Maharat Rori Picker Neiss serves as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis. Prior to that she was the Director of Programming, Education and Community Engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation, a Modern Orthodox Jewish synagogue in University City, MO. She is one of the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, a pioneering institution training Orthodox Jewish women to be spiritual leaders and halakhic (Jewish legal) authorities. She previously served as Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA, Program Coordinator for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Secretariat for the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, the formal Jewish representative in international, interreligious dialogue. Rori is the co-chair of the North American Interfaith Youth Network of Religions for Peace, a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders fellow, and co-editor of "InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook." She is married to Russel Neiss, a Software Engineer for Sefaria, and they have three wonderful children.
Rabbi Scott Shafrin was ordained from the American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles in 2013, where he also received a Master’s Degree in Education. As a community organizer, rabbi, and educator, Scott has worked tirelessly to connect people of all ages to the world of meaning found in the Jewish tradition by engaging with them through dialogue, Jewish texts, tefillah, music, social justice, and leadership building. He has worked as a social justice organizer in Boston, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, served as the Rabbi in Residence at the Epstein School in Atlanta, GA, and sees building relationships with people and connecting them to one another to be an essential part of his rabbinate. Scott was also a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders Fellow (2017-18), and a JOIN for Justice Fellow (2005-06) and Clergy Fellow (2021-22). He previously was the Associate Rabbi and Religious School Director at Kol Rinah, a Conservative congregation in Clayton, MO. He is blessed to share his adventures with his wife Rabbi Jessica Shafrin, a hospital chaplain and a passionate teacher of Torah, and their incredible boys, Amitai and Nadav.
Jennifer Swanson, the Director of Operations, thrives in organizations when she can utilize her appreciation of data and numbers in conjunction with words and relationships. She is happy to work alongside “the few but fierce” team at JCRC who are working passionately to create a more just, equitable, and pluralistic community.
Jennifer is passionate about public health care, museums, libraries, and education. She is not afraid to ask you to donate to one or more of her favorite non-profit organizations and believes every gift can make an impact.
Elyse Picker is thrilled to be joining the JCRC staff and looks forward to bringing her range of experiences to the organization. Elyse has worked in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, primarily in project management and education. Most recently, Elyse has been the PJ Our Way Parent Connector for the St. Louis region, creating opportunities for tweens to engage with each other and to form connections between parents of tweens. Prior to that, she served as the co-director of Kol Rinah Early Childhood Center for five years, where she helped increase enrollment, improve staff benefits and establish more opportunities for family engagement. Although not a native of St. Louis, Elyse has lived here now for over a decade with her husband and thinks it’s a great place to be raising their three children.
Lauren Abraham is the Director of the Student to Student program in St. Louis. Lauren sees the Jewish high school students that come together from all three branches of Judaism as the torch lighters to combat antisemitism and share the Jewish narrative with students everywhere in order to improve so many aspects of our world today.
Lauren is a lifelong Jewish educator with six years of experience as a Day School leader in New York City at the Rodeph Sholom School. Prior to joining JCRC, she spent six years as the Education and Engagement Coordinator at the Jewish Federation of San Antonio. During this time she grew the PJ Library program, the Partnership2gether program with the Western Galilee in Israel, and helped engage the Jewish community with new initiatives and energy and spirit. Lauren is originally from Dallas, Texas, and earned her Master's at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. She was also a passionate camper and staff member at Camp Sabra on the Lake of the Ozarks for many summers!
Lauren moved to St. Louis with her husband, Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham (Senior Rabbi at Congregation Bnai Amoona), and their three children, Benny, Henry and Joey who are students at the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community Day School. They have all added the St. Louis Blues and Cardinals to their list of favorite sports teams, including Lauren's passions, the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns.
Rachel Bray is honored to join the JCRC team as the Communications and Engagement Coordinator. She has nearly a decade of experience working and volunteering in the St. Louis Jewish Community in a variety of capacities.
Rachel is community-focused and social justice-minded. She regularly attends events focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and proudly serves on the Hazelwood Public School District DEI Solutions Group. When asked what attracted her the most to JCRC, she cites the incredible impact the organization has on the community through its advocacy and educational programs, particularly those related to combating antisemitism, interfaith initiatives, and civil rights.
Rachel is also an accomplished artist and earned her printmaking and textiles degree from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, IL. Her personal art has been exhibited in a number of galleries all over the Midwest. Last year, she was thrilled to participate in Sababa, the St. Louis Jewish Arts and Culture Festival and join the B'nai Amoona Art Gallery Committee.
Rachel, her husband James, and their son Wolfie enjoy attending Cardinals baseball games, taking road trips, and playing with their newly adopted rescue puggle, Mitis.