For me, being a Jewish leader means being a story weaver. The Jewish tradition of stories, how we share them, and what we learn from hearing and telling them over and over again is what led me to the rabbinate. Some of the most powerful experiences in my journey as a Jewish leader have come at the moment when I found a point of commonality and connection with another person, when our stories came together. Sometimes that person was sitting right across from me, sometimes that person was a character from our rich tradition. As a Jewish leader, I strive to facilitate that kind of experience for other people or groups of people, telling a story from our tradition that invites people to feel an intimate, immediate, “me too!” connection with something ancient and foreign – then, acting on it with contemporary innovation. We are a people who have been telling the same stories for eons, and we still find new pieces of insight with every telling. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote about textpeople – Jews who, in their actions, embody the Jewish story. In my work, I’m in the business of putting lots of different text people together, building community through moments of connection between individuals and their stories, finding a place in the greater Jewish story.
Rabbi Jessica Shimberg, associate director for Jewish life and learning at University of Maryland Hillel, is a Chicago native who studied at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. She studied Jewish and Near Eastern Studies at Washington University and has a master’s in education from DePaul University. A deep investment in innovation and pluralism led her to Hillel.