Meet Rebecca, Jewish Lay Leader of the Week!

by Samuel Milligan / October 18, 2023

The GatherDC blog strives to present a holistic portrait of the DMV’s Jewish community, sharing a wide variety of Jewish voices and perspectives. If you have a 20- or 30-something to nominate as our Jewish Person of the Week or for a Spotted in Jewish DMV feature, please email us!

After we spoke with Rodef 2100’s VP a few weeks ago, Rebecca and I hopped on a Zoom to chat about her new role as Rodef 2100’s President, getting “stuck, in a good way” in Arlington, intentional community-building, tap-dancing, and a whole lot more. Read the full conversation below!

Samuel: Thanks for joining me, Rebecca! To start off: what brought you to the DMV?

Rebecca: I have lived in the DMV for just over five years now. I moved for work, like many people ending up in this area. I’ve always lived in Arlington. When I moved here, I was looking for community in lots of different ways. I didn’t have any close friends, and so I was asking: How will I get involved and find a community?

I first got involved with Temple Rodef Shalom through teaching at the religious school, and then they mentioned Rodef 2100 to me and I’ve been sucked in ever since! They got me and now I’m stuck, in a good way.

Samuel: You’ve worked all over the DMV. What’s kept you living in Arlington? 

Rebecca: I love the mix – Arlington has everything you need, but then you’re also close to DC. And then, about a year ago, I bought a condo, so now I’m never moving. I am where I am for a long time. 

Samuel: How have you created close relationships and community in a place where you didn’t have it initially? 

Rebecca: It’s hard. You realize, as an adult, that it’s really hard. Work has been a good source of that for me. Friends of friends and having that [initial] connection, too. And then, of course, Temple Rodef Shalom. I’ve built those relationships through common interest, which makes it a lot easier.

Rebecca and friends at a Nats game!

Samuel: Tell me about the journey from someone telling you about Rodef 2100 to…you being the Rodef 2100 President!

Rebecca: Still crazy. I’ll preface this by saying that I grew up going to a very small synagogue in Connecticut. Temple Rodef Shalom is ginormous. You can get lost in the building, and there’s a million people. So I remember going to my first Rodef 2100 event, a Shabbat dinner, and I walked in and I was like…am I in the right place? Will I find what I need? 

When I moved here, the intentionality behind individual outreach and personal connection was so valuable. That’s a focus of the group, as well as providing opportunities you can opt into at your own want and need. Rodef 2100 offers all sorts of things, but you come to what matters to you, and there’s no expectation that you’re going to come to something else. Nobody is saying “Oh, well, they missed ____.” We’re not going to question that, because you have found your connection and people. 

I was able to opt in and find that, and eventually be tapped to serve on the board. That was really appealing to me; there was no expectation. Come to what matters to you, and that’s great, and we’re glad to have you. That’s something I hope to continue, because I think it’s what makes our group unique. 

Rebecca poses next to a Snoopy statue. Samuel: What do you think 20s and 30s are looking for, when they’re looking for their place and people? 

Rebecca: Everyone being accepted and welcomed. You have your regulars, you have people moving constantly in and out of the area…so how do you welcome people, bring them into the fold, while also recognizing the regulars who are sustaining [events]? This was, when I joined the board, something that the group had to work on consciously. Over the last three years, we’ve been really intentional about welcoming the new and balancing the “constant” group. When you walk into a room of strangers, it’s so intimidating.

Samuel: What is your – with no concerns about budget, or space, or time, or any of that – dream Rodef 2100 project? 

Rebecca: It would involve food, 100%. 

Samuel: Do you cook? Bake? 

Rebecca: Not well. But I try. I would order the food out, let’s be clear. 

Samuel: This isn’t “Chef Rebecca’s…”

Rebecca: No, no, no, no, no. Anyway, it would involve food, and I would like to include some element of acts of service. Meaningful, impactful service. I connect with the Jewish values of service, so that’s where that would come from.

Samuel: What else in Judaism feels particularly relevant and meaningful for you? 

Rebecca: The value of kindness to humanity. I teach sixth grade for Temple Rodef Shalom’s religious school, and we talk a lot about Kehillah Kedosha – what does it mean to be in a holy or sacred community, and how do you treat people within that community? The idea of being a good person, truly being a good person, connects back to my Jewish roots.

Samuel: Okay, a few quick ones before we wrap up. What is something you are bad at? 

Rebecca: Truthfully, I’m really bad at spelling. 

Rebecca and friends lighting candles. Samuel: I feel like we all have that one word we never quite got, and it still – 

Rebecca: Oh, I still can’t spell “definitely.” And then, at work, one of our core focus areas is “entrepreneurship” [Editor’s note: my best attempt in transcribing this moment was “entrepeneurship.” Yikes] and it is the hardest word to spell. I type it on a daily basis and every time that red line appears under it. 

Samuel: Let’s get more positive: what are you feeling proud about right now? 

Rebecca: I’ll tie it back to Rodef 2100. We are continuing forward, continuing to be a strong presence within the Temple Rodef Shalom community. One of the key goals for the Temple is engaging people in their 20s and 30s. To have a seat at that table, and to be able to contribute to that, is pretty cool. Our voices are heard and respected and can be a part of that process going forward. 

Samuel: What is a skill or hobby you’d like to pick up in the future? 

Rebecca: I would love to get back into tap dancing. I make no promises, but maybe this year will be the year. I grew up dancing, so some of those dances are still ingrained in my head. In school, I used to practice my routines under my desk. I keep saying I’m going to do it; I should. 

Samuel: What’s something you want people reading this to reach out to you about? 

Rebecca: Theater! I think this came from my dancing; I cannot sing or be on stage, but I love to be a supporter. I grew up going to a lot of shows in New York City, and still go as much as I can, but I have subscriptions to the Kennedy Center and National Theatre and all that.

Samuel: What are your NoVA theater go-tos? 

Rebecca: I love Signature Theatre, and I also like Round House Theatre [in Bethesda]. 

Samuel: What does your dream DMV day look like? 

Rebecca: I’d go for a walk – I’m a big walker. I don’t run. I only walk. There would probably be a yoga class involved in the day. I really enjoy the Renwick Gallery, so I’d stop by to see what they have going on. For dinner, I’m going to Ambar, and then ending [the day] with a show somewhere!

Samuel: You can invite three people to Shabbat dinner. Who are they, and why? 

Rebecca: Why limit it to just three? I think what makes Judaism so special is the importance of community and coming together with others. It’s not my strong suit to think about what famous person I would want to meet or the big powerful question I would ask them. So, I guess my response is that I would want to be surrounded by friends and family, but also extending the invitation to bring new folks into the fold.

Samuel: Lovely. Okay, last one. Finish the sentence. When Jews of the DMV gather…

Rebecca: I want everyone to feel welcome and [know] that they have a seat at the table.

Rebecca smiling on the beach.

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