Southfield โ€” More than 1,500 relatives and friends gathered at the Ira Kaufman Chapel on Monday to say final goodbyes to a former Huntington Woods woman who was among eight people killed last week in a Philadelphia train crash.

Rachel Jacobs, 39, of New York City was on the derailed train as she headed to her Manhattan home from Philadelphia where she was CEO of the educational software startup AppreNet.

"My sister was my role model, my confidante and my best friend," said Jessica Steinhart. " ... She was a hard act to follow. I was so proud of her being on a personal high of running her own company and being her own boss."

Jacobs is survived by a husband, Todd Waldman and a 2-year-old son, Jacob. Other survivors include her parents, John and Gilda Jacobs, a former state senator; and several nephews and a niece.

"They were good neighbors and a wonderful family โ€” my daughter was friends with her and her sister," retired Oakland Circuit Judge Fred Mester said as he and others left the hour-long service.

"She led a wonderful life," he said. "I especially liked the term used 'celebrating her life' โ€” she led a life worthy of celebrating."

Among others attending were Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, and former U.S. Rep. Hansen Clark.

The funeral was officiated by Rabbi Arturo Kalfus, who described Jacobs as brilliant, witty, but perhaps most importantly "impossibly kind." Kalfus told how Jacobs' friends had spoken of her "infectious energy and enthusiasm" and her love for Detroit.

That affection manifested in Jacobs starting Detroit Nation, a nonprofit that involves former Detroit residents in economic development and cultural innovation. A memorial last weekend for her in New York City drew hundreds of friends and associates.

The graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia Business School, had previously worked at another education-technology firm, Ascend Learning, and led the expansion of McGraw-Hill's career-learning business into China, India and the Middle East.

Interment was to be in Machpelah Cemetery.

The family suggests those wishing to honor Jacobs can make gifts in her memory to Columbia Business School to create a scholarship with preference for aspiring female entrepreneurs. Donations should be sent to the attention of Tanya Mujica Keenan, Columbia Business School, 33 West 60th Street, 7th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10023. Checks should be made payable to Columbia Business School.

Donations are also suggested to the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Rachel Jacobs Detroit Nation, 600 Renaissance Center Suite 1740, Detroit, MI 48243 or visit

(248) 338-0319

Read or Share this story: