You Should Know… Rachel Sacks

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(Photo courtesy of Rachel Sacks)

Rachel Sacks, 28, lives in Washington, D.C., and works for Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. Originally from Philadelphia, she grew up in the Habonim Dror youth movement and double majored in religion and gender, sexuality and feminist studies at Oberlin College.

What is your Jewish background?

I went to Jewish day school from kindergarten until 12th grade, so I was totally immersed in the Jewish community. College was the first time I was in a school without a Jewish curriculum, but even then, I chose to major in religion, taking a lot of Jewish studies classes along the way.

A significant point of connection for me is cooking food for Jewish holidays. Some of my favorite dishes — a Sephardic jeweled rice recipe I found while preparing for Rosh Hashana, a mouthwatering apple cider honey cake and my go-to matzah ball soup.

Can you describe your career so far?

The summer after college, I was listening to NPR’s “Planet Money,” when I heard an announcement for NPR’s internship program. I decided there was no harm in applying, so I did — using a script I’d written for my sketch comedy group as a sample. Since I had fundraising experience, I also decided to apply for internships on NPR’s Development Team. Within a week, I was hired as a Development Intern at NPR. I never heard back from
“Planet Money.”

The NPR headquarters in D.C. was full of opportunities to learn about journalism, and I took full advantage by treating the newsroom as my playground. I supported journalists on stories for “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition,” sat in on editorial meetings and set up as many one-on-one conversations with staff around the building as I could.

On weekends, I spent hours learning how to use studio equipment and the effort paid off. I partnered with another intern to produce an internal podcast about the Development Team.

Being at NPR made me realize that I wanted to be a storyteller full-time, and coming to this understanding is what led me to join the communications team at Schusterman Family Philanthropies. I’ve worked here for over four years now. As the managing editor of Schusterman’s digital magazine, Toward, I get to help share stories every day — and it feels especially meaningful that the articles we publish are about issues I care about personally.

What’s your favorite travel destination?

I studied in Amsterdam in college and loved it. One of the benefits of spending so much time there was getting to visit as many museums as I could. For something like 60 euros, I was able to get a card called a Museumkaart that gave me access to tons of museums across the Netherlands.

I especially enjoyed visiting The Joods Museum, Amsterdam’s Jewish museum. I made a point of visiting a Jewish museum in every country I visited in Europe. The Joods Museum stood out to me because it covered information about contemporary Dutch Jewish communities, whereas a lot of the Jewish museums I visited tended to have less coverage of events or culture after the Holocaust.

What advice do you have for young Jews starting their careers?

Be proactive — but accept that not everything can be planned ahead. Most of the moments that led me to where I am now in my career were unplanned, and each opportunity helped lead to
the next one.

I think there are a lot of societal norms pushing us to pick a dream job and stick with it, but having tunnel vision can ignore the fact that each of us is constantly evolving and growing. By being open to change, I think it’s possible to make incredible connections, build new skills and ultimately find meaningful opportunities you may not have known existed.

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