This past weekend Rabbi Joseph was awarded the Humanitarian Award by the Massachusetts Psychological Association. Dr. Michael Goldberg, one of our congregants, nominated her and presented her with the award. We are very proud of Rabbi Joseph and feel blessed to have her as part of our sacred community. I have included a picture of Rabbi and Michael at the award ceremony along with the presentation that Michael wrote for her below. Please enjoy reading about all of her accomplishments and be sure to congratulate her when you see her!
Deborah Farber, CSS President
MPA Humanitarian Award
Rabbi Shira Joseph
Presented by Michael Goldberg, Ph.D.
November 2, 2018
The MPA Humanitarian Award has been given to many individuals over the years who have shared our commitment to promoting human welfare and who have understood and promoted psychology as a means to accomplish that goal.
Rabbi Shira H. Joseph has served as the spiritual leader of Congregation Sha’aray Shalom in Hingham, MA, the largest Jewish congregation on the South Shore, since 2003. Throughout her life, Rabbi Joseph has worked tirelessly to promote human welfare through her endless efforts to address hunger, improve the lives of individuals with disabilities, support education about genocide and discrimination, fight discrimination against individuals for any reason including gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion. But her understanding of psychology and commitment to promoting psychology’s ability to improve the human condition is unique and outstanding. It is seen in her passionate commitment to increasing understanding of mental illness and helping improve the lives of those with mental illness.
On Yom Kippur this year, the holiest day of the year for Jews, with approximately, 1000 individuals attending her worship service, Rabbi Joseph choose to deliver a sermon tilted “Eliminating the Stigma of Mental Illness.” In this powerful sermon, Rabbi Joseph used a mixture of personal disclosure, science and Judaism to motivate the community to create an environment where people can speak openly and support recovery from mental illness. In that sermon she implored her listeners to seek professional treatment, help others seek appropriate treatment and provided excellent advice and resources to support getting help.
However, Rabbi Joseph, only used her sermon as a starting point for execution of a comprehensive plan to remove the stigma of mental illness and help individuals access services and resources throughout her community and throughout the year to come.
Valuing the expertise that we have as psychologists, Rabbi Joseph, had a psychologist (and MPA member) review her sermon before providing it and has worked with psychologists and other behavioral providers to develop and implement her comprehensive year long program.
She and her husband Saul also established and funded the Rabbi Shira Joseph Holocaust Studies Fund for the Hingham Public Schools, which was intended to support educators’ access to professional development aimed at teaching about the Holocaust and lessons of how the seeds of hatred were fanned. This fund also aims to help educators recognize and respond effectively to anti-Semitism, discrimination and hatred of all people.
Later this month, Rabbi Joseph is joining clergy from multiple faiths to lead the Massachusetts Congregations Civil Rights Journey to Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham.
Rabbi Joseph was the founder of S.I.M.C.H.A., a Jewish special needs organization which serves children with special needs. She has also been the co-chair of the CCAR Committee on Disability Awareness and Inclusion, as well being a community educator resource on the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project at Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston.
Rabbi Joseph is an incredible role model for clergy from many faiths and a true friend to psychology and those we aim to serve. For her tireless commitment to promoting human welfare in every aspect of her life on every day of her life, and her commitment to supporting psychology, psychological services and psychological information to improve the human condition, I am pleased to present the 2018 MPA Humanitarian Award to Rabbi Shira Joseph.