Becky Markowitz is the type of person to send a handwritten “thank-you” note after even the smallest courtesy, said Lori Motis, Atlantic district president of Women of Reform Judaism.
After more than 20 years of service in the organization, it’s now Markowitz who’s receiving the personalized thanks.
On May 13, WRJ honored Markowitz, a Newtown resident and Shir Ami congregant, with the Women’s Empowerment Award. Eleven other WRJ members also received the award, including three from the Atlantic District.
The national award, created in 2019, honors “women who strengthen the voices of others, with a focus on empowering women and girls, and who promote progressive Jewish values,” according to a press release.
Markowitz has served two terms on WRJ’s board of directors and has been a member of its executive committee. She is co-chair of the Chai Society to encourage board alumnae to remain involved in WRJ.
Locally, Markowitz was the WRJ Atlantic District past president and is the board’s alumnae chair. She was the Sisterhood president and board member of Temple David Congregation in Monroeville, New Jersey. Markowitz is also on the board of Women of Shir Ami, having served as the group’s president for two years.
Markowitz is a Realtor at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach in Bucks County.
Motis, one of the WRJ members to nominate Markowitz, said Markowitz’s time at WRJ is defined by her mentorship.
“She just brings a lot of positivity to every interaction and really makes you believe in yourself,” Motis said. “She believes in herself, and she just makes you believe in yourself.”
For Markowitz, the power of the Sisterhood organization comes from a unique trust and sense of community within the group that can inspire others to make change.
“When you throw a stone in the water — think in your mind, close your eyes right now and watch tap water ripple and ripple and ripple,” Markowitz said. “And that’s what empowerment is.”
When Markowitz was a young woman growing up at Rodeph Sholom Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the opportunities for empowerment were not as plentiful as they are now. Girls in her community were not usually bat mitzvahed; Markowitz doesn’t remember being particularly religious.
“To wear a yarmulke or tallis to Rodeph Sholom in those days would have been unheard of,” she said.
It wasn’t until Markowitz was 15 and invited to a youth group event that she began to feel a strong sense of Jewish community. Among a group of singing young Jews — led by renowned singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman — Markowitz felt a sense of belonging.
“When I went to that first youth group event, the songs and the music and the prayers and the and the community — it just felt like you were part of something,” Markowitz said. “And I think I was really drawn to that.”
From that point, Markowitz committed herself to community-building in synagogues around the country.
In the 1990s, Markowitz lived in California’s San Fernando Valley and was a member of a synagogue that hosted a Christmas dinner for homeless individuals in the area.
At the event, area producers and filmmakers involved in the event would dine side-by-side with the homeless guests.
“You didn’t know who was the producer and who was the mashed potato person and who was the turkey person,” Markowitz said.
When Markowitz chaired the event one year, she opted against the event’s usual long, rectangular table and set up smaller, round tables with nice tablecloths. She reached out to Ben & Jerry’s to have the company donate ice cream.
“It was such a great lesson of how we can all do our part,” she said.
However, Markowitz’s priorities lie in the support of Sisterhood, which remains at the core of her and WRJ’s work. While WRJ helps fund Sisterhood organizations in the Reform movement, Markowitz believes the organization’s magic takes place in the relationships formed there.
“Sisterhood gets a bad rap, and I think we should work on making it positive because sisterhood is beautiful; it’s a fantastic thing, and we all need that; we’re all searching for that,” Markowitz said. “What we build together as women is just a very welcoming environment,” she said.
As she continues her involvement in WRJ, Markowitz hopes the progress within the Reform movement will afford her 2-year-old granddaughter more opportunities than what she had.
“We all need to realize that, in order to leave this world better for our grandchildren, and our sisters and our whatever, we can never stop working,” Markowitz said.