Rebecca (Plotkin) Howes attended Levey Day School in the 1980’s and is not only an accomplished alumna of Levey, but is now a parent of a Levey student as well. After graduating from Deering High School, Rebecca received her Bachelor of Arts from Tufts University in International Relations and Spanish. She joined the United States Peace Corps and spent two years in Jamaica establishing a peer mediation program at several high schools. For the past 8 years she has worked as the Manager of Development and Public Relations at Day One, a non-profit agency dedicated to reducing youth substance abuse . Her work involves grant writing, fundraising, event planning and public relations. She lives in Gorham with her husband Jeff and their two children; Zoe, who is a 1st grader at Levey, and Omri, who is in pre-k at the JCA preschool. Last year, Rebecca was co-chair for Levey’s Holy Smokes! Kosher BBQ fundraiser, and will again chair the event in 2016. In addition to volunteering for Levey, she also volunteers with the Tufts Alumni Association and the JCA.
What is your fondest memory of your time at Levey?
As a young child at Levey Day School, I remember having the sense of being part of a larger family and small community. That was what made Levey special to me. One of my clearest memories was based on an accident I had on the Levey playground. I fell off the monkey bars and broke my arm. While the accident is not a great memory, the care I received from the staff and teachers continues to be part of that memory. They held me and took care of me until my parents were able to take over.
What is special to you about growing up Jewish in Maine?
Maine has a small Jewish community but the size can serve as a strength in that it is so easy to connect to other Jews in the Portland area. The small size lends itself to community members connecting and engaging with each other. Portland is a welcoming community for those who want to be involved in Jewish life with the larger community. Every time I attend a Jewish event, there is always someone I know from my childhood or adult life, but it is also a big enough place that I am constantly meeting new and interesting people.
What does it mean to you to be a leader in the Community? Why do you do it and why is it important?
I feel compelled to be involved in the Jewish community in Portland, because Judaism is a strong part of my identity. I also feel that because we live in a small Jewish community, it is important to be active in it. There simply aren’t enough Jews around Portland and in the Levey community to let it be someone else’s job to participate. As soon as I came back from Jamaica as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I joined a synagogue and became involved in the JCA. Being Jewish has always been important to me and that continues into my adult life. I’m proud to be involved with Levey on several different committees and as chair of the Holy Smokes BBQ fundraiser and with the JCA on the capital campaign. It is up to each of us to help build a strong community for ourselves and our children.
If you had one piece of advice today’s Levey students and parents, what would it be?
I had a conversation in the car this morning with my two children about what it means to be Jewish. This conversation would likely not have happened without the foundation of the day school environment and teaching that leads them to be proud to be Jewish. Without prompting from me, they talked about why they wanted to be Jewish as adults and the importance of having a Jewish family. They understood that being Jewish is special and that they have a responsibility to make Judaism part of their lives. My advice? A day school education is foundational to growing up with a strong Jewish identity. If you are fortunate to have one, be proud. If you have the ability to offer this to your children, I strongly encourage you to do so.