2014 Special Menschen: Bessie Cohen Levenson

2014 Special Menschen: Bessie Cohen Levenson

Smart, independent, and ahead of her time

Bessie Cohen LevensonBessie Cohen Levenson was petite, feisty, and determined to make a social impact. Born in Poland, she and her sister Emma immigrated to the United States as youngsters. 

Both women strived hard to achieve successful, if wildly different, careers. Emma became an opera singer at the Met in New York. Bessie entered law school at American University directly from high school, earning her law degree in 1915 and becoming one of the first female attorneys in the country. 

Bessie’s husband Jacob Levenson and his family owned a jewelry store, J. B. Levenson Jeweler, located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Bessie rescued the business from bankruptcy and then ran the store for the rest of her life. 

According to family, Bessie was a suffragist and not very religious, regarding Judaism at that time as sexist. She had a strong personality and seemed to enjoy ordering her husband around. Considering Bessie’s non-religious leanings, her family was fairly surprised and pleased at the number of Jewish charities she included in her estate plans.

Bessie’s strength of character and impact will continue to be remembered at the Hebrew Home thanks to a generous estate gift we received from her trust. To find out how you also can make a similar impact by including the Charles E. Smith Life Communities in your estate plans, please contact Director of Gift Planning Elana Lippa at 301.770.8342 or by email


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