The Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education

Posts Tagged ‘CAJE 33’

CAJE 33 – More Videos

Posted by Joel H. on November 17, 2008

A quick update: Israeli Documentarian Yair Gil has now released three four videos from CAJE 33:

All of the videos are available in regular and high quality.

Thank you, Yair!


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CAJE 33 – The Video

Posted by Joel H. on September 16, 2008

Just in from Israeli documentarian Yair Gil is this video:

It’s available in normal YouTube quality and also in high-resolution.

Take a look, and spread the word!

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Some Results from the Roundtable Fishbowl

Posted by Joel H. on August 18, 2008

The Roundtable Fishbowl at CAJE 33

The Roundtable Fishbowl at CAJE 33

The Roundtable Fishbowl at CAJE 33

In its first ever Roundtable Fishbowl, CAJE 33 convened seven scholars, practitioners, and consultants to discuss the future of Jewish supplemental education in North America.

The two-day free-ranging discussion covered synagogue life, the question of “Why be Jewish?”, integration of schools into synagogues, community, bar/bat mitzvah, authenticity, spirituality, expectations, and much more.

Below are e-mail addresses for the fishbowl participants (who have generously agreed to continue the CAJE 33 discussion on-line), and some brief highlights:


One direct and concrete result was the consensus on the need for better integration of religious schools into the synagogue. The participants all agreed that schools suffer when they are disconnected from synagogue life. Rather that being their own units run by a principal, principals should work with other synagogue leaders to create a center for Jewish life that welcomes children.

Equally, it became clear that any solution to the Religious School crisis will have to involve the entire community. (Some suggestions for the community are summarized below.)

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

In response to a question from the audience (questions were submitted via real-time e-mail), Rabbi Larry Hoffman claimed that we don’t do enough to validate people who just senn their children to Religious School to become bar/bat mitzvah.

He pointed out that these parents invest considerable time, money, and energy to make sure that their children become bar/bat mitzvah, and we do a disservice to them and to our communities when we don’t recognize the value in that. Rather than affirm these parents’ commitment to giving Judaism to their children, leaders chastise them for not doing enough.


One point of disagreement was the role of expectations. While some people advocated raising the proverbial bar, and, like a good piano teacher, only teaching to students who were willing to learn, others thought that each community should come to its own consensus on what quality looks like.

Formal/Informal Education

According to the panal, both formal and informal education formats have imporant roles, and both have to be expanded.

Hebrew is probably best taught in a formal setting. Identity may demand something else.

Dr. Steven Cohen raised the interesting possibility of investing in non-scholastic contexts for Jewish children to come together. His example was a Jewish soccer league, though he was clear that other similar programs could be equally valuable.

Another suggestion was based on the observation that classes for children up to about 10 years of age tend to function better than 6th/7th-grade classes. Perhaps those older children shouldn’t be in classes as all. Perhaps formal classroom education should run through 5th grade, to be replaced by something else before bar/bat mitzvah.


If we take the religious school seriously, we have to offer children more than just information and data. Children no less than adults require some sense of spirituality. If religious school doesn’t offer it, or at least the promise of it, the students will search elsewhere. Some will try meditation, yoga, etc., and others will leave Judaism altogether.


There’s little point is creating a good religious school model if there won’t be any Jewish children to attend, so we have to balance long-term and short-term goals.


The word “authenticity” came up several times, but time constraints prevented the participants from exploring what they meant by it or why it’s so important.

Identity Formation

There was general agreement that a successful religious schools must not only convey information but also help in identify formation, and that this topic demands much more attention. While we have found people who know a lot about how children learn Hebrew, do have yet to identify experts in identify formation.

The People

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Jewish Identity = Ecological Identity

Posted by shomreiadamah on August 15, 2008

Dear CAJEniks,

On behalf of the whole Ecotrack, I want to say THANK YOU for helping us to bring our message that “Jewish identity=Ecological identity” to the wonderful world of Jewish educators. I’m attaching a link to the story that just came out in the Jewish Advocate in Boston–and we are so thrilled. And we heard that this summer 20% of CAJEniks were newcomers… and that many of these folks came just for the ecotrack. Truly, most of our 60+ sessions were overflowing; many with 20 and 30 somethings.

(Read the Jewish Advocate article…)

This summer is the 20th anniversary of Shomrei Adamah, the first Jewish environmental organization. In the early days, it was very hard to convince Jews of the importance of the work of ecology — that an ecological vision and practice is authentic to Judaism and can only be good for the Jews (and good for the world). For years, Shomrei Adamah was seen as somewhat fringe, outside of what is generally considered authentic Jewish thought and practice — certainly “alternative.” Likewise for many of the other Jewish environmental and farm and wilderness groups that have sprouted wildly in the past 5 years. Its been tricky for all of us to secure the funding that we need to thrive, expand and grow.

BUT NOW with the support and network of CAJE, we believe we can take a giant leap forward and really integrate ecological identity and practices into Jewish life. We believe we can both enhance Jewish life and perform great mitzvot for the world.

A couple of us are hoping to launch a new venture, inspired by the success we felt at the CAJE conference — I don’t want to jinx it, by spilling the beans before it’s time… but I hope to be back to you in September with something concrete.

In the meantime, we’d be happy to work with you in various capacities, from scholar-in-residencies to program development. Hazon, Teva, the Shalom Center (Green Menorah), Jewish Farm School, COEJL, Canfei Nesharim, Arava, JNF, Kaya Farms all have publications and materials that can help you and we’re hoping to have more material for next year’s CAJE. My website has a bunch of free downloads (in addition to books) that I invite you to explore:

Finally, I’m interested to know if you think that a CAJE track with “certification” as a CAJE Jewish ecoeducator would be a good idea?

Thanks again for your generous hospitality and strong support. I’m not much of a blogger (this is my first!) so feel free to email me directly if you want a quick response.

Shabbat Shalom,


Posted in CAJE 33 followup | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Closing Night Poem: This Curious Quinquidial Fray

Posted by Joel H. on August 15, 2008

In response to everyone who asked, I’ve put my poem from Wednesday night on-line.

NEW! Watch the video:


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Some Preliminary CAJE 33 Highlights

Posted by Joel H. on August 15, 2008

It’s impossible to summarize CAJE 33 in a few pages, let alone a few lines. Still, here are just a handful of my personal CAJE 33 highlights. In loose chronological order:

  • Ellen Dreskin’s Friday night service.
  • Richard Freund’s Shabbat sessions.
  • Tisha B’av kinot.
  • Bicycling on the Lake Champlain causeway.
  • Storahtelling‘s opening.
  • Monday’s Roundtable Fishbowl.
  • Macy Hart‘s keynote.
  • Drinking cups made from corn.
  • Manny Gold’s keynote.
  • Dynamic conversations over lunch.
  • My father Larry Hoffman‘s plenary session
  • The beautiful UVM campus.
  • Ed Feinstein‘s stories.
  • Doug Mishkin‘s music.
  • The wonderful UVM staff.
  • Doug Cotler‘s stellar closing program.

What were your favorites?

Posted in CAJE 33 followup, Chair, Joel M. Hoffman | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Gearing up for CAJE 33

Posted by Joel H. on August 6, 2008

Zac staying on top of things

Zac Staying On Top Of Things

Thirty Walkie Talkies

Thirty Walkie Talkies

Allan Making Arrangements

Allan Making Arrangements

Abby Hard At Work

Abby Hard At Work

We’re gearing up for CAJE 33!

Fifteen-hundred people, hundreds of sessions, thousands of handouts, 18,000 evalutation forms, 30 walkie-talkies, a slew of workstations and laptops, 8 golf carts, and 1 dromedary. (You only see the dromedary if you drive up Vermont Route 22a. It’s not on campus.) All to get ready for CAJE 33.

The Dromedary on VT Rte. 22a

The Dromedary On VT Rte. 22a

I arrived in Burlington on Monday, and the massive preparations have been going exceedingly well. The weather is great (and the views from campus are outstanding). The people are friendly and helpful. The buildings are new and welcoming. The food is delicious.

All that’s missing is you.

David Takes a Phone Call By Lake Champlain

David Takes a Phone Call By Lake Champlain

Posted in CAJE 33 Information, Joel M. Hoffman | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

2 days till CAJE 33

Posted by melbray on August 6, 2008

Wow. CAJE 33 is almost here and tomorrow some people attending our Shabbat preconference will arrive. I’ve been here 2 days already and the weather is wonderful, the view is spectacular and the people are welcoming. We are working hard to make sure this will be an amazing conference for each of you.

I look forward to meeting you all.

נסיעה טובה

מל Mel

Posted in Co-Chair, Mel Birger-Bray, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

In Focus: From Mourning to Magic (CAJE 33 and Tisha B’Av)

Posted by Joel H. on July 30, 2008

We’re thrilled that Storahtelling is opening CAJE 33 for us. Storahtelling, which has won accolades across the world, has prepared an opening program called “From Mourning to Magic” to help us open CAJE 33 and transition from Tisha B’Av to the rest of the conference. Here’s what Storahtelling’s Amichai Lau-Lavie has to say about it:

Amicha Lau Lavie

Amicha Lau Lavie

CAJE 33 is opening on Tisha B’Av – a logistical necessity and challenge – but also a creative opportunity for honest dialogue and inspiring conversation about priorities and choices facing Jewish educators and leaders at the dawn of the 21st century. What is the legacy that this ancient fast day brings to modern Judaism? What is the role of mourning for the past as our communities struggle to craft Jewish experiences that will engage present and future generations? How much time, energy and resources should be allocated to remembering what was vs. creating what will become?

Storahtelling is honored to present the opening program at CAJE, and as our team of educators and artists began planning this event, these difficult questions became the focus of our intention. Central to Storahtelling’s work is the restoration of ancient stories for new generations, inspiring Judaic literacy, personal empowerment and societal change. With these goals in mind we went back to the classic Judaic sources that discuss Tisha B’Av and carried them into our current realities and personal struggles. We discovered that we are not the first ones to ask these questions – almost 1,800 years ago, and only a century after the destruction of the Second Temple, Rabbi Judah the President, leader of the Jewish People, tried to get Tisha B’Av off the calendar. His campaign failed, but ultimately sparked an important Talmudic conversation about the strategies needed for the preservation of national history and for the healing of national wounds. That conversation continues today.

We chose to reflect on the lesser known legends that link this ‘saddest day of the year’ to one of the most mysterious holy days on the ancient Hebrew calendar – the Fifteenth of Av – the full moon summer celebration of wine, love and hope. According to Midrash Rabbah, the seven nights that separate the fast from the fiesta represent a mythic and psychic transition, an annual, cyclical journey, both personal and collective – from grief to joy, and from despair to optimism and opportunity.

As we crafted this program, each of these seven nights became a candle of remembrance – a peek into specific tragedies that befell our people on Tisha B’Av. But also, each of the seven nights became a beacon of light – an invitation for courageous change in our thinking and a passionate plea for honoring the past but focusing on the present and bringing on the bright future we all yearn for.

We invite you to travel with us tonight, reflecting, remembering and learning together – from the ruins of the Jerusalem Temple, through the ports of Spain, the train tracks of Poland, the streets of Buenos Aires and the vineyards of Judea – to the hills of Vermont. May the ancient become new – and the new become sacred.

Amichai Lau-Lavie, July 2008

To see Judaic and contemporary sources Storahtelling used to create From Mourning to Magic, please click here.

Posted in CAJE 33 Information, In Focus | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Search All The CAJE 33 Sites

Posted by Joel H. on July 28, 2008

You may have noticed that there’s more that one “CAJE 33” site. There’s:

  • CAJE33.Org, which hosts the entire program (and it’s searchable!) and from which you can experiment with different schedules;
  • CAJE33.Wikispaces.Com, which hosts a wealth of information about CAJE 33, including the entire program book, lodging information, what to bring, and much more; and
  • CAJE33.Wordpress.Com, the blog, which you’re on now.

Now, thanks to Google, you can search all the CAJE 33 sites. Give it a shot. See what you find.

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