By Rachel Vinciguerra
The Chaplain’s Office seeks to offer a place for students and faculty to nurture their connections to their faith on the third and fourth floors of Hamilton-Williams Campus Center.
Although Jodi Kushins was accessible to Jewish students during her time on campus from 2009 until May 2012, there has been something missing this year: a Jewish Chaplain to represent the Jewish community on campus.
The Chaplain’s Office staff welcomed a new Jewish Chaplain, Jessica K. Shimberg, to campus last Friday.
Shimberg said she is “a spiritual being, a passionate lifelong learner, and an enthusiastic leader of innovative Jewish programming.”
She said that she wants to focus on community-building and social action within the OWU community, as well as engage Jewish students on campus with their faith. Drawn to the position for many reasons, she said she has had transformative experiences on OWU’s campus, both with the Chaplain’s office and at conferences.
Shimberg said she attended a conference at OWU in 2009 “that led (her) to enroll in rabbinical school.” Since that time, Shimberg has developed the congregation she co-founded, “The Little Minyan;” served as the Rabbinic Student Intern for Rabbis for Human Rights; and begun work in Columbus with faith communities to bring attention to modern-day slavery in the agriculture industry.
Senior Tammy Winkler, president of Hillel B’Nai B’rith (Hillel), said she is excited by the opportunities she thinks Shimberg will create on campus.
“We are looking forward to seeing how Jessica can help us build Jewish community amongst Jewish students and the campus at large,” she said.
Shimberg said she wants to reach across religions and denominations to make Judaism applicable to today’s students.
Judaism relevant in our 21st century lives.”
Winkler said Hillel is excited about their upcoming events, in which Shimberg will participate.
“Hillel is looking forward to some great events this semester, including the Passover Seder, Challah for Hunger, a Purim event and we are looking forward to how Jessica can contribute to that,” Winkler said.
University Chaplain Jon Powers said he thinks Shimberg will get along well with students in Hillel as well as students of other denominations.
“She was on campus all last Friday, visiting every table at the Service Fair and meeting random students in the Stuyvesant kitchen,” he said.
“It is obvious that she meets and engages students from all walks of life with ease and enthusiasm.”
Shimberg said one of the dominant reasons she decided to join the Chaplain’s Office staff was because of their commitment to social justice, which she said is “an intense and heartfelt expression of one’s faith and values.”
Shimberg said Judaism in particular has a history of being connected with social justice in agriculture.
“We began as a people of the land—responsible as stewards of the land, accountable for the treatment of other people and animals,” she said.
Shimberg said she hopes to bring more awareness to cases of victimization and slavery in agriculture to OWU’s campus.
She said she has been personally involved with the local ecological and food movements in Columbus and environmental justice issues within the country.
She will address students tonight at 7 p.m. in Crider Lounge to share information about agricultural inequities in the fields she has visited in Florida.
“I want to tell students what we can do in Ohio to effect real positive change in the agricultural industry with our awareness and advocacy,” she said.
Chaplain Powers said Shimberg’s unique skill set, connections and passions will be beneficial to the OWU spiritual community.
“Among other things her passion for social justice and environmental issues, and her deep sense of spirituality in relation to language and personal relationships are an unusual blend of gifts and graces – so OWU,” he said.