Meet Rachel: Jewish Climate Activist of the Week

by Rachel Kriegsman / December 23, 2020

By day, Rachel Mandelbaum works to fight climate change. In her spare time, she’s involved in various social justice communities across Jewish DC. Read this week’s 1:1 interview to learn more about Rachel, her work to keep the planet beautiful, and her favorite places to explore nature around the DMV!

Rachel: What brought you to DC and what made you stay?

Rachel M: I came to DC in 2009 to attend college at American University and never left! I’ve met incredible passionate and generous people here and gotten involved in local and national politics. Plus, it’s easy to get around and pretty beautiful!

Rachel: I know this is the most DC question, but what do you do and how did you get into that? 

Rachel M: I am a national organizer for the Sierra Club. I engage with our members on ways we can build grassroots power to protect public lands and water and advocate for bold and just action on climate change and the issues that intersect.

Rachel: I’d love to hear more about your work in climate! What’s a typical day like?

Rachel M: Lots of Zoom meetings and Gchats! Right now I am working on pushing back against this last-ditch effort from the Trump Administration to lease land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling. The lease is bad for our climate. It is also a huge danger to the Native Alaska communities that rely on the Refuge as a source of subsistence and culture. I’ve spent the last few weeks working to brainstorm and plan ways for volunteers to take action. Everything from webinar trainings to uplifting toolkits, and making sure our activists are comfortable using social media and other digital tools.

Rachel: Describe your dream day in the DMV from start to finish. 

Rachel M: These days it starts with getting up early enough to make it to the U St Farmers Market. Then I’d bring home the farmers market haul and make something tasty with my fiancé. We like to explore nature near and far. During the pandemic we’ve spent time picnicking in Malcolm X Park, kayaking on the Potomac, walking and biking the Anacostia River Walk, or hiking in the GW National Forest. Maybe on the way home, we’ll stop at Eden Center and get a snack, or stop by someone’s house and deliver baked goods that we made earlier that week. After a big activity, we’ll get takeout from somewhere like Judy Restaurant, one of our favorite spots, and watch something. We’ve been working our way through the Sopranos over the last 9 months.

Rachel: What do you do to relax or for fun at the end of a long week? 

Rachel M: Trying to spend some time outside moving my body, cooking something tasty, reading (I love a good YA dystopian novel), watching food videos on YouTube, and seeing friends and family outside when the weather is nice.

Rachel: What’s at the top of your life bucket list or where are places you’d love to travel? Why?

Rachel M: My fiancé and I have been in wedding-planning limbo the last year. We were supposed to be married last Memorial Day and we’ve rescheduled for 2021, but we’ll see if that happens! We’re starting to think about the future and the home and life we want to build. Beyond that, I grew up in New York, so I really just want to be able to travel home and hug my friends and family safely. Hopefully we can start traveling again this summer. Our honeymoon was planned for Italy and Croatia, so it would be great to do that someday.

Rachel: Anything else you’d like to share with the DC Jewish community?

Rachel M: I feel really thankful to the various Jewish communities I’ve been part of in DC – IfNotNow and the New Synagogue Project, to name a couple. Each has been a place to learn, grow, meet new people, and celebrate Jewish traditions and holidays. There’s also a place to come together to fight for justice that is embedded in our Jewish values.

Rachel: Complete this sentence – “When Jews of DC Gather…

Rachel M: …we are a powerful community.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.