I spent the last few days in New Jersey with a couple hundred educators from various Jewish agencies around the country. The conference was the 3rd year of a reinvention of CAJE.    CAJE was the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education who would put on the Conference for Alternative in Jewish Education every summer for over 30 years.  A few years ago that organization fell apart and like a phoenix NewCaje was born from what remained.  And like a phoenix, the ashes can still be seen in on the wings of the new incarnation.  A few people felt that despite that failure of CAJE as an organization there was still room for a yearly conference and an educators network to inspire new educators and reinvigorate older veterans.  I was skeptical and I was wrong.  In the last three days I have seen great things that give me hope about Jewish education.  I have seen veterans mentoring younger teachers.  I have seen inspiration shared from great scholars to a room full of people who's Hebrew school experience was based on that very person's textbooks.  I saw a young budding storyteller give an impromptu performance in a class led by two giants who once had me stand in front of a class to tell a story.  I saw a dedicated man with a simple idea of a house shaped box for tzedukah and a vision to end homelessness one nickle at a time.  I learned from 20 something researcher who shares the vision I have of a comprehensive sexuality education model that will work in Religious and Day Schools.  And I have seen people creating curriculum you don't have to spend a great deal of money on to use in your class, from social action, to the history of the labor movement, to the timeline of women in Judaism.  One of my pet peeves about the Old Caje model was that there were many things with fancy titles and unknown instructors and the chances of landing in a bad session were high.  I gave up on learning at CAJE and focused on networking in the past.  But in two days I have learned a great deal of how I can be a better Education Director, found new ideas to share with my teachers and made strong connections to people who will help me make my school better and me a better person.  It was a great conference and I am glad CAJE is back.  There were logistical problems, communication issues and the overall structure needs tweeking.  But that is for another time.  I think this was a success and for all my old CAJE friends who didn't come.  The food was incredible and if I say know it was good.


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