This story is unique. Those involved did not ask for it, did not desire it, and did not foresee it. And yet, this is often how the most profound stories come to be. This is the story of a seemingly ordinary woman who was truly extraordinary. Its the story of a distinguished educator, a community leader, a passionate family member, and a true maven among many friends. This is Debbie Feiger's story.
Born on June 10, 1960, Debbie was the eldest child of Carole and Larry Hochman. Debbie grew up with her three younger siblings, Leslie, Alan, and Michael, in Glenview, Illinois. She went to Bell Elementary School in Wilmette, to the Wilmette Junior High School and to New Trier West. In 6th grade Debbie met a boy named Jordan Feiger. She and Jordan developed a growing friendship throughout Junior High and High School. Debbie went to Indiana University where she received a B.A. in Journalism and Sociology. She also traveled around the world on Semester at Sea. While Jordan went to Duke University he and Debbie's relationship continued to grow throughout their time in college.
Debbie and Jordan became engaged on July 15, 1983. They married a year later on July 1, 1984. She had just turned 24, he was still 23. Jordan and Debbie started their life together in Evanston before moving to Deerfield and then Wilmette. After a short career in journalism, Debbie returned to school to pursue her career passion in Education. She earned her Master's Degree in Education in 1985 from National Louis University and took a position at Washburne Jr. High School in Winnetka teaching 8th grade English and Social Studies. Her students adored her; some would even come to babysit her three little kids, Josh, Daniel, and Jillian, after school. Debbie left Washburne after seven years to devote more time to her kids. Devyn was born a few years later to complete Debbie's dream family: two boys and two girls. As a full time mom Debbie led school clubs, participated in park district athletic programs and served as a role model for her children. She spent her free time reading books, cooking elaborate meals, needle pointing and making collages. She planned unique vacations for her family throughout the United States and, when her children became older, throughout the world. Her creative talent and passion for life made her a natural leader in her community. Her home seemed to be a community center and she became a "mom" for dozens of family members and friends.
Debbie valued Judaism and worked towards becoming a Bat Mitzvah as an adult. She kept a kosher kitchen and was very involved in many Jewish organizations. In 2006, a position teaching Junior High English became available at Arie Crown Hebrew Day School in Skokie. While her passion was teaching, Debbie felt she could affect more change in an administrative position. After two years as an English teacher she accepted a position as Arie Crown's Director of General Studies. She revamped curriculum, inspired other teachers to be great, and showed many Orthodox Jewish educators the value of a strong secular education program in their schools. In addition to this new career Debbie decided to pursue her PhD in Educational Leadership.
In 2011, Debbie had finished her PhD classes and was working hard on her dissertation. Arie Crown was beginning to witness extreme benefits to her changes. She was slated to author a book on education reform. She had a child in law school, two in college and one in Junior High School. Her sons were living together in Washington, D.C. for the summer and the rest of the family planned to visit for 4th of July weekend. Debbie had another unique adventure planned for that August: her family was going to Alaska. Another year was sure to bring many Friday night Shabbat dinners with dozens of family members and friends, another home-cooked meal at her annual Superbowl party with hundreds of guests, and daily phone calls to her parents, children, siblings, in-laws, cousins, co-workers and all of the other seemingly countless people Debbie considered among her best friends.
On Monday June 6, 2011, Debbie woke up for work and went to Arie Crown. The school year was wrapping up and she had planned an end of the year speech congratulating the faculty and staff on their accomplishments. It seemed to be just another Monday morning. During her speech Debbie collapsed. The school called the paramedics and they rushed her to the hospital. The hospital quickly learned Debbie had a ruptured brain aneurysm. After two long days of tests doctors concluded she was brain dead. Debbie's funeral was June 10, 2011. It was her 51st birthday.
*Debbie's spirit lives on through her family, friends, students, and peers. Her generosity also allowed her to save many lives through Gift of Hope's organ and tissue donation program.