National CAJE conference will come to St. Louis


Over a thousand Jewish educators from around the country, and the world, will be gathering in St. Louis for the first time this August to attend the 32nd annual Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) conference.

“It’s all about Jewish learning,” said Jeffrey Lasday, executive director of CAJE, and past president of the St. Louis Central Agency for Jewish Education. “What we want to do is provide Jewish educators with the tools to become better educators. This conference attracts all kinds, from teachers and educational directors, to rabbis and cantors. We also pride ourselves in the fact that we’re transdenominational. We have people coming together from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, and they’re all coming together to celebrate Jewish education.”

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The conference will take place Aug. 5-9 at Washington University, with 300 sessions available for guests to attend. Pre-conference events will be held Aug. 2-5. This year, the theme is “Engaging 21st Century Jewish Learners.”

“This year we thought this topic was something that was very pertinent to today’s Jewish educator,” Lasday said. “What are the technologies that are involved today that we need to be aware of? What are the latest cutting edge programs? When we look at the Jewish identity today, we know that the only way we’re going to have a successful vibrant Jewish community is to have successful Jewish education today.”

Lasday said that there are currently about 1,600 people expected to attend the conference, which will be the largest attendance the conference has had in the past three years.

“Part of that is because the conference is in the center of the country this year, so we’re able to attract people from all around,” Lasday said. “We’re

also partnering with a bunch of different programs that are bringing people for the conference.”

One of the keynote speakers for the conference is Scott Shay, author of Getting Our Groove Back: How to Energize American Jewry. He has been active in the Jewish community for many years, and also started a Hebrew school with his wife that is a huge success today.

“I wanted to help create a blueprint to show how we can revitalize and regenerate,” Shay said. “I’m going to try to state where we are as a Jewish community in America and what the risks are of not having a blueprint for our shared future. I want people to come out with their own plan for what they can personally do to advance American Judaism. I want people to think about an agenda and how it can be carried out in local communities.”

In addition to the sessions, there will also be a variety of entertainment available during the evenings.

There are also a number of programs for the local Jewish community as well. An EXPO vending area will be open to the entire community, which will include book vendors, artisans and Judaic items. Taste of CAJE is also available, which offers a one-day option for people to attend only one day of the conference.

“We’re hoping after they attend these workshops Jewish education will become more of a priority and we’ll know more about their schools or congregation,” said Michelle Brooks, director of school services for Central Agency for Jewish Education.

Adele Lewis is a teacher at Temple Israel. She attended the CAJE conference last year and plans to go back this year.

“It was a wonderful educational opportunity,” Lewis said. “I would recommend it to all. I actually became better at what I do and gained insight into my Judaism. I gained insight into how I should be teaching certain things. If anybody has the opportunity to go, it was a ‘wow’ experience.”

For more information, call Michelle Brooks at 314-442-3774 or log on to