ELLEN GELLER KAMARAS
As I approach my four-year anniversary of writing this column, I feel incredibly honored to have interviewed many of the remarkable women of our community. What I enjoy most about this column is meeting these women, hearing their life stories, and taking away valuable lessons.
Robin Shaoul kicked off our interview with a clear-cut goal – to make a positive impact on the people who read this column. I can certainly affirm that hearing about Robin’s life, passions, goals, and insights, influenced and inspired me.
Robin Shaoul, née Hafif, was born in Brooklyn and grew up on East 9th Street and Avenue R, the youngest of four children.
Her parents, both of Syrian descent, married at 19 and 20, respectively, and as Robin affectionately put it, “They figured their life out together.”
Robin’s parents were positive and active role models when Robin was growing up and are still her ardent fans. “My father has been a cheerleader for my progress in life and often has wise counsel to offer.”
ROBIN’S LOVE OF LEARNING
Robin’s passion for learning can be traced back three generations. Both Robin’s great-grandfather, who was born in Aleppo, Syria, and her American grandfather were very learned. Robin’s mother’s education and love of learning also deeply shaped Robin.
“My mother attended Magen David Yeshivah elementary school, which was rare for girls then. When my mother was older, her commitment to attending classes was inspiring.
Robin described herself as a shy child. However, at the same time, she added, “I had a sense of motivation towards advocacy and change. I didn’t like accepting the status quo if I disagreed with it. I would say to my classmates, ‘Let’s take this to the principal.’”
Robin admits that she was not the most serious student in the earlier grades, but she enjoyed high school much more. In high school Robin got the chance to meet students from diverse backgrounds, including Ashkenazi kids who came from other elementary schools. In college, Robin’s horizons expanded even more, as she discovered psychology, had to make more adult decisions, and became more independent.
After graduating from high school Robin went straight to Brooklyn College. She regretted not studying in Israel for the gap year but explained that at that time it was uncommon for Syrian girls to attend seminary in Israel.
MARRIAGE, CAREER, AND FAMILY
Robin met her husband, David Shaoul, while she was in college. She had learned from mentors to look for a partner who will help you fulfill your potential and be your best self. So, she kept this in mind as she and David got to know each other. He encouraged her to pursue her goals and passions. Robin realized that David possessed the attributes and values she was seeking in a life partner. “We complement each other and have a real partnership.”
David, six years older than Robin and also of Syrian descent, is a physical therapist who manages a home care agency. The couple married in Robin’s third year of college. Robin completed her undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College and went directly to Fordham University Graduate School for Social Work. She gave birth to her first child, a girl, while still in graduate school. Robin is so grateful to both her mother and mother-in-law for taking incredible care of their granddaughter while Robin finished her MSW.
Robin and David have three children. Their oldest daughter, Celia, 18, is studying in the Sha’alvim for Women seminary in Yerushalayim. Their 15-year-old son, Abie, and 13-year-old daughter, Shelly, attend Yeshiva of Flatbush.
“David has always championed my career and passions, graciously acknowledging my various roles and being readily available to step in and assist.”
As parents, the couple strives to create an environment in which their children do not have to be afraid to ask questions or explore any topic.
“I am very lucky to practice a profession that I love.”
People who go into social work want to make a difference in others’ lives. The field also allows one to pursue a passion for advocacy and social action. Robin’s love for spirituality is intertwined in her career.
Robin is honored to be a part of her clients’ journeys. In addition, she takes time for self-reflection to assure that she, too, is continuously growing.
Robin’s career as a social worker began at the SAFE Foundation, an outpatient treatment program to help patients dealing various addictions. Robin first connected with SAFE’s predecessor when she did her second year of graduate field work at a division of Sephardic Bikur Holim. This division was spun off into a separate organization called SAFE in 2003. Robin spent twelve years at SAFE, first as a general clinician, then as head of the Family Division, and finally as clinical supervisor.
ROBIN’S PRIVATE PRACTICE
In 2010, Robin opened a private practice. She currently assists with a variety of challenges including trauma, addictions, depression, and anxiety. Her treatment modalities include, but are not limited to, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Somatic Interventions (using the body as a resource in healing).
Robin feels an immense sense of satisfaction as she helps her clients on their journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Beginning with her work at SAFE, Robin witnessed how extreme crises or challenges can lead individuals to the discovery of underlying strengths, empowerment, and a healthier life.
“When people face extreme crises, it often feels like the end of their world. They turn for help and in the process of healing, they discover parts of themselves they would otherwise have never known – a part that could use some nurturing, a perspective that could use shifting, a strength lying just beneath the surface, a dream yet to be fulfilled. They have no choice but to work on these parts that otherwise would have been left dormant. Finally, they discover life in a new way, with new lenses and new opportunities. They may realize that the original crisis was a blessing in disguise. They end up so much healthier and happier for it.”
Putting her family first, Robin always opted for part-time work to achieve work-life balance. “Mothering is so important and a mother needs time for self-care, too.”
To unwind, Robin loves to get lost in a good book. She chooses hiking as the ultimate way to disconnect from life’s distractions and reconnect to herself, her family (if they are with her), and Hashem.
I leave you with Robin’s uplifting advice.
“Pleasedon’tsellyourselfshort. Ifthereissomethingthat’simportant to you, find the resources you need to support you and go for it.”
You can connect with Robin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone – 917-723-5875.