CAJE to open its annual conference on Tisha B’Av


The Fundermentalist is going to take the show on the road to Burlington, Vermont, in a few weeks to check out the annual conference of the Coalition for Advancement of Jewish Education, from Aug 10-14.

CAJE is the biggest thing going in terms of professional development conferences for congregational and Hebrew school teachers and should draw about 1,500 people to the University of Vermont. And the conference has an interesting twist this year as it will have a heavy focus on eco-consciousness. (Good, says the fundermentalist. The Jewish world needs more of this.)

But the timing of the conference is a bit odd. The first day, Sunday Aug. 10, lands on Tisha B’Av, the 24-hour fast that marks the saddest day of the Jewish religious calendar, the day on which both temples in Jerusalem were destroyed and a whole litany of karma-cally twisted events occurred.

The opening plenary will take place about 20 hours into the fast for those who are religiously observant, and dinner is scheduled for 5:00, about four hours before the fast is over.

“What gives?” the Fundermentalist asked Jeffrey Lasday, CAJE’s executive director.

Lasday said that the conference could have been scheduled for the week before, but that would have been even more difficult. The three weeks preceding Tisha B’Av are also considered days of mourning and for the religiously observant, music and other joyous activities are prohibited. To plan the conference then would have made a number of the activities CAJE has planned impossible, he said.

Instead, CAJE will try to work around Tisha B’Av.

Only about 100 of the 1,500 participants will be fasting, Lasday estimates, and alternative meal arrangements will be made for them. The opening plenary. which normally contains some musical component will be toned down. And CAJE has hired Amichai Lau Lavie of Storahtelling to perform Tisha B’Av appropriate pieces.

And, CAJE has offered a prorated discount off of the $835 early bird price tag for the five-day conference for those who want show up on Monday. About 50 people will do so, he said.

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