COALITION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JEWISH EDUCATION (CAJE; formerly Coalition for Alternatives in Jewish Education). The Coalition for Alternatives in Jewish Education (CAJE) was conceived in Boston in 1975 by a group of graduate students from the North American Jewish Students' Network, whose primary goal was to make a contribution to the improvement of the quality of Jewish education. These students sought to present alternatives to Jewish educational organizations, which they said served administrators and were divided, counterproductively, into Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform denominations. CAJE's first task was the organization of a conference to serve as a forum for "teaching, learning, and sharing."
The first CAJE conference, held in 1976 at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, attracted 500 participants. Since that time, conferences have been held yearly in sites throughout the United States and have grown steadily in both size and content. Conferences now include workshops, lectures, movies, seminars, and displays of educational materials.
Membership in CAJE and participation in its conferences are open to anyone concerned with the transmission of Jewish custom, culture, and belief. No standards or prerequisites exist, and members are composed of various ages and ideological, professional, and geographical backgrounds. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and secular Jews come together with the common goal of improving Jewish education. The coalition's constituents come primarily from North America, but also from Europe, Israel, Morocco, and Australia.
Based in New York, CAJE has become the largest North American Jewish educators' organization. Its ongoing aim is to enhance the professional development and dignity of the Jewish teacher and thereby elevate the status of Jewish education on the Jewish communal agenda. To that end, CAJE continually seeks to provide services that will facilitate the members' personal and professional development. Such services
include access to CAJE's entire database of lesson plans via e-mail or snail mail; online access to material about Jewish festivals; subscriptions to CAJE's curricular publications and Jewish Education News; grants of up to $10,000 for innovative educational projects; 16 CAJE networks by which to connect with members who have similar interests as well as exchange opinions via an online discussion group; mini-CAJE programs held in various locations throughout the year; opportunities to learn with master teachers via an online video and audio website; a training program to become a mentor for new teachers; affordable medical, long-term care, and life insurance benefits; and a website that posts professional employment opportunities.
CAJE's annual conferences attract some 1,500 Jewish educators, including classroom teachers, principals, rabbis, cantors, camp and youth work personnel, academicians, writers, artists, students, and lay leaders. In addition, participants can purchase a wide range of Judaic products from the hundreds of vendors at the conferences.
CAJE believes that if assimilation is the greatest threat to the future of American Jewry, then Jewish education is the key to securing its continuation.