Nachman Shai, Ph.D.

Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem

Contact Information

department: Dean's Office
academic field: Jerusalem-based Programs
campus: Jerusalem
phone: (002) 620-3334
extension: 334


Dr. Nachman Shai is the current Dean of Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion and has been a member of the Board of the Mandel Foundation since 2023. Previously, he served as Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs from June 2021 until November 2022. During his ministerial tenure, he played an instrumental role in fostering the connection between world Jewry and the State of Israel.

Dr. Shai is a former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, where he served for ten years. Before his election to the Knesset, he held various positions in the military, media, diplomatic, and public sectors. He also served as Senior Vice President and Director General of Israel at the United Jewish Communities of North America (now known as JFNA), Director General of the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport, and Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson with the rank of Brigadier General. Additionally, he was Commander and Editor-in-Chief at Galei Zahal, Communications Advisor to Defense Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Moshe Arens, Director General of the Second Television and Radio Authority, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Channel 2 News Company, and Chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA). He served as Press Secretary for the Israeli Mission to the UN in New York, Press Advisor to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and worked as a reporter in print and digital media.

Dr. Shai has been an Israeli Institute Visiting Professor at Duke University’s Political Science Department in Durham, North Carolina, and a Visiting Professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

He holds a Ph.D. in political science and communications from Bar Ilan University. His thesis, “Public Diplomacy and Low Intensity Conflict,” was awarded the 2012 Tshetshik Prize for National Security Research by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. He received his M.A. degree, cum laude, from the Communications Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Dr. Shai also completed advanced studies at the World Press Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In the Knesset, Dr. Shai was a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Chairman of the Subcommittee for National Planning, and a member of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality. He chaired several caucuses, including the Caucus for US-Israel Relations, the Caucus for Strengthening the Jewish People, the Caucus for the Promotion of Israel’s Public Diplomacy, the Caucus for the Elderly, the Caucus for Jerusalem, the Caucus for the Struggle Against the Delegitimization of the State of Israel, and the Caucus for Strengthening Israel’s Foreign Affairs System. He also chaired the Israel-Germany Parliamentary Friendship Group and was head of the Knesset Delegation to the International Parliamentary Union (IPU).

In 2013, Dr. Shai published his first book, “Media Wars,” which addresses the development of new public diplomacy and its role in the battle between states and terrorist and guerrilla organizations. The book won the 2013 Yitzhak Sadeh Prize for military literature. In 2016, he published his second book, “Caught in the Net,” and in 2018, his third book, “Hearts and Minds: Israel and the Battle for Public Opinion,” which explores the intersection of warfare and diplomacy, including Israel’s struggle with the BDS movement.