Rachael Simon is the new president at the Jewish Federation. Formerly the chair of the Federation’s oxyGEN (now NextGen) committee, the VP of Programming, and the Executive Vice President, Rachael is a pediatric dentist in Ellicott City and a member of Kol Nefesh synagogue. Read more about Rachael’s vision for the Federation in the coming years.
Hi Rachael! Tell us more about how you first became involved with the Federation.
When I moved to Howard County, I wanted to find a way to become more involved in my community, specifically in ways that would allow my kids to have an outlet to find other Jewish people in the county. After graduating Dor Tikvah, a two-year women’s leadership program in Baltimore, I felt it was very important for me to find my Jewish identity in the community I live in and to get involved locally.
How has the Federation helped you find your identity?
The Federation is a great starting point for anyone who wants to get involved Jewishly and find what the community has to offer, especially if you’re not from the area. Federation was the first place for me to find Jewish initiatives to get involved with and to grow as a Jewish woman and leader. One of the best things about the Federation for me and my family is that it provides different programs that work at different stages of life, so no matter where my family is, we can always meet other like-minded Jewish people.
What is your vision for Federation right now?
My vision for the Federation is for it to be a place where every Jewish community member feels comfortable finding their place and enriching their own Jewish life.
Long-term, our focus is on creating a sustainable organizational framework that will allow us to serve the community in the best way possible from generation to generation.
We will continue to work closely with our Jewish partners—with preschools, synagogues, and other organizations—and reach out to our community to find how to best support their needs, enhance their community involvement, and ensure that we are helping each other.
How would you describe your role as president?
My role is to help the organization identify and build a sustainable framework that will allow us to provide the best services possible in the long-term. We are doing so with the establishment of a taskforce that will evaluation an array of options for our organizational structure and functions for the years ahead.
What is our biggest challenge and biggest strength as a community?
Our biggest challenge is keeping all the facets of our diverse community connected and united. Despite our differences, together we can preserve our heritage and identify a unified path to address everyone’s needs.
Our biggest strength is that people here really want a strong community, are excited to be a part of this community, and have a strong sense of Jewish pride. That’s why Federation is so crucial: Many people here don’t have a long history in the area, and Federation provides an entryway for people to get connected to that welcoming community.
What Jewish value speaks to you the most in your work?
Dor l’dor. (Generation to generation.) I want my kids to understand that being Jewish and having a strong Jewish identity is important so that they can continue to hold on to that identity as they grow up and continue the legacy of giving back to the community with their own children.
I feel like in Howard County especially, you have to seek out that Jewish connection. By making your Jewish identity a priority in some way, whether through your synagogue, Federation programming, or another Jewish outlet, you are sustaining a generational legacy. I talk to my kids about all the things I do within the community so they know that I’m using my time to give to Jewish causes and understand that that is where I want to devote my time.
What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
Rosh Hashanah is my favorite holiday—the idea of starting a new year, at time of renewal in the fall, really appeals to me. I love celebrating the sweetness of a new year with my family.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to travel, attend sporting events like football and baseball, and exercise—I’ve run marathons with my parents. I also love my 80s music and cover bands.
You can reach Rachael at email@example.com