A summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College, Shai was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary. He founded and for five years ran the Kerem Institute at Hebrew College in Brookline, Massachusetts--a residential program for college students aimed at introducing them to Judaism and Jewish Studies. He also serves as scholar-in-residence at the E Pluribus Unum Interfaith Conference on Religion and Social Justice, a program that trains students of different religious faiths to become advocates for social action and social justice within their respective communities. Shai has been extremely involved in a variety of human-rights and social-justice issues, including most prominently relief efforts for refugees from war-torn regions.
He lectures and teaches widely on issues of Jewish philosophy and theology, spirituality from a Jewish perspective, and the relationship between Judaism and the quest for social justice, especially the alleviation of poverty and hunger in the United States and around the world.