St. Louis Jewish Light: EMBY to honor Rabbi Ze’ev and Chani Smason for a lifetime of contributions
February 22, 2024

by the St. Louis Jewish Light

Esther Miller Bais Yaakov High School (EMBY) will honor Rabbi Ze’ev and Chani Smason at its 28th Anniversary Dinner on March 10 at the Clayton Plaza Hotel, starting at 5 p.m. In addition, Zahava List will receive the Rabbi Gershon Zefren (z’’l) Alumni Leadership Award at the evening’s festivities.

The Smasons each have a storied connection to the school, with Rabbi Smason serving as the school’s first history teacher and Chani Smason as its first English teacher. The Smasons came to St. Louis in 1988 under the auspices of Aish HaTorah where Rabbi Smason served as its first assistant director and Chani led many of the women’s programs. 

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After 11 years at Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Smason took over the pulpit at Nusach Hari B’nai Zion, and for 25 years he helped to build what is now a thriving Orthodox community in the heart of Olivette. In his role as rabbi emeritus, Smason continues to teach a variety of classes on daily, weekly and monthly basis. He also is currently blending his love of teaching and his passion for Israel advocacy in his role as regional vice president for the Coalition for Jewish Values. 

Like her husband, Chani Smason has taught at EMBY since its inception, growing and building her skills as an English teacher, receiving multiple graduate degrees. For decades, she infused her students with a love of great literature, helping them to develop the all-important skills of effective writing and presentation, while continually adjusting to the ever-changing climate of what is often defined today as “information literacy,” or as she puts it, “teaching them to be skeptics to prepare them for the world they are living in.” 

Alumni Leadership Award honoree Zahava List was a student in one of the earliest classes of EMBY, distinguishing herself as a school leader and role model. Coming from a family of educators (her parents both taught at Epstein Hebrew Academy and her father was chaplain at the JCA for many years), List went on to found Chazkeinu, an organization designed to support women who are challenged with mental illness.

 To make reservations and for more information, go to

Originally published in the St. Louis Jewish Light

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