In an attempt to resurrect the bankrupt Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, a group of educators is making an appeal to teachers across the country.
Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox, a founder of CAJE, sent a letter this week inviting former members of CAJE to become charter members of NewCAJE, an organization created earlier this year to carry on the mission of promoting Jewish education in America.
The letter asks former members to donate money, help plan a NewCAJE conference, find the “next generation” of Jewish educators and support a new Web teaching venture.
After more than 30 years, CAJE closed its doors earlier this year, a victim of the economic downturn. The organization filed for bankruptcy protection in March.
But talk of reviving CAJE began almost immediately. Educators with ties to CAJE hosted a regional conference in suburban Maryland this past August, launching NewCAJE.
Starting a new organization allowed the group to continue the mission of CAJE without assuming its debt obligations. In filing for bankruptcy protection, CAJE said it owed more than $1 million to creditors, more than half owed to the University of Vermont.
Now, NewCAJE has a Web site — www.newcaje.org — and a game plan.
It just needs members and money.
NewCAJE made a successful $15,000 offer to the bankruptcy trustee to buy the assets of CAJE, which include intellectual property like its name, mailing list and software.
NewCAJE still needs to raise that money, as well as an additional $10,000 in legal fees.
To raise money, NewCAJE is starting a “webinar” series called Lehrhaus Online. The series will feature rabbis, teachers and activists, and will be available to the public.
Koller-Fox also wants teachers to ask their synagogues and federations to re-instate local subsidies cut off when CAJE went under. Those subsidies paid for teachers to attend the national CAJE conference. NewCAJE is planning its first national conference.
NewCAJE is also publishing a new issue of Jewish Education News, and reaching out to younger Jewish educators that will carry the new organization into the future.
Koller-Fox said the new venture depends on teachers advocating for themselves in their local communities, and coming up with innovative ways to raising awareness and funds, but added that local communities need to recognize the importance of Jewish education.
“I’m not actually concerned about the grassroots support,” Koller-Fox said. “I’m concerned about money.”
(Eric Lidji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)