Monday, August 13, 2012

New Beginnings

New beginnings. New challenges, New motivation.  NewCAJE.  New Year.  I am a new blogger.  I am Annice Benamy, Religious School Director at Congregation Adas Emuno.  I am humbled to have been asked to be a contributor to the Blog.  I will try to have something worth reading that will spark some motivation and inspiration to learn more.  This is my new beginning.

One of the highlights of my summer (besides beginning this amazing new position) was to attend NewCAJE.  "New" because the "Old" CAJE folded several years ago.  "New" because Rabbi Cherie Koller Fox and CAJE participants wanted it back so they created a new organization based on an old one.  CAJE stands for the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education.  It encompasses all denominations of Judaism including Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Renewal.  Each year a different university is chosen to host the four day conference. Participants come from all over the country (this year we represented 31 states and 2 countries) to study, learn, worship, play, sing, network, and eat. 

My first CAJE experience was in Atlanta, Georgia in 1986.  I was teaching in Cleveland, Ohio and wanted to really get involved in Jewish education.  My mother, who is my absolute role model, was involved in Jewish music education and she encouraged me to attend CAJE with her.  It was such a fabulous experience that I attended the next CAJE at Ohio State University in 1987 again with my mother.  Not only did we attend, but we served as an airport service.  This is where I met my friend and brilliant musician, Craig Taubman. We offered to pick up Craig and his band at the Columbus airport and bring them to CAJE.  A friendship quickly formed and 25 years later I am still inspired by his musical greatness.  I also got to sing with Debbie Friedman in the CAJE Chorale the same year.

New motivation:  NewCAJE was just as fabulous as CAJE.  After arriving at Newark airport on Sunday from a family work/vacation in Arizona, my daughter, Ilana, and I went to Montclair State University for our Jewish education week.  Ilana was the official NewCAJE Photographer.  In four days I took workshops on Administration, Text Study, Technology, New Ideas for Traditional Schools, Great Jewish Debates (Rabbi Schwartz's new book), Creative Torah Teaching, Madrachim Training, Taste of Trope, and Intensive Mitkadem Hebrew Training. We heard concerts from Cantor Doug Cotler, Baal Shem Tones, Six13, Kenny Ellis, New Voices of Noah Aronson, Naomi Less, Jay Rapoport, Eric Komar.  But the "cherry on the top" was the 40th anniversary of Kol B'seder - Rabbi Dan Freelander and Cantor Jeff Klepper.  Who are they you ask?  On Friday Shabbat, we sing "Shalom Rav."  They wrote that song.  Other songs they wrote that we sing are "Haporais Sukat Shalom" and at Silent Prayer "Oseh Shalom".  They contributed much of the contemporary music we sing today.  With Debbie Friedman, Kol B'seder paved the way for musicians such as Craig Taubman, Dan Nichols, and Josh Nelson. 

New challenges:  Jewish education is alive and well in the 21st Century because of the new professionals entering the field.  Jewish education is changing day by day because there are new ways of doing things.  I learned to keep an open mind, be flexible, take risks, and remember our work is for our students at any age.  I learned that our biggest blessing is that we can study Judaism together every day. 

I look foward to you joining me in 5773 for new beginnings, new challenges, and new motivations.


Annice Benamy

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