A Doorway of Collaboration

doorway / collaborationBy Dr. Sarah Levy

Over the last few years, the adult education department of the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education has been in a period of transition.

What we had been doing was no longer meeting the needs of the community … but what would?

Our first step in answering this question was to consider our mission. Our mission is as follows: “The mission of CAJE is making Jewish life sacred through learning. CAJE shall identify and endeavor to fill Jewish educational needs in the community, and shall provide centralized programs and services that individual institutions could not realize as effectively.”

So, our next step in answering this question was to identity what, exactly, were the needs of the community (and then we could think about how we could “endeavor to fill” them). As such, we embarked on a strategic planning process that involved a task force, focus groups, academic research, connecting with other communities, and many one-on-one conversations.

After months of compiling and analyzing data, what we determined was that our community was craving collaboration, and it was looking towards us to help make that happen. It wanted us to fulfill our mission of providing “centralized programs and services that individual institutions could not realize as effectively.” It wanted us to play an active role in strengthening the community through partnerships and collaborations, rather than focusing on our own programming.

Since realizing this need, we have taken the third step towards answering our initial question and have been begun a number of initiative aimed at filling our identified need, focusing on collaboration and strengthening our community as a whole. We have partnered with a local rabbinic council to design and facilitate their conversion class. We have partnered with a senior living organization to bring Jewish learning to seniors at different locations around town. We have partnered with the organization executives with the financial support of the Federation to bring professional development to our Jewish communal professionals. We highlight any adult Jewish learning opportunity in our community though a filterable and searchable listing of programs on our website.

While it’s true that many of these initiatives and others that we have launched may have happened without our involvement, through our partnerships and collaboration, we have been able to connect potential learners to Jewish learning who would not have connected otherwise.

As an additional step, we’ve had to change how we measure success. If our goal is to connect people to Jewish learning, we cannot determine how successful we’ve been simply by counting the number of students who enroll in one of our classes. We now consider factors such as number of partner organizations and number of programs publicized (not ours, all programs). We look at total number of students reached through all of our programs (not just our traditional classes). Though difficult to quantify, we look at our success in strengthening the community as a whole, not just the success of our specific program.

As a culmination of this process, we changed our name from “CAJE Adult Ed” to “Delet” as we felt that it more accurately depicted our role and goal within the community. We have found the need, and we endeavor to fill it by encouraging more adults to engage in more Jewish learning. We can act at the door (Delet means “door” in Hebrew) to help make that happen, but it will only happen through collaboration and partnerships.

Dr. Sarah Levy is the Director of Delet for the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education.