Lessons Learned from around the Kitchen Table: Introducing Our New Interim CEO, Ellen Meyer Shorb

As Preemptive Love stabilizes and matures as an organization, we’re thankful for your continued support of our peace-driven relief aid, job creation, and community-building programs. With great excitement, we’d like to introduce you to our new interim Chief Executive Officer, Ellen Meyer Shorb.

Ellen comes to Preemptive Love with a profound sense of curiosity about the world and a personal commitment to making it a better place. Her wonder about the wider world began at her childhood dinner table, where people from different backgrounds would visit and share their stories. “I got to see, from my little world, the bigger world.” 

As a family, Ellen’s parents encouraged their children to ask questions and work out their own ideas even if they disagreed. Her father would lean in, both physically and metaphorically, urging family members to tell him more or explain why they thought the way they did. Ellen remembers many conversations about ethics and what mattered, and “why that kid next door pushed me in the mud…and the answer was, he must be having a difficult time.” These were her first lessons in listening and building empathy.

At Ellen’s childhood kitchen table, everyone sat equal distances from one another, which symbolized their equality at the table. This is a custom Ellen repeats in her own house. Also, everyone is involved in setting up the dinner and clearing it. Ellen jokes that one of her daughter’s friends credits Ellen for teaching her how to vacuum. “But really, what we do is, we involve everyone in the conversation…{to keep} learning about the world beyond our table.”

Ellen’s two years in the Peace Corps after college connected her to “humanity and the human spirit and the core of what it means to live and survive and laugh, laugh and fall in love and have feuds and be frustrated…” She likens the work Preemptive Love does to the lessons in patience, respect, trust, and joy she learned in the Peace Corps. Fundamental to these lessons is listening. 

Ellen holds curiosity intrinsic to listening. “I don’t think I can pretend to listen. Maybe other people can.” Ellen listens at different levels, not only to what people say but to how they say it. She listens to the melody uplifting people’s words while watching what they do as they speak. The ability to name what she hears, especially if no one in the room wants to name it, requires courage. That courage is essential when teaching others to listen, which is a skill Ellen honed while working in mediation. 

Listening also requires respect. Engaging people from a place of respect and natural curiosity encourages them to be forthright. When people disagree, respectful listening ensures that disagreements happen amicably, which is the final component of successful listening–joy. Ellen hopes that people have a good time when listening. There must be joy in the room, even when doing the hard work of helping an organization move forward. With Ellen at the helm, Preemptive Love is starting a new chapter in our story of building a more peaceful world.