Date: July 27, 2022
Source: Baltimore Jewish Times
You Should Know … Rachel Siegel
Rachel Siegel, 24, creates Jewish-themed programming as part of Repair the World Baltimore and works to advocate for the LGBTQ community.
(Courtesy of Rachel Siegel)
Siegel, who is nonbinary and uses she/they pronouns, has always been very passionate about social justice. She attended her first abortion justice rally in eighth grade. Born and raised in Miami, she double majored in communications with a focus in public advocacy and political science at the University of Miami.
She was active in the world of Florida activism for quite some time, helping to plan pride events and advocating for LGBTQ-focused causes. A few years ago, she moved to Baltimore and started working with Repair the World Baltimore as a fellow. She now focuses on Jewish programming and advocacy.
Did your Jewish identity play a role in your upbringing, or were you raised secularly? I was raised in a really strong combination of both Jewish and secular, but we were very focused on being a Jewish family. It was really important for both of my parents to raise Jewish kids. I went to Hebrew school from first grade until 10th grade. My parents were both very involved at my synagogue. My dad sat on the board; my mom and dad were really involved in all of our programming. But at the same time, we didn’t really celebrate Shabbat and we didn’t really do every single Jewish ritual or tradition. But we were very involved in the Jewish community I grew up in Miami.
What led you to move to Baltimore after being involved in Florida activism for so long? I was applying for Repair the World, the fellowship in general, and I was applying for jobs in every city that wasn’t Miami because I wanted to live somewhere new. And Baltimore Repair the World reached out and offered me the position, so I took it.
What do you do as part of Repair the World? In general, what we do is plan programming for Jews in the community that is Jewish-focused and based in Jewish values, and accomplishes either service or learning. Our learning sessions usually have a small service element to them, and vice versa. What I do is help plan those events, help facilitate those events and reach out to people for those events. And then I also work with local organizations to partner with for those events.
The other big part of my role at Repair the World is working with local organizations in a volunteer capacity. This past year I worked with Food Rescue Baltimore and the Black Yield Institute in a volunteer capacity. For Food Rescue, I would help out with their food giveaways twice a week. And with Black Yield Institute, I was assisting them with communications and graphic design.
How has your LGBTQ identity influenced your activism? It’s always been a really big part of my identity since I was very young. Growing up, I was always known as the gay kid. The way that I was perceived, especially in school, made me very angry and just made me have a very different approach to the world. It made me view the injustice in the world a lot differently because I could, as someone who’s queer, I could see those injustices and how systemic they were. So they could be queer issues on the surface but it if you look closer, they’re race issues. They’re disability rights issues. It’s all of these different intersectional identities that kind of culminate in queerness. And it really influenced the way that I interacted with activism.
I feel like my identity has been far more accepted in LGBT spaces and who I am as a person has been far more accepted, and it makes me want to continue my activism in those spaces.
What do you want to do with your activism in the future? It’s always been my career goal to be able to do this work professionally and make a living out of it, because it is truly what I enjoy doing the most. And I’ve been doing it for such a long time that I know it just makes me very happy to be able to continue this work. I am not so certain exactly what direction I want to go in the future, which is kind of why I took the job at Repair because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do yet. I’m still trying to figure that one out.