If you asked me to describe Cory Shapiro in one word, I would say he’s akin to a “mayor” of the young Jewish event world. He knows everyone, continues to meet new people and is always organizing events that blossom into organizations where hundreds if not thousands of lives are affected.
Cory, who works at Arizona State University as the assistant director of leadership and development for the Office of University Housing, leads the recruitment, training and professional development efforts for both student staff and professional staff in his department. He spent the last 14 years working professionally for housing departments and his graduate degrees focus on student development.
“I really enjoy working at a university that values innovation and provides so many opportunities to make a difference for our students. I’ve always been involved in Jewish life, though not always as an organizer or a leader,” he says, with a smile.
Originally from Toronto, Cory moved with his family to Scottsdale as an infant.
“I grew up as an active member of Temple Solel and as a leader for its youth group and the Southwest Federation of Temple Youth. I attended Hebrew High, went to Jewish summer camps and eventually became a staff member at the Greene Family Camp [in Bruceville, TX], participated in Hillel at The University of Arizona, and was a religious school teacher and youth group advisor at a synagogue in Tucson. When I moved to Columbus, OH, I helped lead the Reform services at Hillel as a graduate student and was involved in several synagogues. Upon returning to Phoenix, I craved a Jewish experience, which I was able to create with my friends.”
When he returned home to the Phoenix Jewish community in 2006, several of his friends were looking for a Jewish experience. They decided to host Shabbat potluck dinners with a mini-service.
Cory explains, “We each invited a few friends and had a great time, so one month after another, we hosted a larger and larger Shabbat potluck, which we eventually called ShabbatLuck. ShabbatLuck’s mission was to provide the Greater Phoenix area with a Shabbat potluck experience for Jewish young adults in their 20s and 30s. ShabbatLuck held large dinners with more than 100 attendees, smaller dinners in individual homes and specialty events in partnership with other organizations. Over 4,000 people attended 200 of our events from 2007 through 2013.”
Cory also realized that it was difficult to find a connection to a synagogue as a young adult, so he worked with more than 25 synagogues over a five-year span to get hundreds of High Holiday tickets into the hands of young adults in the area, in exchange for a donation and possible future involvement in their community. This became known as the Cool Shul Campaign, which under the leadership of NowGen has evolved into the Congregation Connection program.
Cory did not stop with his efforts to unite the young Jewish community.
“During the summer of 2015, one of my friends and I realized that now that we are in our 30s there are fewer opportunities to meet other Jewish community members our age. We decided to create an experience where singles could meet other singles, couples meet other couples, and young families meet other young families. Thus, Schmooze was started as a Jewish social organization to bring together singles and couples in their 30s and 40s, as well as young families in their 20s through 40s. We kicked off the organization with The Big Schmooze in October 2015, when 61 singles and couples came together at the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, followed by our Young Families Kick-Off with 25 families at Cactus Park in November 2015. We have now hosted 24 events, as of the end of October 2016. We are in the planning stages of The Big Schmooze II,” Cory says.
Schmooze functions are arranged by a group of 12 volunteers and they are always looking for more assistance.
Cory grins, “Schmooze events are important, as we are one of the bridges from the organizations that focus on the 20s and the synagogues that often have an active focus towards young families. Many of our members are not members of synagogues or want to expand their social circles beyond their synagogues. I enjoy helping to facilitating the ‘schmoozing’ and relationships between community members, whether singles, couples or young families.”
During the last few years, Cory has been a part of the Anti-Defamation League’s Glass Leadership Institute, Valley Beit Midrash’s Start Me Up! Fellowship, a participant in the Germany Close Up program (through Action Reconciliation Service for Peace), a past board member for Young Jewish Phoenix (NowGen), and a current board member for the Phoenix Jewish Genetic Diseases Center and AVIV of Arizona.
As if he is not busy enough, he laughs as he says, “I enjoy getting to know community members and I am always up for partnering with different organizations on an event or initiative.”