward Rothstein||Wall Street Journal critic-at-large|
|Mark Gerson||American businessman and founder of Gerson Lehrman Group|
|Zeke Miller||White House Reporter for the Associated Press|
|Nicolas Muzin||Political strategist and director of coalitions for the U.S. House Republican Conference|
|David Kramer||New York real estate developer and CEO of Hudson Companies|
|Vivek Ramaswamy||Hedge fund partner and founder of Roivant Sciences. Number 33 on Forbes list of Top 40 richest entrepreneurs under 40.|
|Jennifer Kalish||Pediatric Geneticist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia|
|Jamie Kirchick||American journalist and fellow at the Brookings Institution|
|Robert Bookman||Hollywood Agent at Creative Artists Agency|
|Karin Yefet||Professor at the faculty of law Haifa University|
|Noah Pollak||Executive Director of Emergency Committee for Israel; writer for Commentary Magazine|
|Shaya Rochester||Partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman|
|Hal Boyd||Opinion Editor of the Deseret News, Utah's largest newspaper|
|Keith Urbahn||Former Chief of Staff to Donald Rumsfeld, founder of creative agency Javelin|
|Larry Obhof||President of the Ohio State Senate|
Shabtai has also created a video archive of interviews with prominent Jewish alumni of Yale, including finance magnate Stephen A. Schwarzman, actor Henry Winkler, attorney Alan Dershowitz as well as Floyd Abrams, Peter Beinart, Dan Rose, Steven Brill, Susan Crown, Rob Glaser, Paul Goldberger, Jeff Greenfield, Samuel Heyman, Donna Dubinsky, Richard Levin, Robert Pozen, Gideon Rose, Robert Baker, Jonathan F. Rose, Jonathan Rothberg, Joshua Bekenstein, Robert Stern, Stephen Susman, Calvin Trillin, and Wendy Wasserstein, among many others.
Social justice activism
In reflection of its Jewish values, Shabtai has held events to highlight social justice issues and promote interfaith dialogue and connectivity. In 2018, the society held a screening of Academy Award-nominated Knife Skills, a film about EDWIN's restaurant in Cleveland, which employs and trains former prisoners to help them readjust and lead successful lives. The screening was attended by New Haven Mayor Toni Harp. Shabtai has been described in the Deseret News as having "the kind of conversations around the Shabbat table that bring together secular and sectarian, poor and rich, Muslim and Jew, student and scholar, Mormon and pagan and jock and genius."
In November 2018, Shabtai hosted criminal justice reform advocate Anthony Ray Hinton at a Yud Tes Kislev event commemorating the anniversary of the release of Shneur Zalman of Liadi from imprisonment by the tsarist Russian police. Hinton discussed the 30 years he spent on death row in Alabama before being freed by forensic evidence that his court-appointed lawyer had failed to request. The event was attended by several hundred guests.
In December 2018, Shabtai hosted attorney Kristen Feden to discuss her prosecution of Bill Cosby on charges of rape. Feden said that the success of the prosecution proved that, increasingly " victims of rape and sexual assault can find justice in our legal institutions, as well as society."
Business ethics and leadership
Corporate leaders lecture regularly at Shabtai in an effort to inspire morals ethics and values in the financial world. These have included Jonathan Klein, founder of Getty Images; Compass Inc. founder Robert Reffkin; Freepoint Commodities founder David Messer; real estate developer Michael Shvo; IndieGoGo founder Slava Rubin; Park51 Mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal; investor Michael Steinhardt; real estate developer Gerald Hines; private equity adviser Leonard Harlan;Palantir Technologies co-founder Alex Karp; Richman Group founder Richard Paul Richman; Joseph Cayre; Arthur J. Mirante II, president at Avison and Young; Elliot Badzin; and the late developer and philanthropist Robert Mendy Klein, as well as scores of others.
Academic and literary fora
Leading academics, writers and editors of varied disciplines join Shabtai for intimate conversation, often exploring groundbreaking theories and ideas. These have included New York Times columnist David Brooks; historian Timothy Snyder; psychologist Laurie R. Santos; writer Elizabeth Wurtzel; novelist Leslie Epstein; yiddishist Dovid Katz; screenwriter Joshua Safran; Yale University President Peter Salovey; New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik; Judaicist Christine Hayes; professor Kathryn Lofton; New York Times editors and writers James Dao, Bari Weiss, and Trish Hall; writer Stephen Carter; professor Steven B. Smith; legal scholar Jack Balkin; professor and former State Department official Charles Hill; professor Kate Stith; novelist Louis Begley and historian Jay Winter; and, during their lifetimes, the late writer Zvi Kolitz, bioethicist and surgeon Sherwin B. Nuland, and cartoonist Will Eisner.
Legal fora and debates
Contemporary issues facing the Jewish Community and Society at large are often debated at Shabtai with the participation of legal scholars, judges, public intellectuals and critics. Guests have included international jurist Richard Goldstone; Appeals Court judges Guido Calabresi, Danny Julian Boggs, Thomas B. Griffith, José A. Cabranes, and the late Stephen Reinhardt; lawyer and legal scholar Alan Dershowitz; law professors and couple Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld; Constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams; intellectual William Kristol; human rights law scholar William Schabas; scholar Norman Finkelstein; law professor Anthony T. Kronman; longtime New York Times legal writer Linda Greenhouse; Mondoweiss editor Philip Weiss; international law specialist Philippe Sands, and J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami.
National Political leaders often share intimate conversation and personal reflections of their successes and failures at the Shabtai table. Guests with political careers include Senators Richard Blumenthal, Russ Feingold and Joseph Lieberman; Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz; former Central Intelligence Agency Director R. James Woolsey, Jr.; Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim; Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel; Congressmen Adam Schiff and Ted Deutsch and others.
Film and television
Actors Jerry Springer, Charles Grodin, and Elliott Gould; Academy Award-winners Deborah Oppenheimer (director), Zvi Howard Rosenman (producer), and Bruce Cohen (producer); media executive Alan Nierob; Edelman CEO Richard Edelman; filmmaker Thomas Lennon; veteran Hollywood agent Bob Bookman and others have been known to attend Shabtai to converse and dialogue with the Shabtai community.
Shabtai has deep connections to Israeli political, military, and judicial figures and hosts regular off-the-record meetings and briefings on Israeli developments. Participants, many of whom have also been speakers and guests at Shabtai, include Israeli Supreme Court Justices Aharon Barak, Elyakim Rubinstein, and Hanan Melcer; former Prime Minister Ehud Barak; Members of Knesset Yuval Steinitz, Alex Lubotzky, and Yoav Gallant; ambassadors Daniel Taub, Ron Prosor, Danny Dayan, Ido Aharoni, and Gideon Meir; and National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror, as well as other individuals like Gilad Shalit.
Global Jewish leadership
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International Jewish leaders meet regularly with Shabtai members to inspire their participation and receive their guidance on critical issues facing global Jewry. These have included Adin Steinsaltz; Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom; Yanki Tauber and Tzvi Freeman, senior content editors of Chabad.org; the late Emanuel Rackman; Sholom Dovber Lipskar; David Lincoln, longtime rabbi of the Park Avenue Synagogue; James Ponet, Jewish Chaplain at Yale; Jacob Immanuel Schochet; Chabad rabbi and former refusenik Yitzchok Kogan; Y.Y. Jacobson; and Faivish Vogel, as well as many others.
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