Risa Ferdman: AJA’s Heart and Soul
By Robyn Lindenberg
How many people remember preparing to become bar or bat mitzvah, involving the musical stylings of Diana Ross and the Supremes and hand motions signifying etnachta, munach and other Torah trope? Many in the Austin Jewish community have had this experience, thanks to Risa Ferdman, who has had a significant impact on the community.
Ferdman moved to Austin 21 years ago, just a few months before what was then Austin Jewish Community Day School – now Austin Jewish Academy – opened its doors. That year founder Dana Baruch worked alongside staff, teachers and volunteers to ensure that Austin’s Jewish population had a top-notch day school option for their children’s education.
Ferdman was among those volunteers. Today, it is safe to say that nearly every person who has visited, attended or learned about AJA has not only met Ferdman, but has felt her incredible warmth and enthusiasm. Over the course of her years in Austin, Ferdman has served the school in nearly every capacity.
Ferdman and her husband Alex chose to send both of their sons, Ari and Eli, to learn and grow at AJA. As a parent volunteer Ferdman co-chaired the AJA’s annual fundraising gala in 2008, served on the board of directors and co-founded the school’s parent association.
In 2011 she was hired onto the administration team as the school’s institutional advancement associate. She served in that capacity until the end of the 2015 school year. It was then that Ferdman stepped into the role of director of admissions and outreach. With her incredible ability to relate to children and their parents and her gift for giving great tours, she helped build AJA's school community even further.
All who know Ferdman have been witness to her deep and abiding love of Judaism. In addition to her administrative responsibilities at AJA, she has taught Torah trope to the fifth grade class for years. She is able to infuse joy and humor into every lesson. It is hardly a surprise that many of her trope students and others from among the community look to her for bar and bat Mitzvah preparation outside of school.
Ferdman’s next avenue of service to AJA is in the classroom. Middle school students and parents alike are thrilled that moving forward, she will be teaching middle school humanities. From chaperoning overnight school trips to Big Bend and South Padre Island, her inimitable flair for Purim costumes, and her invaluable institutional knowledge, Ferdman has been and will continue to be the heart and soul of AJA. ■
For more information about Austin Jewish Academy visit www.austinjewishacademy.org. AJA is now accepting applications to transitional kindergarten through eighth grade for the 2018-2019 school year. Contact email@example.com to schedule a tour or attend an admissions event.