February 10, 2009
CAJE, Woodstock gen Jewish educational group, is closing its doors
CAJE, the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, will close its doors at the end of this month, a victim of the economic downturn that is reshaping Jewish organizational life.
CAJE attracted thousands of educators every year to its conference, where Jewish educators, primarily from preschools and supplemental (aka religious, Sunday, Hebrew, or congregational) schools, networked and schmoozed and shared ideas about how to make Jewish education better.
But with schools and synagogues unable to pay for its teachers to attend the conference, and with donors down, in January CAJE canceled its 34th annual conference. Today, the group announced that with $500,000 still owed on past conferences, the organization is shutting down. It launched a legacy campaign to clean up the debt and close the chapter with dignity.
From the CAJE Homepage:
Aside from its conference, CAJE offered advocacy and resources for Jewish educators and schools.
The first CAJE conference – then the “a” stood for “alternatives,” not “advancement” – in 1976 was put together by Jewish students who wanted something other than the ruler-wielding rabbi or school marm telling kids how to be Jewish. 350 educators gathered at Brown University in Rhode Island that year with an anti-establishment spirit.
By year three 1000 people participated, and when times caught up and CAJE was a full-fledged organization and no longer alternative, CAJE changed its middle name to “Advancement” in 1987 (it kept Alternative for the conferences). At its heights, CAJE attracted 2,500 people to its conferences.
CAJE was there for the Soviet Jewry movement, developed partnerships around the world and in Israel, credits itself with spawning similar conferences like Limmud, and updated itself with a robust website and blog.
But the hits have been hard lately, and CAJE faced reality. Although its 33rd annual conference in Vermont last August was a success, it wasn’t enough to save CAJE. CAJE is working with Jewish Educational Services of North America (JESNA) to preserve and disseminate its materials, explore the possibilty of a conference, and handle member needs, especially Early Childhood educators.
But there are many, many Jewish educators who will miss the camaraderie, professional development and spirit they could only get at CAJE conference.