Since the formation of the Little Minyan in 2006, Jessica K. Shimberg has served as a grassroots organizer and leader of our kehilla/community. Jessica’s passion for Judaism and her ability to make Judaism come alive for people of varying interests, orientations, styles of learning, and ages, makes her a natural leader of the spiritual life that courses through our congregational, family, and individual lives.
Her interests and service of our community led Jessica to 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 our community and many of their parents begain to call her “rabbi Jessica,” a title bestowed upon her with love and appreciation for the many gifts of teaching and spiritual connection that she brings us. Publicly, however, Jessica declined this title and honor as one she would earn when her teachers determined it was time to bestow smicha upon her as an acknowledgement of their appreciation and acceptance of her as a colleague and rabbi. In January, 2018, Jessica officially became Rabbi Jessica to the wider world and continues to provide an ever-increasing level of spiritual and intellectual Jewish nourishment that we know to be unique and much needed in in central Ohio and the larger world.
Some of Rabbi 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 Kehillah.
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 as an ally of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, to address human rights abuses faced by farmworkers in the United States and elsewhere. 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 local proponent of eco-kashrut practices and Judaic values that teach and support living with a focus on sustainability and planetary health and balance. Rabbi Jessica is also a passionate advocate for justice for immigrants, refugees and those with undocumented status who are our neighbors and friends and came to this country for a better life for themselves and their children. She also appreciates the opportunities to create meaningful Jewish and interfaith collaborations that comes from participating regularly in social justice efforts. She currently serves on the board of Ohio Interfaith Power & Light and loves the dynamics and generosity of interfaith work. As a result of her advocacy skills and the strong friendships with other community leaders and clergy who work for justice, Jessica is a frequent speaker at rallies, press conferences, and vigils, and a popular presenter at academic and religious conferences and events.
In the career that preceded her calling, Rabbi 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 Brandeis University and The Ohio State University College of Law. Her two sons are nearly grown and she is happy to share her home with her beloved “recycled” (rescue) dog, Melody. In addition to her unabashed affection for Jewish ritual, liturgy, aggadah (legend), and Chasidic niggunim, Rabbi Jessica loves hiking, classical music, the moon, the desert Southwest, jazz, Israel, theater, choral music, poetry, forests, ice cream, walking along the beach, and dancing when no one is watching.