For over 25 years, The Rautenberg New Leaders Project (NLP) has provided unique opportunities and training to elevate the next class of outstanding Jewish civic leaders in Los Angeles. With a commitment to the Jewish tradition of social responsibility, NLP empowers participants to hone their leadership skills and gain a deep understanding of the diverse fabric of Los Angeles, while working with elected, civic, and community leaders to address some of the most critical challenges facing our city.
We recently interviewed current NLP participant Rachel Sumekh about her experiences in the program. Rachel is the Co-Founder and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger, an organization that began as a college pet project and has since served 1.3 million meals, earning the title “Champion of Change” by The White House. Sumekh has been recognized on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and the 2017 Social Entrepreneurship list. Before joining Swipe Out Hunger full time, Sumekh followed her millennial urge to change the world and served those facing poverty as a case manager in Chicago.
What interested you in applying to NLP?
I applied to NLP because I was passionate about leadership and think it is important for there to be strong leadership in the Jewish community. NLP is so respected, and it’s also a way for people to build their networks. Ultimately, the reputation and network were big factors, as NLP is the program if you are a civically engaged Jewish person in Los Angeles.
What session(s) have you found to be the most interesting/moving?
I found the Civil Unrest Tour marking the 25th Anniversary of the LA Riots especially interesting and moving. I grew up in the Valley and have lived in L.A. my entire life, but had only been to Watts once. It’s rare to be able to visit these neighborhoods with other like-minded civic leaders and have activists from the community lead the way, sharing their stories and history. I also really enjoyed the JPAC trip to Sacramento. There, we had the opportunity to meet elected officials, including State Senator Scott Weiner, who I asked to co-sponsor a bill my organization was working on — and he did!
What has been the most surprising and meaningful thing about being in NLP?
Coming in to NLP, I was excited about the program components, but in the end, NLP has been so much more about the people I met. Everyone genuinely wants to connect with one another on a personal level, and the friendships I have made are invaluable. Beyond the cohort, we have been able to build relationships with many of our guest speakers. It was pretty cool to be out at Homegirl Cafe for lunch with Reverend Zach Hoover from LA Voice across the room and be able to catch up because we had connected through a NLP session he facilitated.
How has NLP impacted you on your career journey thus far?
Through NLP, I have met people who possess inside wisdom into their careers in law, policy, etc. I have met people who have accomplished things that you can’t google. Additionally, I have gained access to insight that is specific to Los Angeles’ civic life. Through NLP, everything is local and community based, and doing things in hyper-local communities is valuable with the potential to be built upon.
What would you say to someone thinking about applying?
If you are looking for an incredible network of smart, ambitious, and passionate people, and want to see what your personal leadership could look like in the city of Los Angeles, definitely apply!
Are you LA’s next Jewish leader? NLP is open to Jewish young adults between the ages of 27-40 who have demonstrated a commitment to civic and/or Jewish leadership. Applications are now open! For more information, email NLP@JewishLA.org or visit www.JewishLA.org/NLP to apply today!