Posted on August 26th, 2015

10 Questions with Joe Eiduson

What is your leadership role within ARJE?

I serve as a Board member of ARJE and also as co-chair of the Finance team, with Kathy Schwartz.  I have also served on a number of task forces and committees over the past eight years.

How did you get involved in ARJE?

Sam Joseph told me to join; Richard Morin and Robin Eisenberg sealed the deal!  It was that simple and the best decision I ever made.  I was in Rabbinical School at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati in 1989 and I landed a position at Temple Sholom as Director of Education. Sam suggested joining NATE (now ARJE) so that I could get to know some colleagues in the field and also take advantage of the resources available to new Jewish Educators. My first NATE Conference (as we used to call them) was in 1990 in Boston and I was smitten! I attended the Baltimore Conference in 1991 and was soon asked to co-chair the conference in Atlanta in 1995. I joined the Board and became involved on a number of committees. I have met so many wonderful people through ARJE and am proud to call them colleagues and friends.

How did you get to be a Jewish educator in the first place?

My sisters are both teachers and school administrators and when I entered Rabbinical School I realized that teaching and educational administration was in the genes, so I explored a rabbinate that focused almost exclusively on Jewish Education. I somehow knew that being a pulpit rabbi was not the best fit for me, so although I am ordained, my first love is the field of Jewish Education. I was among the first to simultaneously attend Xavier University and HUC-JIR and graduate with a M.Ed. and a M.A.H.L. I have served as Head of School in two Jewish Day Schools and Rabbi-Educator in a few different synagogues after school and Sunday programs. After 25 years, it was a great choice!

What is the last non-work-related book you read?

The Heist is a novel by Daniel Silva. I love Silva’s #1 New York Times bestselling series, which chronicles the adventures of art-restorer and master spy Gabriel Allon. Each book is better than the last and Silva is an outstanding writer. Book fifteen is on my Kindle and up next!

What gets you up in the morning?

My black Labrador retriever named Mason and my yellow Labrador retriever named Maggie. They wake us up around 5 every morning! After that, there is no turning back!

Are you planning to retire any time soon?

Not at all! I love what I do; especially the creative part and I hope to continue doing it for a long time to come!

What is your favorite part of your job?

Watching a student “get it”! It does not matter what the “it” is! I love the looks on their faces when they realize they can chant an aliyah all by themselves, or read a prayer for me as they take a test for Mitkadem. I love it when I tell them they scored 100% on their Hebrew test or when their face lights up when they realize how good that pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli really is! Those moments of inspiration are worth the perspiration it takes to get there.

What’s your favorite thing about being an ARJE member?

The annual gatherings. I love the opportunity to come out of the sheltered box I live in and think and dream beyond my congregational setting. I love doing that with other Jewish educators who share many of the same dreams. I am always inspired, I always learn many new things, and I always come away feeling energized and refreshed. After the last conference, I decided to embark on a whole new program of learning in my current school. I am only able to do this with the support and encouragement of my colleagues and the chance to interact with them in a workshop or just over a beer!

Did you grow up in the Reform Movement?

I grew up at Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, New York. My rabbis, Bob Alper (now mostly standup comedian) and Steve Karol who followed Bob, encouraged me to make Judaism a career. Bob did so by sharing the joy of what he did and the love that he had not only for Judaism, but also for Jews! Steve made it possible for me to go to Eisner and that was the beginning of the adventure. I was a music teacher in Beth Zion’s religious school when I was in High School, Vice President of the Youth Group we called YPS, a member of the first OLIM unit at Eisner, regional song leader for NELFTY, counselor and unit head at Goldman Union Camp and I continued to teach religious school at Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor. Throughout rabbinical school I also taught in the Cincinnati Reform congregations and high school. Reform Judaism is the only Judaism I know and I love being a Reform Jew!

How do you spend your time when you’re not volunteering for ARJE?

Besides spending time with my family and my dogs and working on projects around the house, I hang out at the Westborough Fire Department! I serve as a call firefighter, chaplain and EMT and assist the firefighters as they work through their “stuff”. Fire Department Chaplains provide spiritual and emotional support to Firefighters and their family members whenever necessary and we get to ride around in a fire truck! I also assist citizens when they become victims of fire, medical emergency or natural disaster. I respond to emergencies on a 24 x 7 basis and provide counseling, comfort the grieving and I am trained in the delivery of Critical Incident Stress Management. I am present at major incidents, training sessions, memorials, social events, public functions and as part of the team in the Fire Station. It is an outstanding way to give back to my community and make a difference!