PAJE says it’s cool to be Jewish
By Jenn Director Knudsen
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Who knew The Fonz had a hand in inspiring next month’s Portland Area Jewish Educators’ annual conference? He must have, given this year’s theme: It’s Cool to be Jewish.
The kick-off event for area Jewish educators and their families, PAJE this year promises to prepare the teachers—and parents and kids, too—for a new year of inspired learning, tzedakah projects and support of Israel, said Susan Bernstein, Congregation Neveh Shalom’s director of youth education and one of this year’s conference organizers.
The back-to-school and pre-High Holy Days conference will be held at Neveh Shalom at 2900 SW Peaceful Lane, on Sun., Sept. 9, starting at 2 p.m. with registration and coffee.
“The workshops will be designed to help empower our teachers to learn new techniques to make Jewish learning relevant, exciting, interesting, and—yes—cool for our kids,” added Amy Katz, a fellow PAJE organizer and former director of education at Congregation Shir Tikvah.
To inspire such breadth of coolness, and across generations, conference workshops will provide professional development for those who teach preschool through high school and family education, said Dorice Horenstein, a conference organizer and Shaarie Torah’s education director.
For example, sessions on learning through art, music and text study all will occur throughout the packed day.
As will a teen workshop, focusing on how to better involve teenagers in Jewish learning and increase their participation in the community, Horenstein said.
Another goal of this year’s “cool” conference is to bring together—not just as educators, but as friends—Jewish teachers from across the religious spectrum in our town.
“So many of us do not know Jews from the different streams of Judaism,” Horenstein observed.
She continued, “The PAJE conference brings the opportunity for us to get together and learn with other Jews and to enjoy each other’s company.”
The hope, then, is for those sentiments to be disseminated to all the Jewish organizations each attendee represents.
Such a groundswell of enthusiasm should “raise the bar for Jewish education in our schools,” said Ben Sandler, Congregation Beth Israel education director and a conference organizer. “Because our students deserve the very best.”
On the slate of this year’s conference sure to generate feelings both of cool and community is Sam Glaser, a Los Angeles-based singer, composer and performer who is the event keynote speaker and showpiece.
After leading workshops during the day, he’s putting on a post-dinner concert to wrap up the conference. Parents and children alike are encouraged to learn from—and rock out to—Sam Glaser lyrics, infused with Jewish values and morals.
In a phone interview from his L.A. studio, Glaser, a father of three, said he’s produced 16 of his own albums—including a new Hanukah collection available now—all of them in response “to wanting to express the beauty and amazing qualities of our heritage.”
“Being Jewish,” he said, “is about the coolest thing in the universe.”
Even cooler, perhaps, than The Fonz.