Jessica K. Shimberg, Ritual Artist, Emerging Rabbi
Jessica’s ritual artistry arises from her long love affair with Jewish prayer practices and text, her deep appreciation of other wisdom traditions, her ability to find the sacred within the ordinary, her commitment to spiritual nourishment, her lived experience navigating the intersection of secular and religious practices, and her genuine desire to engage and activate opportunities to elevate holiness in our world. Jessica's ability to make religious tradition come alive and to design innovative approaches to life-cycle ritual for people of varying interests, backgrounds, orientations, styles of learning, and ages has been recognized as a priceless gift to individuals and families who engage her services.
Jessica's Jewish journey, like many spiritual paths, is not a linear one. As a kid, Jewish family and congregational life and summer camp awakened a level of interest and enthusiasm that may have foreshadowed her rabbinic pursuits, but time as an undergraduate at Brandeis University instead nurtured twin passions for musical theater and political activism. In the career that preceded her mid-life calling, Jessica served as an attorney, mediator, and facilitator of conflict transformation, assisting others in learning and utilizing collaborative approaches to systemic and interpersonal disputes. She is a graduate of both Brandeis University and The Ohio State University College of Law.
A lifelong learner, several books read one summer inspired Jessica to begin designing a monthly ritual for Rosh Chodesh (the new Hebrew month and new moon) which became a popular occurrence in her congregation. With the 2006 formation of The Little Minyan Kehilla (a small central Ohio congregation affiliated with both Reconstructionist and Renewal Judaism), Jessica was encouraged to continue to develop her spiritual leadership skills.
Jessica enroll in a training program for worship and congregational leaders (DLTI – Davenen Leadership Training Institute) in 2010. This immersive experience allowed her to hear her calling, one she did not heed earlier in life, yet which continued to influence her relationship with Judaism over the decades. Jessica committed to this work in 2011, joining the ALEPH Ordination Program, to grow into the role of rabbi she was already beginning to serve. The children of the Little Minyan Kehilla and many of their parents call her “rabbi Jessica,” a title bestowed with love and appreciation for the gifts of teaching and spiritual connection she offers. Publicly, however, Jessica declines this title and honor as one she will earn when her teachers bestow it as an acknowledgement of their confidence and appreciation of her as a colleague.
Some of Jessica’s greatest joys includes co-creation (with individuals, couples, and families) of Jewish life cycle rituals for members of the Little Minyan Kehilla and others who are drawn to her soul-centered work and artistry. Her “rabbinistry” also includes assisting in the renewal of relationship with Jewish values and practices for Jews who feel ambivalent about or even alienated from the Judaism of their youth. She also facilitates learning and engagement for those who feel drawn to our wisdom and faith tradition and were born and raised within other religious or secular paths. Helping people to find value in a connection with the divine sparks of their Jewish journey is an intuitive strength she generously shares beyond the borders of The Little Minyan Kehilla.
Jessica finds great meaning in addressing social and environmental justice issues through a spiritual lens. She has worked for many years, through T’ruah ~ the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and in alliance with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, to address human rights abuses faced by agricultural workers. Her advocacy has helped to raise awareness of consumers’ power to exert influence on corporate practices and root out injustice. In addition to her involvement in food justice issues, Jessica serves as a voice for greater attention to the climate crisis and action around environmental justice and Earth care. She is a proponent of eco-kashrut practices and Judaic values that teach and support a way of living with a focus on sustainability and planetary health and balance. This and other endeavors are also opportunities to create meaningful collaborations in both Jewish and interfaith contexts. She currently serves on the board of Ohio Interfaith Power & Light and loves the dynamics and generosity of interfaith work.
Jessica is "Mom" to two boys who are nearly men and daughter to two aging parents, and these roles and the ways in which they require compassion, courage, patience, fortitude, and self-care continue to inform her "rabbinistry" daily. Nearly 13 years ago, she also "gave birth" to a small congregation lovingly called The Little Minyan Kehilla. Kehilla means "community," and this profound and vibrant eco-centered, musical, welcoming community is the labor of love that deeply nourishes Jessica as she, in turn, serves as rabbi and spiritual visionary. She is also a "dog mama" to Melody, a mellow and loving "recycled" pup who has taught Jessica how to breathe deeply and love unconditionally. Her friendships as well as the connections made each day with complete strangers are powerful forces of illumination, comfort, and joy within her life.