This article originally appeared in the summer 2011 Harker Quarterly.
Rachel (Bendis) Shekhtman ‘94 graduated from the University of Oregon in 2000 with a B.S. in economics. After a short stint as a financial advisor in Illinois, she emigrated to Israel where she has been working as a business consultant, business writer and coach for U.S. clients. This year she has begun organizing a wilderness therapy program in Israel for troubled teens called BaMidbar.
Q: When you were at Harker, did you dream of doing what you do now?
A: My dreams in junior high school were not focused on a specific career or lifestyle. There were three main themes in my dreams for the future: I wanted to help others, I had a deep connection with nature and I had a strong need to be loved. I am happy to know that these three drives are all fed to- day by my career and my personal life.
Q: What do you find most exciting about your career or current project?
A: I am passionate about both my career and my current project (which is a volunteer operation for me), and I love that they both involve helping people. Right now the wilderness therapy program is most exciting for me because it will be filling a real need here in Israel and because I believe deeply in the approach. I find it rewarding to know I have an impact on the lives of others.
Q: What personal traits make you successful at what you‘re doing?
A: Compassion, intuition, creativity and an ability to quickly analyze a situation.
Q: What in your life so far took you the longest time to learn?
A: Unfortunately, I am still on the way to learning personal organization. There actually is such a thing as “natural consequences.” Most rules are simply there to protect us from having to suffer natural consequences and to try to isolate the impact of a person‘s behavior to that person. Sounds pretty simple, but it didn‘t come “naturally” to me.
Q: What‘s on the top of your personal and professional “lists” right now?
A: Personally: 1) ensuring my husband and each of my four children get the individualized attention and love they need; and 2) preserving and feeding my individual identity by continuing to learn, to build and maintain friendships, and to have fun. Professionally: launching the BaMidbar: wilderness therapy project (http:// www.bamidbar.org.il) while continuing to provide my clients quality service.
Q: Tell us something surprising about yourself.
A: I made a choice a number of years ago to live my life according to the ancient laws and customs of my Jewish heritage, in the land of the Jewish people, Israel. I have four kids ages 2 through 8, and we‘re expecting a foster child in the near future. On an entirely different note, my first year in university I was a theater major, and I interned at a professional theater. I also was two quarter credits short of a minor in archaeology when I graduated from university.
Q: What advice do you have for current Harker students?
A: Almost every rule has a reason. Every person has feelings: your words and actions can hurt them terribly or give them true joy. Your choices can and do make a big impact on your future and the future of others.