Ex-New Yorker is right where she wants to be

BY PAM DROOG JONES,SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Heather Douek says she “wanted to be a million things but never thought I’d be what I am,” a special education teacher. Also, this New Yorker never imagined she’d end up in the Midwest — and actually enjoy it.

Douek was born in Binghamton, N.Y. She says that after working with Jewish groups for mentally disabled young adults, she decided to make that a career. She earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education at Yeshiva University and a master’s in special education at Bank Street College of Education, both in New York City.

That’s where she met her husband, Jonathan Douek, an equities trader from St. Louis, on a blind date. “Neither of us was really thrilled about a blind date, but our mutual friend said, ‘I have a vibe!'” The date led to many more and ultimately to marriage. The Doueks lived in New York City for 10 years.

“I’m a city girl to a point,” Douek says. “We loved New York City and took advantage of everything it offers. But after a while it was too much.” When she became pregnant, Douek says, “We lived in a walk-up, and I just couldn’t imagine carrying my pregnant self up the stairs, then carrying a baby and stroller too.” So last fall, the Doueks relocated to St. Louis. Early this year, daughter Sofia Esther was born.

Now that the family is settled in, Douek has returned to her career, working with learning disabled students at Torah Prep day school. Her part-time schedule allows her to spend time with Sofia and to pursue special interests, like photography. “I considered being a photographer but didn’t think I could make a living at it,” Douek says. “Now it’s a hobby.” In New York City she had access to a public darkroom; she hopes to set up one in her home in the near future.

Another project is a children’s book that’s “several years in the making. It’s written and I tried using photographs for it, but it needs illustrations, so I’m learning how to draw them myself,” Douek says. “I have a lot of little projects. I get this from my mom. She’s a very craftsy lady.”

The Doueks are active members of Young Israel, where they attend weekly services. “Sofia even has a couple of little friends there,” she adds.

Douek says she and her husband made a conscious decision “not to be paranoid and never want to leave the baby and have a life of our own.” It’s helpful that her husband’s family is glad to baby-sit, she says. Her family from Binghamton also visit.

“I love suburbia! Life is so relaxed and convenient,” Douek exclaims. “I have a cute house with a yard. I can drive to the grocery store and pull into my driveway and not worry about getting a ticket or someone stealing my groceries. I have a washer and dryer, and I belong to a ladies book club. These things never could have happened in New York!”

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