Rachel Sumekh

My name is Rachel Sumekh and I really love IKAR.

I’m a valley kid who was raised by parents who emigrated from Iran, flee anti-semitism and chasing the Americana dream. I feel very lucky to have inherited their grit, passion and joy. They were thrilled when I got into UCLA. Less thrilled when I graduated in 2012 and moved to Chicago to work as a social worker for homeless individuals and live in a Jewish co-op.

While in Chicago, my roommates and I received an email from a young Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann inviting us to her synagogues for High Holiday services. I attended and was never quite the same. I had grown up in traditional, male led Mizrahi services. Since when could Judaism be engaging or relevant? Upon returning to Los Angeles in Sept 2013, Rabbi Lizzi reassured me that “the mothership, IKAR, was in Los Angles and I’ll be just fine.”

She was right. From my first services at the JCC to Tribe retreats in Joshua Tree to DACA solidarity rallies in DTLA, I have felt immense gratitude, love and spiritual fulfillment because of my IKAR community.

Currently, I’m the CEO of Swipe Out Hunger. It’s a national nonprofit that allows college students to donate their unused meal points to their hungry peers and community members. A few friends and I began it in college and it has since grown to 35 other universities, providing over 1.3 million meals and this summer was adopted by California as state law. I have a lot to learn but I’m really good at scaling things, innovative strategies, public/private partnerships grant writing and public speaking. As an Executive Director, I have built boards and I know the intense financial and leadership commitment the role requires. I also serve as the token liberal on the Board of Directors for 30 Years After which engages Iranian Jews in civic action.

Jewish Community Background: I’ve completed Bend the Arc’s Selah Leadership program as well as American Jewish World Services Global Justice Fellowship alongside Melissa Balaban, Joshua Avedon and other IKAR OGs who have made my truly feel at home at IKAR. This December I complete the Jewish Federation’s New Leaders Project because as much as I like hip, cool Jewish communities, I understand that it’s important to be in relationship with institutions as well.

IKAR has taught me how to pray, how to truly be in community and that a synagogue can have a 20-30s group that is actually super cool. Props to Rabbi Nate and Erika.

IKAR has led me to some of my best friends. I’ve hosted TRIBE high holiday house parties, helped plan retreats, taught during Shavuot and worked to make others feel as welcome here as I do.