Meet Hannah: Jewish Activist of the Week

by Rachel Kriegsman / November 18, 2020

Hannah Weilbacher made her way to DC as an Avodah Fellow in 2014 and has been active in social justice organizing ever since. Get to know Hannah and her passion for creating a just and equitable DC – and, of course, her love for pop and podcasts

Rachel: What brought you to DC and what made you stay?

Hannah: I joined Avodah, The Jewish Service Corps, in 2014 after graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio. During Avodah, I worked at Jews United for Justice, the DC organizing home for people in the Jewish community who want to move our region closer to social, racial, and economic justice. As an organizer, your job becomes getting to know your city deeply and quickly – and caring about every person, neighborhood, business, and elected official.

I stayed because I was organizing with the DC Paid Family Leave Campaign at JUFJ. That campaign was so powerful, and represented such a beautiful people-powered movement that I felt honored to be able to contribute to it. Because it won (!) and DC now has paid family leave, it feels like perhaps it was inevitable and would have always succeeded. But every day that we were organizing, we were fighting powerful corporate and political interests. It was a hard-won fight. 

Rachel: I know this is the most DC thing, but I’d love to hear what you’re up to now since Avodah! 

Hannah: I am the Program Officer for Jewish Advocacy and Engagement at the American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Lots of words that all boil down to: I support Jewish leaders in channeling their energy around human rights issues into advocacy on Capitol Hill. I work with rabbis, cantors, Jewish organizations, and other leaders as we build a strong progressive foreign policy movement rooted in our Jewish values and protecting human rights. This lets me use my skills from my Jewish communal work at JUFJ and the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, as well as my work as a member of Rising Organizers. Rising Organizers is a wonderful organization started by some dear friends here in DC to train emerging social justice leaders. 

Rachel: That’s amazing! I hear you also do some work in the climate justice movement. Can you tell me more about that? 

Hannah: I was so excited to partner with Dayenu: the Jewish Call to Climate Action over the election season to reach out to climate-alarmed voters. Dayenu is building a strong Jewish movement for climate action, and it was inspiring to connect our focus on international human rights with their fight, which transcends borders.

Rachel: Describe your dream day in the DMV from start to finish. 

Hannah: You’re breaking my heart with this question! I have some health issues that have made my quarantine intense since the very beginning. So, I’ll describe my absolute dream day with no pandemic – after a just and equitable recovery:

If we’re really talking about a dream day, I’d wake up in my lovely neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant in a newly-minted state! I’d get pickles at Number 1 Sons at the Farmer’s Market, followed by a coffee at Elle. Then I’d get brunch at Don Jaimes and ice cream at Mount Desert. Finally, I’d take a walk in Rock Creek Park with a friend. Then I’d record my podcast, The B-Sides, about pop music and politics with my co-host Mimi who lives in DC and Becky who would Zoom in from Brooklyn. I’d go canvassing for a progressive candidate for the DC Council and end with an organizing meeting – something in person over food.  

Rachel: What do you do to relax or for fun at the end of a long week?

Hannah: Order Chiko or Bantam King for takeout, mix a cocktail, and watch a movie with my fiance. Before the pandemic, having my friends who are amazing chefs cook a delicious shabbos meal was the best way to end a week.

Rachel: Do you have a Jewish role model who inspires you?

Hannah: Ruth Messinger. I aspire to lead with her clarity and vision. 

Rachel: Anything else you’d like to share with the DC Jewish community?

Hannah: I run a podcast and internet home for progressives who love pop! It’s called The B-Sides. If you are left-leaning and also have a lot of feelings about Taylor Swift’s most recent album, you should join us

Rachel: Complete this sentence – “When Jews of DC Gather…

Hannah: We organize, mobilize, and move resources to create a just and equitable DC. 


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