Rachel Jacobs, Founder of Detroit Nation, Remembered at Funeral as Incredibly Kind

May 18, 2015, 12:25 PM by  Allan Lengel

Rachel Jacobs

Rachel Jacobs,  community activist,  CEO, and native of Huntington Woods, who died May 12 in the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia, was described by a rabbi Monday morning at her funeral service as adventurous, a world traveler, a loving mom and wife,  and "incredibly and almost impossibly kind and giving."

"The world has lost an unbelievable gift," said Rabbi Arturo Kalfus of Temple of Emanu-El of Oak Park at an Ira Kaufman Chapel funeral in Southfield, which more than 1,000 people attended.

Jacobs, 39, wife and mother of a 2-year-old boy, had just recently become chief executive of ApprenNet, an online apprenticeship service in Philadelphia. Her previous position was vice president of strategy and business development for Ascend Learning, an education technology company serving health care and other industries. She lived in New York.

Jacobs, a 1993 graduate of Berkley High School, and the daughter of former state Sen. Gilda Jacobs, helped found Detroit Nation in 2010, a nonprofit group of 7,000 ex-Detroiters who stay connected to the city and worked with innovative leaders emerging here. It has chapters in New York and Chicago, and has hosted cultural events and volunteer opportunities -- such as free consulting to startups and nonprofits.

"She loved Detroit and believed in it and believed she could help this city even if she couldn't move back herself," the rabbi said.

The rabbi read the words of one of her friends:

"She was always looking for the next way she could use her smarts and her drive to make a difference in this world. She was fearless and curious and always sure the world could be better than it is."

Younger sister Jessica Steinhart

Her sister, Jessica Steinhart, captured the flavor of her sister in a eulogy sprinkled with humor. She talked about her great admiration for Rachel and her loving relationship her sister had with husband Todd Waldman. 

"I stood in the same spot just a few weeks ago when I delivered a eulogy for my grandmother," Jessica said.

"Rachel had eulogized our other three grandparents and this time she told me I should do it; "You have a better delivery than me,' she said. A sad but true statement. (The audience laughed)

"As Rachel would have probably given her own eulogy as a power point presentation. And in a cruel twist of fate, I'm back here today. It was almost like she was preparing me by passing the eulogy torch to me."

She went on to talk about an inside family joke about Rachel:

Rachel Jacobs with her husband, Todd Waldman, and son Jacob, now 2. (Facebook photo)

"Marcia, Marcia Marcia. That was Jan’s refrain from the Brady Bunch because Marcia was so perfect.  I adopted that myself at some point and would often  refer to Rachel as Marcia. My parents would occasionally call her Marcia. It was the family's inside joke.

"Rachel was a hard act to follow as a younger sister. She set the standard, She excelled at everything.  And I blame my parents. She was the best of both of them. There was no doubt that she was my father's child.  She was ambitious, a leader, a Type A personality.

"Initially a self-proclaimed socialist, Rachel thought, if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em and promptly went off to business school and pursued a corporate career. 

"There's no doubt she was my mother's child. She was a warm and caring person who loved family and friends more than anything."  

Where to donate

  • Rachel Jacobs’ Detroit Nation Fund: Click here or send a gift to Rachel Jacobs’ Detroit Nation, 600 Renaissance Center, Suite 1740, Detroit, MI 48243. (More than $16,000 is given in less than a week.)
  • Rachel Jacobs Memorial Scholarship at Columbia Business School: Click here and pick "Other"  in the “Select a Designation” field. On the following page, select "In Memory," and fill out Rachel Jacobs 2002 in the “Special Instructions” field.
    Or by mail: Tanya Mujica Keenan, Columbia Business School, 33 West 60th St., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10023. Make check payable to Columbia Business School.

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