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Vanessa Lacker

At fourteen years old, Vanessa walked down the hallway of her Hebrew school and found a room with food. Being unable to resist the temptation, she walked in and was immediately handed a checklist and told to fill bags for the student run food pantry. By the time the next school year rolled around and the seniors all left for college, Vanessa was informed that as the last one standing, she was now in charge of a food pantry. From that day on, there was never any question that she was going to devote her professional life to the Jewish community. 

Vanessa grew up in a secular household but Conservative Hebrew school and was always drawn to the cultural and communal aspects of Judaism. After college, Vanessa went to work in the program services sector of UJA-Federation. From there, she went on to work first as a case manager and later as a director at Yedei Chesed, a social service agency in Rockland County serving children and young adults with developmental disabilities in the haredi community. In her eleven years at Yedei Chesed, Vanessa had five children, but apparently five children puts the work life balance over the edge and Vanessa took six years off to care for them. Not really able to stand still for long, Vanessa became a certified personal trainer and Crossfit coach during her time at home. 

When ready to go back into the workforce, Vanessa was privileged to work on an issue that had become very important to her during her time at Yedei Chesed, that of secular education in haredi yeshivas. As the director of operations and planning, Vanessa worked to effect change in the New York State Education Department that would ensure that all children would receive the education they are entitled to under New York State law. After seeing enormous success at Yaffed, Vanessa was ready for her next adventure and is thrilled to become the executive director of SAJ. SAJ embodies the Jewish values that Vanessa honors, those of questioning the status quo, allowing for free thought, holding space for everyone and caring for all in need. 

When Vanessa is not at SAJ, she is usually having fun with her children; Ezra, Rivka, Nikki, Yosef and Zach, her partner, Yann and extended family, preferably on a sunny beach with a book in her hand.

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