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Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser Working with Students at Smith

Religious Life reporter Allison Ristaino '14 recently met with Smith's newest Jewish advisor, Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser and learned a lot about her impressively varied background.

Rhonda has her Master's Degree in Counseling and Psychology from Antioch University and a D.Min in Spiritual Direction from teh Graduate Theological Foundation. She grew up in a conservative congregation, was married to a reform rabbi, and even spent time in Israel studying at the Shepell Institute, an Orthodox Yesheva. Currently, she belongs to a Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, which is a congregation that focuses on Judaeism as an evolving civilization. She is also currently a rabbinic student in the Smicha Program of Aleph: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Aleph is part of a recent Jewish movement that has its roots in Hasidism and focuses on creative work with liturgy, including musical and meditative practices. All of this experience and wisdom eventually led to her recruitment to Smith. After meeting with Dean Jennifer Walters, Rhonda knew she wanted to work here. "I have always loved Smith," she said.

At Smith, her main job is to connect with students and guide them in their everyday lives. Her background in meditation and contemplation also makes her a great source for students. She enjoys helping Smithies, but added that "Smith students are really good leaders. I see myself as a follower." Rhonda sees herself helping out wherever she is needed in the future, and enjoys evolving her services as needed rather than setting specific goals or end products. She also works a lot with the Hillel, the Jewish student organization at Smith. Rhonda feels that she can form strong connections with students, as she is still a student herself. She not only helps students who are stressed out with finals, but can empathize with them as she takes her own finals!