For Rachel Selvin, Israel has always been a central part of her identity. The Brookline native spent her summers in Israel with her grandparents, where they ran archaeological digs for tourists.
“A lot of his work was around the physical proof of Jewish ancestry in Israel through archaeology,” she said. “So I grew up with a great appreciation for the land of Israel.”
Now serving as Jewish National Fund-USA’s JNFuture campaign executive in New England, the organization’s community of young professionals ages 22-40, Rachel is following in her grandparents’ legacy by raising awareness and support for the country she spent her summers in as a kid.
In addition to her love of Israel, Rachel has a deeper personal connection with Jewish National Fund-USA—she was the recipient of the Impact Fellowship full scholarship for the organization’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss), a college-prep study abroad program in Israel that blends traditional fully-accredited studies with a unique experiential learning program, using the land of Israel as a living and breathing classroom. “It was an amazing experience!” she exclaimed. “I’m still friends with a lot of the people I met on that program in 2016.”
During her semester abroad, Rachel traveled across Israel, from Masada to Jerusalem, learning about the country and its history. “We would go unit by unit through Jewish history, from biblical times up until today,” she noted.
The semester abroad did more than just educate her, though. It also helped secure and deepen her Jewish identity and love of Israel. For Selvin, who attended Jewish day school throughout middle school before going to Brookline High School, Muss came at a critical point in her life.
As a part of her fellowship, Rachel posted updates throughout her time in Israel and addressed Jewish National Fund-USA New England board members, “the very people who are now sitting across the table from her in Rachel’s new professional role,” notes Jewish National Fund-USA executive director for New England Sara Hefez.
“I am so grateful for the Impact Fellowship. Muss solidified my Jewish identity at a time when I was going to a public, secular high school, and ensured that I would never lose my connection to Israel and the Jewish people. I felt confident and informed enough to know what I was saying when I was speaking to people who might have had more anti-Israel sentiments and not shying away from those conversations,” added Rachel, who went on to attend the University of Vermont.
So, when Rachel saw that Jewish National Fund-USA was looking for a professional in Boston, she jumped at the opportunity, feeling that with her history and experience, it was a perfect match.
“Seeing Rachel’s growth from student leader to Jewish National Fund-USA professional has been wonderful,” said Hefez. “I look forward to her impact on the young professional community here in Boston.”
Rachel also notes that having such a personal connection to Jewish National Fund-USA helps her better engage with members of the community. “When I talk about my ‘JNF story’ with potential and past donors, Muss comes up really quickly,” she said. “A lot of them don’t even know about our high school in Israel, so I get to explain my personal experience to them and how Muss is just one of the many things that we’re doing, from community development in the Negev and Galilee to preserving heritage sites, protecting Israel’s environment and supporting Israelis with disabilities.”
And as much as Rachel likes reminiscing about the past, she also has plans for the future of Boston Jewry. “My number one goal right now is to bring additional life into our community,” she said. “I want to help develop young professionals by giving them leadership roles, have meaningful events that bring in new people and ensure JNFuture is on the map in Boston as the place to be as we empower young people to have a strong connection to the land and people of Israel.”
To learn more or to get involved, visit jnf.org or contact Rachel Selvin at [email protected] or 617-423-0999 ext. 814.
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