Rachel Hellman grew up in Pikesville, Maryland, and currently resides in DC. A kindergarten teacher by day and Kesher Israel volunteer on evenings and weekends, she loves to cook and host Shabbat meals to bring people together. In her free time, Rachel enjoys Zumba, People magazine, board games, and “Friends” reruns.
You’re a kindergarten teacher. What made you want to pursue that career path?
I always thought I wanted to teach second grade, but in college, I absolutely fell in love with the idea of instilling the foundations of reading in humans. Because you get to do that in my job!
Which “Friends” character are you?
I can never answer that question. While the show is genius and timeless, I never placed myself as one specific character. I love the style of Rachel, the humor of Chandler, the wacko in Phoebe, the best friend in Joey and the awkwardness in (Seasons 1-4) Ross. I guess I would have to be the Monica, though. I do like to have people over and host a good dinner.
What do you like about baseball?
It is in my blood. My family members have been Orioles fans since 1953. (‘53- AAA team of the Phillies. In ‘54 the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles.) There is nothing like walking into Camden Yards and feeling like you are home. You get the crack of the bat, the smooth sailing of a pitch, and the glory of a win.
What is your favorite vacation memory?
Have I ever told you about that time I went to Puerto Rico... Just kidding. [Ed. Note: This is an inside joke — she went with the interviewer.] In 2012, my family went on a heritage trip through Germany. We arrived at a cemetery in the fields of Bavaria where many family members were buried and the gate was locked. My cousin climbed up a wall and got stuck on the top, while I walked 15 feet further and saw that there was a spot where the wall was about six inches off the ground.
What is the best book you have read recently?
“The Museum of Extraordinary Things”by Alice Hoffman. I am a big audiobook person for my commute and I just finished this one. The ideas in the plot were so unique and it kept me riveted the whole time.
If you could meet anyone, who would it be?
I think both of my grandfathers. They both died before I was born and I hear so much about them from other family members, so I think I would like to have known them.
Last year, you were honored at Kesher’s annual dinner. How are you involved with the shul?
I’m sorry, but it might be easier to ask how am I not involved with the shul. I have worn many hats over the past 10 years — youth group leader, hospitality coordinator, director of social programming, cholent cook-off co-champion — but I am currently co-chair of the welcoming committee with Debi Goldschlag. We have been trying a ton of innovations and events to make people feel welcome, so if you are interested in Kesher or just want to attend an event, come on over! Especially, please introduce yourself! We have so many visitors that it is difficult for us to decipher whom we need to acclimate to the community as opposed to visitors who just need a greeting on that day.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” There’s something about the syllables and the beat...
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I’ve been on a kick of cooking dinner and hosting game nights lately. Also, Zumba!
Fill in the blank: There’s no place like________.
Thanksgiving dinner. Family, delicious food, and (in my case) the beach. What more could you want?
Interviewed by Batya H. Carl