Margie Miller is not one to shirk from helping others, nor is she someone who feels restricted by “the way things are.” She has turned tragedy into a lifelong commitment to helping others, and she sees possibilities where others see limitations. These are just two of the skills that make her the ideal convention chair to help us find the perfect balance in our lives, that balance between the sacred and the everyday.
A native Long Islander, Margie has been active in Jewish life since she was a teenager in BBG. She graduated from Hofstra University in 1971, with a double major in sociology and psychology. She became an adult bat mitzvah in 1997 and enjoyed a 16-year career as a Hebrew school teacher at three local synagogues.
Margie and her first husband, Charlie Sivin, z”l, were active in the Baldwin Jewish Center, where she served as president of the Mr. and Mrs. Club, then as sisterhood president and ultimately, as the first woman president of the congregation. Considering that the synagogue was, and continues to be, non-egalitarian, this was a huge achievement.
Her second husband, Joel Miller, z”l, was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Although Margie had a real estate broker’s license, she worked full time as a family bereavement specialist for South Nassau Communities Hospital’s WTC Family Center. From 2002 to 2008 she coordinated family outreach and programming for 9/11 bereaved and first responders’ families.
With all that, Margie made time to serve in multiple capacities on her Women’s League branch, then region boards and finally, on the international board, where she chaired the Women’s League training department, has been a consultant and the lead trainer for the popular Leadership Institutes and also as a vice president.
Margie excels as a trainer, bringing her warm personality, sense of humor and ideas to Women’s League members across North America. She embodies the model of problem-solver, having had to do so herself so often. She is the classic lemons-turned-into-lemonade person. For help in solving a problem – or for just a warm hug – everyone turns to Margie. As her friend, former Women’s League President Cory Schneider said, “Margie is a trainer who gets to the heart of the topic and the student. She understands and relates to our members at the deepest and most personal levels. She understands the realities of organizations and knows how to help their leadership create stronger, more vibrant and relevant sisterhoods.”
This year offers new opportunities and challenges for Margie as she steps into the role of convention chair for 2014. Given her many accomplishments, convention attendees can be sure that this will be a remarkable convention. She said, “Once the decision was made to change two main elements of convention – moving to the summer and purposely having it over Shabbat – the major challenge was how to integrate these changes into our theme and programming. For example, our convention theme, Kodesh v’Chol: Balancing the Sacred and the Everyday, speaks volumes. We are not programming “around” Shabbat. We are embracing Shabbat and planning to create an experience for our delegates that will inspire and excite them.
“One consideration for any convention committee is how to make the experience both fresh and meaningful. Our panel discussion on Israel, Women and Identity, our anti-bullying initiative — Keep it Kind, over 30 workshop options, and a plethora of brilliant rabbis and educators teaching us, are examples of how our programming will be timely and relevant.”
Her friend, Shelly Goldin, said, “Margie Miller is the voice of reason when it comes to resolving issues. She’s matter-of-fact and gets things done. She attacks the real issues of what women are facing today in their own sisterhoods. Of course, she’s approachable, too!”
In speaking further about convention, Margie added, “One exciting element to me is that we have engaged sisterhood and region leaders from all over North America to be on various sub-committees. In my travels, I have met such accomplished leaders throughout our organization. If we truly want to meet the needs of our delegates, what better way than to include them in the planning?”
Margie and the two vice chairs, Program Chair Phyllis Goldberg (Jacksonville, Florida) and Logistics Chair Randy Schwartz (Winnipeg, Canada) invite every member of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism to join them in New Jersey, July 17-20, 2014. They promise it will be an experience to remember.