Rachel Jacobs, Missing After Amtrak Derailment, Connected Jewishly


Rachel Jacobs, the new chief executive of an education technology company in Philadelphia, was killed after an Amtrak train derailed near Port Richmond on Tuesday night.

The Jewish woman found dead in the wake of an Amtrak train derailment near Port Richmond on Tuesday apparently found inspiration for her early nonprofit work from her Jewish connections.

Rachel Jacobs, a 39-year-old mother of a 2-year-old, was still missing Wednesday morning after the train accident the night before, which killed at least seven people and injured more than 200 others, according to reports. By Wednesday evening, various news sources had reported that she had died.

Jacobs was recently hired as the CEO of ApprenNet, an online education start-up based in the University City section of West Philadelphia.

She was commuting back and forth from her Manhattan home, which she reportedly shared with her husband and son. A 1997 graduate of Swarthmore College, she was involved with the Jewish student group on campus then known as Ruach, said local Hillel officials.

Jacobs, who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods, Mich., spoke of her deep connection to Jewish community in a 2011 interview she gave to a Detroit fellow with Repair the World, a national nonprofit Jewish service-learning program that has a West Philadelphia-based branch. 

“When we think about what it means to be Jewish, it’s very much focused on building community,” she said in describing Detroit Nation, a nonprofit group she co-founded in 2010 to help Detroit natives stay connected and involved even if they didn't live there.

She said her family had always been involved in the Jewish and general communities of Detroit. “Going back to high school, I was very involved with NFTY," she said of the Reform movement's youth group. "I was the social action president for the Michigan chapter.”

She said the concept for her organization came from a "germ of an idea" started by the Jewish Federation in Detroit, and the Federation helped support it initially. It was modeled on Diaspora Jewry's connection with Israel. "There was this huge diaspora of Detroiters who had grown up with very similar values, and really wanted to maintain a connection to the city whether they lived there or not."




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