Building on his 25 years in the international non-profit sector, Shai been assisting foreign IT, manufacturing and consumer firms with branding and market entry into the United States, and strategic partnerships. He also provides guidance and representation to government entities seeking to promote their economic, social and diplomatic goals. As a partner with Gotham Government Relations, he advises and represents domestic and foreign clients in their outreach to U.S. policymakers, media, and interest groups.
Shai has worked for numerous non-governmental organizations, including the World Jewish Congress, NCSEJ (formerly the National Conference on Soviet Jewry), American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), United Nations Watch, and the Anti-Defamation League. He also served as Treasurer of the UN-affiliated Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CoNGO). Currently, he is Senior Fellow at The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute.
Shai has led or coordinated advocacy efforts within the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch, United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Organization of American States, International Red Cross, Interpol and numerous parliamentary assemblies, on human rights and religious freedom, international trade, counter-terror, and education. Heading the TEACH-NYS coalition, he built an advocacy network of 13 schools and partnered with the New York State Catholic Conference, boosting state reimbursements to non-public schools by $44 million in the first year.
Shai has implemented accountability and best practices for non-profits, bringing several into full compliance with multi-tiered registration and reporting requirements. He has upgraded Board engagement and initiated substantive leadership development, organizing high-level events and conferences in Washington and New York, and in Austria, France, India, Israel, Mexico, Russia, and Ukraine.
A former Soref Research Fellow of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Shai has appeared on Al Jazeera English, Shalom TV, Israel Radio, and Argentina's C5N. He contributes regular columns in The Hill, Huffington Post and Times of Israel, and in 2010 was ranked number-eight on the JTA list of "100 Most Influential Jewish Twitter Users."
Shai studied architecture at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where his activism led him to earn a B.A. summa cum laude in political science, from Temple University. He later received a M.A. in Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. He lives near New York City.
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In the 1980s Michael founded Impro, a marketing consulting practice providing multi-level "soup to nuts" services to non-profit and governmental clients in Europe and Israel, earning a reputation for promotion of performing arts organizations and festivals.
After ten years, Michael became Moscow-Russia CEO for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), leading a team of 50 professionals during five of the most volatile and exciting years in the transition from Communism and in the history of Russian Jewry. He cultivated and mentored community leaders and local donors, negotiated agreements with top officials, and established institutional infrastructure for a sustainable and autonomous system of welfare and cultural programs. The Russian Federation awarded Michael a Special Citation for Contributions to the Development of Nationalities.
In 12 years as Director of Donor Development for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Michael worked with local business leaders to generate mission-driven philanthropy on an unprecedented scale. He identified and secured donors and partners, and managed community projects and teams across a half-dozen countries, to assist terror victims, provide emergency relief and medical support, promote coexistence, and establish a new generation of community centers.
Michael led strategic development for Carnegie Mellon University's iCarnegie subsidiary, forging new international partnerships in STEM education, IT/workforce development and entrepreneurship to respond to market demands. He orchestrated Carnegie Mellon's entry into the Russian market, brokering an unprecedented multi-year, multi-million dollar project with the Russian government and the Republic of Tatarstan. Michael worked closely with government, academic and industry leaders to assess and establish Innopolis, Russia's new technology city.
In August 2019, Michael was named CEO of BEST Robotics, Inc., a non-profit promoting STEM programs in middle schools and high schools across the United States.
Michael studied psychology and criminology at Bar-Ilan University and international studies and public policy at the Hebrew University. He holds a Master's Degree from Duquesne University in leadership and liberal arts, and has taught The child of two Holocaust survivors, Michael was raised to believe that 1. "people are good" and 2. the glass is always full. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, near their extended family of grown children and growing grandchildren.
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