Archive for August, 2007

And now, a word from our Sponsor…

August 10, 2007

I’m currently sitting in Lambert (St. Louis) Airport writing this blog post as I wait for my plane to board. The last 24 hours have been overwhelming in everyway possible – and for that reason, I’m going to write two separate posts…

First off, I want to just make mention of the facilities that the Schusterman College Program and CAJE took advantage of at Washington University over the last week. Our program was fortunate enough to have exclusive use of an entire floor of the Danforth Residence Hall. As a result, we were able to do much of our program within the confines of one place, making for easy and seamless transitions, along with built in time for additional socializing amongst group members. In addition, we also had two spaces allocated for specific uses: a formal Beit Midrash room, along with a more informal workshop/seminar room. As the week progressed, it was this workshop room that became our catch-all room for hanging-out as a group and creating group identity between sessions and into the evenings and nights when people could often be found noshing, talking, singing, and more than anything, bonding.

Similarly, the outdoor spaces on campus were also for conducive bonding as an SCP group (that is, when temperature conditions allowed for it). In an interesting twist on campus design that I’ve never seen anywhere else, WashU has several hammocks set up, and our group utilized them, often late at night (who says college students sleep?).

When I first looked at the map of the campus, I felt daunted and overwhelmed by the magnitude and extent of buildings that I would have to conquer in order to attend sessions. This was not the case. Sessions were held in buildings close to one another, which were no more than an 8-10 minute walk from the Wohl centre (where the dining hall was located).

Oh, and food! We Jewish learners have to ear, right? For a conference of CAJE’s size, the food couldn’t have been more varied, nutritious and delicious! Frozen yogurt, salads, fish, delicious pastas, and of course, the incredible late-night snacks of cookies and brownies that kept us energized as we discussed and debated with one another.

The reason I’ve written this post is not to advertise Washington University (although it’s a gorgeous campus – particularly at sunrise!). What struck me most about the campus was it’s staff, and how they would do nearly anything to ensure that CAJE attendees had the most positive experience possible. It all comes back to creating, establishing and building upon relationships that we have with our students, our teachers and our peers. Furthermore, in establishing credibility as an organization, CAJE needs to prove and uphold their commitment to excellence by providing their members with conference facilities that meet the needs of attendees. In my opinion, Washington University in St. Louis certainly did this – and if the high caliber of conference facilities is any indication of what is to come at Vermont next August, there are very exciting things in the works!

(Stay tuned for my next post, which will address some of Iris’ questions, which she shared with the CAJE community in a previous blog-post!)


From the President – #3

August 8, 2007

It’s hard to believe it is already Wednesday! I hope each one of you has enjoyed 3 days of amazing study – days and nights of learning, of engaging, and of wrestling with the questions that Peter Eckstein, Iris Schwartz and their amazing conference team laid out for you, as well as questions of your own.

As a people, we are never seem to lack questions, so I have some for you.

  • What has been your greatest insight this week?
  • What will you take home and share with others?  
  • What will be shared with students? With colleagues? With parents?
  • What have you determined you will do differently as a result of the learning you did this week?
  • What will you want to continue to explore AND how can CAJE support you as you continue to study?

I am so sorry to have missed the experience that so many of you enjoyed (despite the heat).  Please sign into Word Press and add your thoughts so that I, and the over 1300 other members of the Coalition who are not there will learn from you. And, most importantly, share your thoughts so that the Coalition, your professional organization, can continue to support you and your professional growth.

I look forard to learning from you now and with you in the future.  Please stay involved with CAJE; share your successes, your ideas, and your questions so that we can, together, support the growth of a vibrant Jewish future.



Professional Conferences for Professional Amateurs

August 8, 2007

I had a blinding realization this afternoon when it occurred to me that it’s Tuesday – and my flight leaves on Thursday afternoon. I’m not ready to go home. Although I’ve attended lots of learning sessions within the context of SCP, and a few other interesting sessions since Sunday morning, I haven’t gone to as many as I’d planned to. The reality of CAJE is that unless I figure out a way to clone myself (or send spies into all the interesting sessions), I have to make decisions about what i’m interested in, and then follow through by walking across the campus and sitting down in a lecture hall. The same thing can be said about narrowing down my choices about professional opportunities in the field of Jewish education.

Until I got to CAJE, I had no idea that so many options existed for future careers! To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t planned on a career in Jewish education to start with – I was planning to work in a very different field completely unrelated to anything Jewish! But now I’m here. And I’ve heard about the joys (and the pitfalls) of working in a rewarding field like Jewish Education – but questions remain: how do I take the knowledge that I’ve learned and integrate it to enable me to work in Jewish Education? How do I stay sane working in a field that can be very challenging at times? And how do I weigh the costs and benefits of working in a profession that at times appears to have very few perks and lots of challenges – especially when the salary at times (and especially when starting out) leaves much to be desired?

I highly doubt that I will leave CAJE on Thursday afternoon with answers. Rather, I believe that over the next several months, these questions will be the basis (or building blocks if you will) for a very personal internal conversation about what my personal and professional goals are (and should be) in relation to Jewish education. I do believe that my relationship with my mentor, along with the relationships I’ve built and developed with fellow SCP participants, staff and other CAJE members will enable me to work through these very challenging issues. If there’s anything I’ve learned while at CAJE this week, it’s that when a question is asked, generally, I don’t have an answer. Instead, I have 5 more questions in response, and it’s these questions that enable me to start thinking more critically about education, Judaism and my role in Jewish Education.

From the President #2

August 7, 2007

Shalom to you all,

A friend from CAJE the conference just texted to let me know that the opening program is done and CAJE 32 has “officially” begun!

So, with the opening now history, I wish you each a week filled with much learning and teaching; a week where you find new ideas and share some of your own; a week where you see old friends and make new ones; and a week where you find much joy.

I look forward to many of you posting your thoughts and sharing your experiences in the days to come. What did you think of Scott Shay’s conversation and the points he raised? What was your best “CAJE moment” today? As you check your e-mail tonight, take a moment and post some comments!

May you go forth to study and celebrate. A vibrant Jewish future begins with an educated community and that will only happen if we, as Jewish educators, can increase our own knowledge and skills, celebrate our passion, and then ignite the desire for Jewish learning and living in others!



Notes from the President – Iris Petroff #1

August 7, 2007

Shalom Chaverim v’Chaverot,

As I type this I am still finding it hard to believe that I am not among you; the over 400 members of our CAJE community gathered together to study and to celebrate Shabbat in the way that only CAJE can offer.

Know that I am thinking of you all and wishing I were there to meet, greet, visit, worship, study, sing, hug, and celebrate with you. For now, I will wish you a most joyous and meaning filled Shabbat.

Please know that I, and other CAJE members who could not attend this year’s conference, will look forward to hearing of your accounts on this wonderful CAJE blog as the week continues. So do take a moment to write!

Shabbat shalom,


Iris Petroff

President, Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education


August 6, 2007

Remarks from the CAJE 32 opening session, Sunday evening August 5. 

Shalom CAJE 32! 

Here’s a story Peninah Schram taught me: Once upon a time there was a poor Chassid who wanted to study and learn.  He decided to attend his Rebbe’s tish. The Rebbe gave a very erudite lesson, citing Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Nachmanides The shi’ur went over our poor Chassid’s head. Then the Rebbe told a wonderfully mystical story containing references to the S’phirot. Our poor Chassid was totally lost – he felt very uncomfortable as those around him closed their eyes and began to sing a nigun. Our poor Chassid was tone deaf.  He couldn’t carry a tune.  He was ready to leave, but then the Rebbe stood and began to dance. Our poor Chassid found himself in the middle of the dancing mass of students twirling with fervor, moving in time with his Rebbe. The lesson spoke to him.  He was engaged in his own unique way. We take from the past, and apply to the future.  This story of our poor Chassid helps us understand the direction we must journey as we reach out to learners of the future.  At the beginning of the process of creating this conference a year and a half ago we came to understand that modes of education we are all used to need to be enhanced. Our students are different.  Their approach to learning is different. How they interact with Judaism is changing rapidly. I like to think of this as a revolution in how Jews of the future interface with their heritage of the past So, we need to redefine how we relate to our students.  We’re talking about a change in our frame of reference. We now must take into account the concept of virtual….

  • Classrooms
  • Communities
  • Friends
  • Networks

 Jews of the future are searching for ways to ENGAGE with their past and translate it into THEIR future.  Our job as Jewish educators is to redefine ourselves as Facilitators of Engagement.  We need to be ready to step out of the box in which we have grown comfortable; catapulting ourselves into a new frontier that defines teaching and learning in ways that we may not NOW totally comprehend. Hopefully, by Thursday, we’ll have a clearer idea. 

At this conference we will be asking 3 questions:

  • Who are the Jewish Learners?
  • How do we engage these learners? 
  • And finally, who will follow us in this task of building a Jewish future? 

The sessions are structured around these questions. Please refer to the program book for more details. 

So Iris Schwartz, the CAJE 32 Conference Co-Chair and I welcome you to CAJE 32.  Bruchim HaBaim to the beginning of a journey that we hope will not end on Thursday, but will continue on our new CAJE wiki, blog and website.  Together we can continue the dialogue that begins here.