Posted on September 10th, 2014

Nate Leaders: 10 Questions with Joan Carr

Joan CarrWhat is your leadership role within NATE?

Along with Lori Daitch, I am the co-coordinator of the Operations side of Leadership. Together we work with the remarkable, creative and committed Operations Team Leaders and Committees to bring to fruition NATE’s mission and priorities as articulated by the Governance side of Leadership.


How did you get involved in NATE?

I became a congregational educator in 1988 and in 1991 the ARJE Conference (as they were called back then) was going to be in Boston. BARTE, our local educators’ group, was very involved in the planning and the other educators told me I had to be involved too. So I stuffed welcome bags and staffed the registration table, and went to the conference and the rest is history.

So how did you get to be Operations Co-Coordinator?

Well, soon after that Boston Conference, I was asked to chair a committee that no longer exists, the Curriculum Awards Committee. I began going to all the conferences and got to know many ARJE members. A year or two later, I was put on the Nominating Committee, and then the next year, I was elected to the ARJE Board. I co-chaired the 2001 Boston Conference with Michelle Lynn-Sachs. When ARJE reorganized the leadership into Governance and Operations, I became the co-team leader for Advocacy, and also chaired the Task Force that re-established the Joint Placement Commission for Educators. In 2009, I became a Vice-President of ARJE and after serving in that capacity for two terms, I termed out, and in 2013, came back to the Operations side as Co-Coordinator with Lori.

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

When I was a little girl growing up in Cleveland, my mother was a Hebrew teacher and dinner table conversation often revolved around Jewish education. I went to a four day a week community Hebrew program and Hebrew speaking camps and completed Hebrew High School too. But when it came time to choose a career path, I got an undergraduate degree in French education. Life takes interesting turns, and when my family and I moved to Hingham, Massachusetts, we got very involved in the local synagogue. I moved through the ranks of leadership up to the chair of the Education Committee; when I finished my term, I became the Aleph Hebrew teacher, and I loved it. One day, a comment by a friend about the Hornstein Program at Brandeis changed the course of my life. I followed her into the Hornstein Program, and two years later, after I got my Master’s Degree in Jewish Communal Service, I became the Director of Education at our synagogue. Fifteen years later, I became the URJ Regional Educator in the Northeast Council, and have been working for the URJ ever since.

Besides your family and friends, what are you most grateful for?

I am most grateful that I have a very full life that enables me to have fun but also to do meaningful work that I am passionate about, in both professional and volunteer capacities

What makes you laugh?

I adore my grandchildren and nothing makes me laugh harder or longer than watching them laugh.

Can you share one of the most spiritual moments you have experienced?

In the fall of 2005, about one and half years after my husband died, I felt ready to re-enter the dating scene. My rabbi, Shira Joseph, created a Mikveh ceremony based on the Havdalah service to mark that transition. Surrounded by my rabbi, my daughters-in-law and my sister, I immersed at Mayyim Hayyim in Newton, MA. Apart from childbirth, it was truly one of the most spiritual and meaningful moments of my life, and I recommend it to anyone who has gone through a major transition in his or her life.

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

Actually, it is a children’s book, written by Henry Winkler, Henry Zipzer series called The World’s Greatest Underachiever, the book is called Henry Zipzer #1: Niagara Falls, or Does It? My 8 year old granddaughter was reading Winkler’s series and recommended it. It is about a child with learning disabilities, and his relationship with his teachers. Hmm – maybe it really isn’t non-work-related. I also just read Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.

What gets you up in the morning?

I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I am pretty healthy (though klutzy). I have a beautiful family, wonderful friends, and professional and volunteer work that together allow me to make a difference. What more can I ask for?

Are you planning to retire any time soon?