Sari Raskin believes in supporting the community.
The wife of Congregation Har Shalom Rabbi Adam Raskin has been associate director of community investment at The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia since 2013. Before that, she was managing grants and scholarships at the Oakton-based charitable organization. She also founded T’micha (“support” in Hebrew) — a giving circle that connects rabbinic spouses through grant-making and philanthropic education.
A Dallas native, the 45-year-old mother of three children — Mia, 14, Nessa, 12 and Ezra, 9 — has lived in Montgomery County since 2011. The Raskin children attend Berman Hebrew Academy.
From 2007 to 2011, she served as director of engagement and programs at Dallas Social Venture Partners, a philanthropy where she served as a liaison between donors and nonprofits.
Raskin received a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland. She holds a certificate in nonprofit management from the Center for Nonprofit Management in Dallas and this year graduated from Leadership Montgomery.
We recently caught up with Raskin and talked about her passion for giving circles, the differences between D.C. and Dallas and being good at Jewish geography.
Tell us about your work with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.
We have a community investment fund which meets the critical needs of Northern Virginia’s residents and we do everything from providing organizations grants that are focused on poverty relief to mental health and aging to education and childhood development.
What is your involvement in running giving circles?
A giving circle is a way for a group of people to come together and pool dollars to give out grants. It is a way for grant-making or giving to organizations, making it very accessible. In the case of the Business Women’s Giving Circle that I staff [at the Community Foundation], each businesswoman contributes $1,000 a year. We pull the dollars and we devote grants to girls and young women focusing on STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics], entrepreneurship and leadership. The giving circle that I’m involved with personally is a group of women who are all married to rabbis. We contribute money to organizations that are focused on Jewish fertility.
What values do you bring to your work at the Community Foundation?
The value of everyone having a role in building community. I do a lot of work with people in helping them to recognize the value of giving and that they can give strategically. So the value of building community and the value of community has always been central to my professional life and also the idea of giving strategically —to give to those who are in need and thinking about it and being very intentional about giving and involvement.
What are the differences between the Jewish communities in Dallas and the Washington area?
There are a lot of things that I miss about Dallas. Dallas is a small community, so I think to some degree there is a different sense of community. Here we have to work a little harder to build community. I live in Montgomery County, but I work in Northern Virginia. There is this whole regional idea that we have to figure out how we can work together as a Jewish community with the [Potomac] River being the separation between the two communities and D.C. That’s a big difference. And the challenge. But it’s also very exciting because there are a huge amount of Jewish resources and just an excitement about being in the capital and being in this area of the country.
What is your favorite thing about living in the D.C. area?
I think it’s very exciting to be so close to D.C., but also I would say the Jewish community. There are so many ways to get engaged and the communities are all very different and they offer so many more opportunities to get involved and to contribute.
Do you have a favorite pastime?
I love getting to know people. That’s what leads to my work in the field. People always joke that I am very good at Jewish geography because I have a multitude of experiences in my life. I love connecting people and figuring how someone is connected with someone else and similar experiences that they all have. I just love getting to know people and hearing their stories, and the connections that I potentially can make for them.
The Raskins are wonderful people, but why is the first thing we need to know about this extraordinary woman that she is a rabbi’s wife? Sari’s marriage fits nowhere in this story except to answer the curiosity of someone who wants to know if she is any relation to Adam. Come on, Washington Jewish Week! You don’t identify your accomplished staff by their spouses or partners!