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Educators Become Students at Conference; Caje to Change Name

The 12th annual conference of the Coalition for Alternatives in Jewish Education (CAJE) will be remembered for administrators and teachers becoming enlightened pupils at West Georgia College here August 23-27.

The conference attracted more than 1,650 Jewish educators from the United States, Canada, Israel and 13 other countries who participated in upwards of 600 learning sessions that focused on diverse subjects such as Talmud, current events, mysticism, computers, creative arts and teaching Hebrew.

Along with the coalition, this year’s CAJE conference was co-sponsored by the Atlanta Bureau of Jewish Education, and assisted by a grant from the Atlanta Jewish Federation.

The educators reflected every shade of the Jewish theological spectrum, from Orthodox to secular Jews; and every level of educator; from Sunday school teachers to heads of Jewish studies departments at major universities, directors of boards of Jewish education, noted rabbis, scholars and many others involved in or concerned about Jewish education. CAJE presented a forum in which “we shared ideas, solved problems and developed friendships,” said Betsy Dolgin Katz of Highland Park, III., CAJE’s national chairperson. “We also increased our knowledge and developed new skills. What we learned during these four days affected our commitment to teaching and our pride in our profession.”

NEW NAME ANNOUNCED

Dr. Eliot Spack, national director of CAJE, professed a change in the coalition’s direction. Started as a collecting board for alternatives in Jewish education 12 years ago, “we are now an active force in Jewish communities.” said Spack, “and we have achieved a higher degree of prominence; therefore, CAJE will officially stand for the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education as of Rosh Hashanah, September 24.

“We are no longer an alternative to the establishment. In the ’70s, we were only a conference; in the ’80s, we have made major strides to become a smorgasbord of Jewish creativity for our 3,500 members.”

Rabbi Maurice Lamm, president of the National Institute of Jewish Hospices and professor at Yeshiva University in New York, joined Rabbi Edwin Friedman of Bethesda, Md., and Dr. Sol Gordon, professor emeritus of child and family studies at Syracuse University, on an inspirational panel that spoke before CAJE members in the Education Center.

“Who cares? We care,” stated Lamm. “The Jewish community is doing very well, but with more assistance we will do even better.” Throwing his arms into the air, Gordon exclaimed that “life is opportunity,” that we all have a “mission and role in life” and “mistakes are turned into lessons.” Friedman shared a case study about an ancient biblical family in modern-age terms called “Raising Cain.”

“Our Caring Community,” the only plenary session of the conference was followed by workshops. The session featured several scholars, teachers and authors who discussed Jewish attitudes toward major problems in contemporary society — drug and alcohol addiction, suicide, teenage sex, child abuse, single parents, surrogate mothers, AIDS, aging, poverty and cults.

Evening programs were filled with music, drama, dancing, arts and crafts, storytelling and other entertainment. Additional programs included a pre-conference for high school students who want to become Jewish educators and an hourlong session on women’s rituals.

The 13th annual conference for the Advancement for Jewish Education is scheduled for Jerusalem.

In addition, the 18-page education booklet “Terrorism: A Discussion Guide” was released at the conference. It was prepared by Michael Myers, supervisor at the Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago and an instructor of Tanach at the Ida Crown Jewish Academy there. It is designed for young adults and adults. For more information, Call CAJE, (212) 696-0740.

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