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. 


One Response to “NOTES FROM THE CHAIR – PETER #3”

  1. iristhepres Says:

    So Peter,

    With all due respect, I am not at all sure that our students are different in the 21st century. They have always had different learning styles and interests, I think. What IS different is that now they also have far more choices and far more competing for their attention than in any generation prior. Both students and parents expect to be immediately engaged and gratificatfied or they move on to something else.

    So, I would contend that we need to appraoch engagement of our students differently because if we don’t we won’t have students to engage. Whereas in past generations they stayed and more or less did what we asked and participated to the best of their ability in whatever approaches we offered, today they will only choose to engage and remain our students if we succeed in the effort to engage, not just teach.

    Should we have been doing this all along; should teaching always meet the needs and styles of the learners; should it always be relevant so that it is meaning-filled for the participants.. of course. But now, we must.. in order to keep our students and ensure a vbrant and relavant Jewish community for the future.


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