A Time for Rethinking and Change

It appears that CAJE – the New York City based Conference for the Advancement of Jewish Education – is the first of the alphabet soup of Jewish organizations that may be closing up shop.

In an email sent out Friday, CAJE states, “It is with regret, that we have to inform you, our dear members and longtime CAJE friends, that CAJE, the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, will not hold its annual conference originally scheduled for August 2009 because of the current economic environment.”

Founded as the Coalition for Alternatives in Jewish Education, CAJE was at the forefront of cutting edge Jewish educational initiatives and very much a product of the times. Unique in that the organization appealed to and found success across the lines of all the various synagogue streams, CAJE’s mission was to “bring together Jews of all ideologies for work, study, and sharing in discussion of issues in the field of Jewish education.” The first conference was held at Brown University in August, 1976 and the most recent this past August at the University of Vermont.

In addition to the financial problems that plague CAJE, during the 2007 Conference, many of their leaders publicly expressed thoughts on the “graying” of the organization and nostalgically reminisced about times gone by.

CAJE is currently in discussions with JESNA – The Jewish Education Service of North America – “to explore how Jewish educators across the country can best be served, and how we can ensure that the mission and vision of CAJE will continue into the future.”

Recognizing the challenges of today, it appears they are taking a difficult, yet graceful, path to serve both their constituency and the community – a positive role model for others to consider.

update: You can read a personal reflection on the CAJE announcement from Richard Marker in his post CAJE’s demise – A footnote to history.