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Rachel Jacobs and her Detroit Nation taught all of us ‘Tikkun Olam’ or healing the world

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There are two funds set up to honor Rachel Jacobs and her legacy. They are:

–Crowdrise on behalf of Detroit Nation. Your donation, in memory of Rachel, will go to benefit Detroit-area projects that will continue this mission and leave a lasting legacy in Rachel’s name.

–Columbia Business School. Rachel’s family would like to create a scholarship for students in her name, with preference for aspiring female social entrepreneurs. Please designate “Other” when determining the gift amount. On the following page, select “In Memory”, and fill out Rachel Jacobs 2002 in the “Special Instructions” field.

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Here’s the thing about falling in love with a city – it’s a feeling that permeates your flesh and bones. It is a single-minded focus that affects everything you say and do.

That’s how many of us feel about Detroit. There is a relationship between the individual and the city, something that lingers even when you’re apart. There’s a romance to it, certainly. It’s a character in your story. It’s what defines you. It’s part of your brand, if you want to monetize it.

RachelA woman who truly believed in Detroit passed away this week. Her name was Rachel Jacobs, and she was the founder behind Detroit Nation. It is a group of ex-pats who considered Detroit a permanent part of who they are and what they stand for in life. Jacobs along with several of her New York City-based friends created the organization one night, probably after too much wine and lots of great stories.

When the group came together in 2010, there wasn’t a lot of love for Detroit in the media. In fact, bashing the city was such a pastime that entire magazine covers were devoted to smashing it down. But the members of the Detroit Nation were different. They wanted to be associated with Detroit; they didn’t shy away from the ugly labels or condescending stories.

Jacobs set out to turn her ideas and dreams for Detroit into reality. She wanted to see a real change in the city, and she knew the only way to improve its fortunes was to become invested. So she and her friends formed an alliance – even if they weren’t physically in Detroit, they would do everything they could to support the city where they grew up, attended school or simply loved being.

Personally, this is where I met Jacobs. She and I corresponded via telephone, emails and the like for a time. She helped me understand her mission and what she hoped to accomplish with Detroit Nation. I applauded her efforts then, and I am even more impressed with them now that I can see with hindsight how innovative her thoughts truly were.

Like most friendships go, we kept in touch on Facebook mostly. Our connection was limited for the most part to this online world of Messenger. So when I heard about the Amtrak accident and that Jacobs was a passenger, my instinct was to go to this social-media site. This is where we connected. This was where her life intersected with mine.

It is with great grief that we all learned of her death in that train accident. She was on her way home from her job (a CEO at 39!) and to her husband and son. And it is with great sorrow that I kept going back to Facebook over the past 24 hours, reading and rereading all of the tributes to Jacobs – her inspirational family, her wonderful husband, her loving son and her many, many devoted friends. I wish I had known her better, but I feel like through their tributes I got to see much more of Jacobs’ amazing life and powerful influence.

Rachel Jacobs loved Detroit. She cared for it in the best way possible – through actions. She didn’t just say she wanted to help the city; she actually helped it. She reinvigorated people’s devotion for doing. She understood the power of connectivity. She mastered the art of the quiet yet persistent ask. She knew that you didn’t need to shout to get attention. You just needed to make the effort, show up and get the work done.

Jacobs never gave up on anyone. She never gave up on Detroit. Sounds so, so simple. But it is incredibly difficult some days to love a city – a city that rarely shows you that affection in return. But she never gave up on seeing its potential and doing what she could to cultivate that.

logoOne tribute to Jacobs mentioned the phrase “Tikkun Olam,” or Repairing the World. The author said that Jacobs took that phrase – that idea of healing – to a new level. According to one definition, Tikkun Olam “suggests humanity’s shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world.” What better way to honor her Jewish heritage and her love for Detroit than to completely and utterly live this mantra?

What can you do when someone you respect and consider an inspiration on how to live dies too young? How do you show that their life meant something to you, to the world? How do you honor her impact on Detroit? Through action. Through devotion. Through a never-ending passion for healing and repairing all that is broken, lost or in need of help.

You can never go back, change things, talk one more time. But you can love more, act a little more fearless and embrace what little bit of change you can bring. It is how Rachel Jacobs lived, and it is her legacy both through Detroit Nation and anyone who had the good fortune of crossing her blessed path.

To donate to Rachel’s scholarship or Detroit Nation, click here.

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