Meet Becca Leviss, a democracy ‘yes-person’ who loves all things DC. Becca is committed to doing good in the world and working for what she believes in––while having a lot of fun. Read the full blog to hear how Becca’s work relates to her Judaism, why she loves living in DC, and how she would spend her perfect day here.
GatherDC: What brought you to DC and what made you stay?
Becca: The short answer is work. But in reality, I came to DC because I wanted to live in a place where I could build a community from the ground up. DC is a city of ‘yes people.’ I think it’s a place that attracts people who are emotionally open to new friends, new people, new ideas, and new activities. That eagerness and open attitude makes DC such a rich and vibrant place to live. I also love how walkable DC is, and the food is incredible.
GatherDC: Sounds like you really love it here! Could you describe your dream day in DC from start to finish?
Becca: My dream day would be a Sunday and I would get up and go to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. I would get the Hog Haven breakfast sandwich which is, in my opinion, the best breakfast sandwich. After getting my sandwich and veggies from the market I would head to the U Street / Cardozo metro stop for my dance class. I really love the class because it feels like the community has come out to dance together. Afterwards, I would wander the city. I love running errands, walking around, and exploring all the little shops and parks. Lastly I would plan something nice for Sunday evening, like cooking dinner with a friend, because I was once told that Mondays should never ruin your Sundays. For me, the perfect day really involves eating good food, being with people I love, and feeling like I’m grounded in my community.
GatherDC: What’s one thing you can’t get through the day without?
Becca: I try to go outside once a day. That’s my new thing. Around 5pm every day I look at my door and if the chain is still on that’s my sign that I need to go outside. Walking is one of my favorite activities and a great way to explore DC.
GatherDC: Switching gears a bit. Could you tell us a little bit about what you do for work?
I work for Protect Democracy, which is an incredible nonprofit devoted to preventing American democracy from declining into authoritarianism. We’re a team of people from all sorts of work backgrounds––lawyers, policy experts, legislative advocates, communications strategists, data analysts, software developers––using pretty much every tool at our disposal to protect and perfect American democracy for our generation and generations to come. It’s big work, but I love being able to get up every day feeling like I’m working on something that I love, and something I believe so strongly in.
GatherDC: Did you always know you wanted to go into this kind of work?
Becca: Yes, and no. I knew I wanted to go into some type of public good creation. I always cared a lot about civic engagement and the role of institutions and how they can create both opportunities and obstacles to civic engagement. I’m especially interested in the role of young people in making social political change. And I care deeply about understanding and improving philanthropic models of change: how foundations and individuals can utilize philanthropy in ways that are intentional and grounded in giving power back to the communities they aim to serve. So the work of strengthening Protect Democracy’s partnerships with the philanthropic community felt like a very natural fit with the issues that I am most passionate about.
GatherDC: How do you connect with your Jewish identity? Do you feel like your work fits into that identity?
Becca: Yes! My parents are definitely activists in their own right and taught me that we’re in the world to do good in the world. For me, that idea is very closely tied to being Jewish and my conception of social justice. Doing good in the world is both a sacred and a Jewish obligation for me. As I’ve grown up, I’ve gone through a journey with my Jewish identity. I studied sociology and religion in college and was interested in understanding the role of religion in society. I was also curious about the role Judaism played in my life. I got involved in Torah study and looked at Judaism from a more intellectual standpoint. It gave me the opportunity to ask big questions like: What’s the role of religion? How does Judaism serve as a framework for creating meaning? I don’t think Judaism always gives me a lot of answers, but it definitely teaches me to ask really good questions! Since coming to DC, I’ve been searching for what it means to belong and to have purpose, which I believe dovetails with what it means to be a Jew.
GatherDC: Do you have a favorite Jewish tradition?
Becca: My favorite tradition is the priestly blessing on Shabbat [Editor’s note: the priestly blessing is a prayer that asks for protection and peace]. Growing up, my parents would say the priestly blessing over me and my sister on Shabbat. I remember sitting next to her as my parents placed their hands on my head. They would always add additional words to the traditional blessing; usually it would be something along the lines of: “may you grow to be kind, wise, strong, and happy.” It’s a beautiful Jewish tradition and I always felt really loved by my parents in those moments.
GatherDC: Last question! Can you complete this sentence – When the Jew of DC Gather…
Becca: We ask lots of questions!
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