Shimshak hopes to be a catalyst
By Deborah Moon Seldner
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Rachel Shimshak, a professional advocate for 28 years, said she hopes participating in the Portland Jewish Leadership Institute can help her be a catalyst for bringing more people together to do things that touch them spiritually and socially.
Convened and funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, the PJLI is designed to strengthen the Jewish community's leadership base for all of the community's agencies, congregations and organizations by teaching participants the personal, leadership and analytic skills they will need in the 21st century. The Jewish Review will continue to profile several of the 30 participants in the coming months.
"I like the Jewish community," said Shimshak, adding that she likes to be with other Jews for diverse reasons. "It's a comfortable and rewarding community."
Shimshak plays basketball with a team started by a group of mothers whose sons played basketball together at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. She and her husband David Barenberg have handled High Holiday logistics for Havurah Shalom's community-wide services for the past four or five years and she was the coordinator last year. She also sings with an ad hoc group of women who performed at her son's bar mitzvah a couple of years ago.
For the past 12 years, Shimshak has served as the director of the Renewable Northwest Project, a renewable energy advocacy organization. She serves on many boards related to that work, including the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, NW Energy Coalition and the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology.
She retired from the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a national board, two years ago to serve on the board of the Portland Jewish Academy, from which her son Max Barenberg graduated last year.
"I'm active in my field and in my youth I was very involved in the Jewish community," said Shimshak. "I'd like to be able to do more of what I used to do as I have time for it."
So when she was invited to participate in the PJLI, she decided it could help her find "an appropriate place within the Jewish community in which to be active."
"It seemed like quite an honor to be asked," she said.
"I've learned something and enjoyed learning with others in the room," said Shimshak of PJLI. "The sessions have covered simple but profound subject matter."