Although Shammai was ordained in 1967, he chose not to assume a pulpit or go into teaching. Instead, he became a journalist and, almost as quickly, an editor with a major supplementary news service, the North American Newspaper Alliance, at the time a division of the Bell-McClure Syndicate. He was 23 at the time. At age 24, he was handed a concurrent assignment, becoming the first editor of the late Jack Anderson’s Washington Merry-Go-Round column. In 1970, at 25, he became the youngest syndicate editor in history to that time when he took over as editor of NANA, a position he held for the next decade alongside his Washington Merry-Go-Round responsibilities. For most of that time, NANA and the Washington Merry-Go-Round column were services of United Feature Syndicate, which had bought out the old Bell-McClure.
During this time, Shammai played a role in Anderson’s winning of the Pulitzer Prize and was himself nominated three times for the award. In 1975, he won the Washington Journalism Center’s Thomas L. Stokes Award for National Reporting.
The mid-1980s found Shammai as executive editor of the New York weekly newspaper The Jewish Week. Here, too, he garnered awards for his work, and continues to do so as a columnist for the Jewish Standard.
For a while after the Jewish Week, Shammai was the communications director for the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. It was while at the Seminary that he began teaching adult Jewish education courses, which eventually led him to the pulpit.
Shammai is the author of eight books, most on secular topics, and is working on two more at the moment.
He has three children and 10 grandchildren.
Shammai and his wife, the journalist Marilyn Henry, live in Teaneck, New Jersey.