From the President #2

August 7, 2007 by

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!

B’hatzlecha,

Iris

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Notes from the President – Iris Petroff #1

August 7, 2007 by

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

Iris Petroff

President, Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education

NOTES FROM THE CHAIR – PETER #3

August 6, 2007 by

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. 

Sunday… The fun stuff begins!

August 6, 2007 by

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 by

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!

Notes from the Chair – Peter #2

August 2, 2007 by

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.