Professional Conferences for Professional Amateurs

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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.

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