Waiting for Superman: New CAJE, Old Battle - Positive Jewish Experiences vs. Engagement with Jewish Texts

August 7, 2013

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


The highlight of New CAJE #4 held at Nichols College, just west of Boston, was the debate about the nature of Jewish education for the 21st century. Dr. David Bryfman, Director of the New Center for Collaborative Leadership at the Jewish Education Project in New York, hoped to convince the crowd that the individual experience of a child, at the center of Jewish education, is best served with “positive Jewish experiences”. Rabbi Danny Lehmann, President of Hebrew College of Boston took the position that positive experiences are not a substitute for engagement with Jewish texts, which is at the center of Judaism.


Rabbi Lehmann is right that we have to look to our own library and grind our teeth in pursuit of these answers, and Dr. Bryfman is right in our need to create laboratories, a term I borrow from Dewey, where Jewish students can have Jewish experiences that make them want to be members of the tribe, and both of them are wrong if they think that theirs should be the dominant paradigm of our religious schools.


There are, however, other paradigms in Judaism. Seventy faces of Torah is a three dimensional paradigm. It recognizes the limitations of spectrums of thought. Seventy faces of Torah is why we need more organizations like New CAJE because Jewish educators need to come together and discuss our challenges and constantly brainstorm their solutions and share what works and what doesn’t. This is why I went to New CAJE, not for the heavyweights and their rumbles, not to make choices between mitnagdim and Hassidim, but to be in the company of my peers and colleagues and to face the challenges of the 21st century without waiting for Superman.


Read the entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Sep. 11, 2013