For over 20 years, people travelled from all over Northern New Jersey (and some even from New York) to attend Shabbat services with RABBI SHAMMAI ENGELMAYER. His virtual services during the coronavirus lockdown have even attracted regular participants from Canada, Mexico and, at times, even Israel.
One reason is the ruach (spirit) he facilitates. He is down-to-earth, accessible, and believes other people know more about certain subjects than he does. It's just that he knows more about Judaic subjects than most of us who have not studied much. He's happy to share that knowledge in a way that makes things understandable. He also is not afraid to admit it when he doesn't know the answer to a question—but he does research it and gets back to the questioner with an answer.
People relate to Shammai because Shammai relates to them.
Shammai wears several hats—literally and figuratively.
First and foremost, he is a rabbi.
He writes an award-winning column, "Keeping the Faith," for Bergen County's The Jewish Standard newspaper, and has been doing so since the early 1990s (so far, he has won six American Jewish Press Association awards); click here to surf over to the newspaper's website to read his latest column).
He also has a weekly podcast, called "Keep the Faith with Shammai Engelmayer." There is a link to it on the Home page. Both the column and the podcast deal with contemporary issues through the porism of Jewish law and tradition.
He is the editor of Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought (the journal, formerly published by the American Jewish Congress, is on hiatus at the moment).
He is among Northern New Jersey's most popular instructors of continuing adult Jewish education. Currently, he conducts two adult education classes each week (check out the Genesis and Prophets pages); they have been virtual during the lockdown.
A product of the yeshivah world, Shammai was ordained in 1967, but chose to pursue a career in journalism before assuming the pulpit, winning several prestigious journalism awards (including the Washington Journalism Center's Thomas L. Stokes Award for National Reporting, and the National Association for Justice's Media Humanitarian Award). He is the author of eight books, most on secular topics, and is at work on several more. His first book, Martha: The Mouth That Roared, is being made into a miniseries (it's about Martha Mitchell and Watergate) by Sir Ridley Scott's Scott Free production company. His latest book, tentatively titled Judaism for the disinterested, will be published later this year.
THE DAY SHAMMAI WENT GLOBAL!
Two decades ago, Shammai met Dr. Frederik Paulsen, chairman and CEO of an international pharmaceutical company headquartered at the time in Copenhagen. The two men had significant philosophical discussions over the next couple of years. Then, one day, Dr. Paulsen, who is not Jewish, called Shammai and asked him to help craft a philosophy for the company that would reflect the Paulsen family's own values. The result was “The Ferring Philosophy,” which was unveiled in Janjuary 2004. Today, “The Ferring Philosophy” appears on entry walls in Ferring facilities worldwide, is the first thing employees see when they turn on their computers each day, and is among the first items handed and explained to new hires.
In December 2014, Ferring opened its headquarters for its U.S. affiliate, Ferring USA, amid great pomp and festivity, and a very impressive guest list of Nobel Prize winners, distinguished internationally recognized scientists, government officials, and others. Shammai delivered the keynote address at the ceremonies. His address, seen in the film below, is bracketed by comments about his effort by several Ferring officials.
We are proud to present Shammai on this prestigious international stage. Click on the video screen below to view.