Archive for the ‘Rachel’ Category

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.

Sunday… The fun stuff begins!

August 6, 2007

After coming down from the spiritual high of Shabbat, a part of me was set up to be disappointed with the programming planned for today. My thinking couldn’t have been any more wrong! Jeff Lasday spent an hour with us discussing the benefits of being Jewish educators (among them the high regard held by students and parents, the feeling of being able to assist in changing the world – one student at a time, and ultimately, knowing that students are the future of our world and we are able to do our part in being able to help shape that future) – and I had a precious moment to reflect on some of my favorite (and not so favorite) teachers and educators that I’ve had over my years as a student.

We followed through on that notion this afternoon when we had the opportunity to do our first real bit of professional networking. A group of veteran educators met us in our lounge and we spent some time discussing our own areas of interest and how mentorship could further our professional goals.

As a young Jewish educator, mentorship is a new and exciting concept. I have not had the opportunity to network with many seasoned professionals working in an area similar to that which I am working in (informal education and congregational program planning). Being able to sit down and discuss strategies, best practises and tools of the trade with a educational veteran was a privilege. The more I think about my own experiences in the Jewish day school system, the more I realise that part of my success came from my connection with my teachers – educators who were stakeholders in their students’ successes (and failures). Similarly, understanding the needs of learners in an informal education environment means that an educator is better able to connect with the learner while establishing rapport and ultimately, better understanding the true needs of that particular cohort of students.

In other news… We have now been at Wash U for 3 1/2 days – it seems like much longer, though! I only wish that there was more time to continue building lasting relationships with other SCP participants (current peers) and other Jewish professionals (future colleagues). Tomorrow we move into the “real deal” – CAJE proper begins, and the fun starts with sessions, EXPO and learning of all kinds. In the meantime though, we SCP’ers are enjoying each other’s company, our yellow shirts, and all of the excitement that comes with being on a college campus with 1300 equally interested and excited Jewish Educators…

SCP #1 – Rachel

August 3, 2007

It’s been a jam-packed 24 hours here in St. Louis. Our group has quickly meshed and has taken on a unique identity of its own. Today’s sessions concentrated around the theme of Jewish identity – and took the forms of group discussions on pluralism and dispelling myths and stereotypes associated with Jewish denominations; Jewish education and teaching individual learners; and ensuring the continuity of Jewish 20-somethings once they leave the comfortable bubble of the college campus.

During our meeting with Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow over at the St. Louis (Washington U) Hillel House, I identified strongly with the questions he posed to our group regarding how to keep Jewish identity alive during the prime 20 & 30-something years when we begin (and continue!) to question our Jewish identities and start on that all-important search for the suitable spouse/life partner. I left the Hillel house with an understanding that it is up to us, as the next generation of Jewish educators to find solutions (and creative ones at that) that will encourage students and life-long learners who have graduated from college to keep their Jewish identities strong and intact. Providing physical space and money isn’t enough of a solution to ensure that Jewish identity will remain alive, rather, empowering students to learn skills and tools of the trade that can be taken beyond the borders of campus will ensure that they will enter the adult world as a confident Jewish individual.

As Shabbat draws near, the air is growing thick with anticipation (and humidity). The next 25 or so hours are sure to be amongst the most spiritual, intense and beautiful that I have experienced. I look forward to sharing these thoughts with you in the new week. Shabbat Shalom from Wash U!