Posted on October 17th, 2014

NATE Leaders: 10 Questions with Debbie Niederman

When did you join ARJE and what was your first volunteer position in the organization?
I first joined ARJE in the winter of 1993, just before I graduated from the Rhea Hirsch School at HUC-JIR. I was thrilled to participate in one day of the Long Beach conference held that year. I was able to see Past President Roberta Louis Goodman become installed as our then-President. I rather boldly went up to her and introduced myself as a new member and soon-to-be graduate to let her know that I was interested in getting involved. While it was a couple more years till I had my first volunteer position, Roberta has been a long-standing mentor and always remembered my enthusiastic beginning in NATE.

My first volunteer position in ARJE was as the Tefillah Coordinator for the New York conference in 1995. I’m sorry to say that after the poor job I did in recruiting volunteers to lead tefillot new protocols were created to ensure that services would not run nearly so long!

What do you most enjoy about being president?
Truthfully, some days it feels like a tough job to enjoy, but the greatest honor of being president is the sense of humility I feel that so many friends and colleagues have entrusted me with the sacred leadership of our organization.

What’s your favorite thing about being a professional Jewish educator?
I find as I have gotten further along in my career, the thing I most enjoy is working with new colleagues and supporting professional growth in the field.

What’s your favorite thing about being a ARJE member?
I love the collegiality! This is always been the most important piece to me. Truth be told my dearest friends are fellow ARJE members and the most important mentors in my life have also been fellow ARJE members. I consider this community to be a true blessing in my life.

Debbie N family at BMHow do you spend your time when you’re not volunteering for NATE?
I spend a fair amount of time volunteering at other local Jewish educational organizations. But I do have a job! I am Coordinator of Induction and Retention for the Jim Joseph Education Foundation Initiative of HUC-JIR. When I’m not thinking about Jewish education, I spend most of my time thinking about food and my family! I enjoy cooking and baking, mostly because I love sweets. For that reason, I try to spend a few minutes each day on the treadmill!

What’s the last non-work related book you read?
With thanks to my daughter’s recommendation, I am finishing Mindy Kaling’s book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” It is embarrassing when in public, laugh-out-loud-funny!

Besides your family and friends, what are you most grateful for?
Because I moved around so much as a child, what I am most grateful for in my more settled, adult life, is community and especially the Temple Shalom of Dallas community of which my family is a part.

What makes you laugh?
Although it’s embarrassing for my kids, I’m not ashamed to say that it doesn’t take much to make me laugh and I have a VERY loud laugh that sometimes even includes a snort!

What gets you up in the morning?
The picture with this month’s article is a picture of my son Sammy becoming Bar Mitzvah. Our family celebrated this wonderful simcha at the end of August. Of all of my limited accomplishments, I’m proud to say that my greatest accomplishments are Molly and Sammy Paley.

What’s it like living in Texas?
Living in Texas is exactly like what you see on TV! There are literally people walking into Chipotle with their automatic weapons. Everything is bigger (although having lived in Alaska, the BIGGEST state in the Union, I always struggle with that belief); people’s accents are thick and they speak real slow; there are cowboys, longhorn cattle and tumbleweeds on every street, and no one appreciates Texas kitsch in their decor more than Texans.