CAJE cancels its conference, will downsize

NEW YORK (JTA) – After much speculation over its future, a major Jewish educational organization is canceling its annual conference and significantly downsizing.

CAJE, the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, is canceling its annual conference because of ongoing financial difficulties, the organization announced today.

The conference has been the central professional development resource for supplementary and Hebrew school teachers since the organization was founded 33 years ago.

CAJE’s executive director, Jeffrey Lasday, made the announcement in a mass e-mail message sent out Friday morning.

“As you are aware, this is a very difficult time for Jewish not-for-profit agencies in general and it is also an especially tough time for us at CAJE,” Lasday wrote. "Due to the current dramatic economic downturn coupled with the financial constraints faced by our members’ organizations, congregations and schools, the CAJE leadership has had to face the inescapable conclusion that CAJE can no longer offer our distinctive services to the field, and that we will be unable to convene the CAJE conference in 2009."

Organizing the conference , which was set to take place in San Antonio this summer, has been the organization’s primary function, and as a result CAJE will also need to fire significant staff, Lasday wrote. Last year the conference drew some 1,500 Jewish educators.

Already CAJE has laid off the director of the conference, David Frank, and its director of development, Mimi Mark.

The organization is now in discussions with the Jewish Education Service of North America about filling the vacuum in professional services left by CAJE’s downsizing.

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