Daniel Ackerman

Written by Batya H. Carl on . Posted in Young Professionals Spotlight

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Daniel is 26 years old and lives in Washington, D.C.


He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design from Florida State University and is the creative services manager for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

Some fun tidbits: Daniel spent a gap year studying at Orayta in Israel; he did a stint in the circus when he was in college; and his favorite sport is college football.


If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

I would definitely go to Tzfat. The mystical vibe of the city really appeals to me. I love the way that the city sits on the hill and how light interacts with the architecture. My first Shabbat in Israel last summer was in Tzfat, which was very powerful and set the tone for my entire trip. Wandering around on erev Shabbat, it was quiet, peaceful, and inspiring.

In a way, I always equate Florence with Tzfat when I think about going abroad to sit in a studio and make art all day. Since Tzfat is in Israel, however, it’s the de-facto winner!


What is your favorite aspect of living in DC?

I think it’s cool to tell people that I live and work in our nation’s capital.


What is your favorite book currently on your bookshelf?

“Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In” by Louis Zamperini and David Resin. This is an iconic story about overcoming the ultimate adversity and then living an inspiring life. Zamperini was a U.S. Olympic track athlete who later became a prisoner of war during WWII for two years. Before being captured, he drifted on a raft for 47 days in the Pacific Ocean and managed to survive this and future challenges by maintaining control over his mind.

I also need to mention another book on my shelf called “Strive for Truth” by Rabbi Eliyahu E. Dessler. It is a series, but it’s my favorite, since the content dives deep into Jewish ethics and philosophy. One of my favorite quotes comes from the first-volume book: “In times such as ours, when capable men are scarce, anyone who shows willingness to tackle a vital problem has Divine assistance heaped upon him. It turns the incapable into successful men, not because they deserve it but because the world needs them.”


What would you do all day if money wasn’t an object?

I would spend the day making art, exercising, and cooking.


You’re a graphic designer. What inspires your artwork?

When I think about myself in the role of a professional designer, I am inspired by the opportunity to visually direct how people receive ideas and information. It is good to enjoy the craft, but even more of a blessing to believe in the mission of the organization that I work for. I believe this is one of the key ingredients to the secret sauce of inspiration as a creative.

As a traditional artist, I can also crank up the auto inspiration just by walking into an art store, spend hours, and easily empty my bank account on supplies! I am also inspired by character illustration, film and Broadway posters, divrei Torah, high-contrast visuals, Giovanni Boldini, and giving art gifts to see people’s reactions, to name a few.


Where is your hometown and what do you miss about it?

My hometown is Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, New York. What I miss most about Brooklyn is that our apartment was the center of attention. Most of our family and friends were in close proximity and so people were always at our place, whether it was for a barbecue or just to hang out, both expectedly and even more so unexpectedly.

I also miss running around the neighborhood with my friends grabbing snacks from the local corner store, hopping fences, playing football in the side streets, hide-and-go-seek during summer nights, and playing “Boat,” which was pretending that the giant backyard playground set was a ship that we had to maintain with buckets of soapy water and toothbrushes. It helped that we literally lived across the street from the docks.

Overall, I miss the adventurous urban ambiance of Brooklyn and being surrounded by all of my closest friends and family. It was a really rich environment.

What is your greatest strength when it comes to interpersonal relationships?

Inspiring others to rally around ideas, team-working with diverse individuals, and negotiating. I guess you would call these more extroverted and verbal.


What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

My favorite Jewish holiday is Sukkot, since that is when I was born on the Hebrew calendar. I usually combine birthday celebrations with the holiday festivities. Fall also happens to be one of my favorite times of the year; however, once my secular birthday fell on Yom Kippur, and that was unfortunate.


What memory would you relive if you could?

I would relive the time I went to New Orleans with two of my best friends in college, Ron and Katie. What made this such a fun trip was that it was completely spontaneous, plus we had never been there before. It was right before spring break was starting and we were all supposed to head home that day. Instead of driving 450 miles to South Florida, we went 400 miles west the same evening I was packing to go home. We had no plans and one mutual friend at Tulane, but somehow we made it an epic three days. Since I’m usually one to be more of a planner, having the two of them to instigate the shenanigans was a good balance.

You are stranded on a desert island. Who do you take with you?

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Interviewed by Batya H. Carl