You never know who you will meet in an airport.
On my way to St. Louis I found myself between flights in the Atlanta airport. As I was sitting by the boarding gate, I heard a voice ask me if the seat next to mine was available. I said yes and looked up to see a young women sit down. She wore the desert camouflaged regulation Army Combat Uniform. She was 18 and traveling from a base in Florida to one near St. Louis. And she was deploying to Iraq in a few months.
What does this have to do with a conference on Jewish education? Everything. Many times you never know what to expect. Students are surprising. Sometimes they rise to the occasion in ways we never can predict. Sometimes, we as educators find new ways to reach them. For me at least, the “aha moment” is when teaching is most rewarding.
The process of creating a CAJE conference is like that too. We – the visioning teams and the mazkirut – dreamed of ideas and programs that we wanted to see take place at CAJE 32. We went in surprising directions, the first being the transition to the concept of engaging in the future as the theme. I’ll mention this Sunday night, but for now I’d ask you to think about the distinction between learning and engaging.
The young soldier made that concrete for me. You see, I didn’t expect to have a personal encounter with a young warrior. I certainly didn’t expect that she would enable me to rearticulate my personal goal for CAJE 32. Yes, I dream that this conference will provide us all with tools to create new modes of interacting with our students. I hope that come August 9th we will have more comfort with technology and new ways of thinking. For me it will be a success if we participants continue to dialogue about what we’ve discovered after we leave St. Louis. But what I didn’t expect was that I would translate my vision in the following way: The heritage and traditions that we successfully pass on to those who follow us, who stand on our shoulders, will provide them with the tools to build a world where they would not have to send their daughters to war.
CAJE 32 is meant to be a rung on a ladder that will create new worlds for us and for those who follow. We are standing on the first rungs. Together let’s start climbing.