The Women's Foundation Honors Memphians Who are Making a Difference
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The daughter of Holocaust concentration camp survivors, Rachel Shankman was born in a displaced persons camp in Munich, Germany, and was brought to the United States at an early age. Her life experiences led her to join the staff of Facing History and Ourselves in 1991. Prior to joining Facing History, she was director of the Jewish Student Union at Memphis State University, educational director of Beth Sholom Synagogue, regional director of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, and a casework associate with Family Services of Memphis. Rachel served as the first woman president of Beth Sholom Synagogue, has served on numerous boards and was a graduate of Leadership Memphis, Class of 1994. Rachel was selected to be listed in Who’s Who for the year 2000 and the recipient of the Women of Achievement Award in the category of initiative. In November 2004, she was awarded the Bishop Carroll T. Dozier Award for Peace and Justice from Christian Brothers University. Most recently, Rachel received the 2012 Ruby R. Wharton Award for outstanding service in the field of race relations.
What or who motivates you?
“Wanting to make our community the best possible Memphis it can be, but I’m equally motivated to think beyond our community. Realizing in my particular interest, how we can use education for every student to achieve a quality education. One that teaches them how to function in a democracy — for example, civic responsibilities and to think and engage.”
What’s your greatest challenge?
“Economic resources that we all need in our community. Issues of poverty and how we use our resources. Knowing that we’ve got enough human and economic resources to meet the tremendous need of education. Also helping people truly understand difference and shared goals that are transformative, that go beyond any one person, community, or race.”
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
“To see value in each human being and recognize that I have so much to learn. Humility — years of experience have taught me to appreciate how much I still have to learn. I’m a lifelong learner.”
What’s your proudest moment/greatest reward?
“Without question, helping raising two very fine human beings, my two sons. They still teach me by the way they live their lives. No matter how challenging work situations can be, raising two children is my proudest accomplishment.”
What’s the best advice you ever received?
“My parents taught me what you carry with you through your life is your good name. How you behave and how you value people is far more important than any [physical] reward. Live with integrity.”