Carpool Karaoke for Excellence in Education
by Jay Rapoport, MARE
Thursday, August 4, 2017
I spent the past four days commuting to Naperville for NewCAJE (New Conference of American Jewish Educators) 7, an annual multi-denominational gathering dedicated to reimagining Jewish Education for the 21st century. I spent time in classes learning about topics such as self-paced Hebrew learning, meaningful prayer moments for children, high holy day experiences for teens, engaging families, social justice education, best practices in inclusion and the “mitzvah” of marketing. The model of NewCAJE is based on the text of Pirkei Avot (Wisdom of our Ancestors) 4:1 – “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.” Accordingly, all participants are invited to teach and learn from each other. Therefore, in addition to attending classes, I also served as a mentor for a cohort of “emerging educators,” performed in a concert focused on themes of leadership, and taught several workshops on my own areas of expertise. I also spent a few minutes each day doing carpool karaoke.
I believe strongly in the mission of this organization, which fell on hard times in 2008 like so many others. For 33 years until that point, CAJE was the premiere organization for Jewish educators, and thousands of people were members of the organization and attended the annual conferences. NewCAJE emerged from that difficult period as a new organization with a new mission – to be a focal point for creating 21st century Jewish education. I first attended CAJE in St. Louis in 2007, and I remember being overwhelmed walking into an arena of colleagues for the opening ceremonies. Who were all these people and why were they there? After a few days, I was immersed in learning, and at the closing ceremony I found myself up on stage singing along with Peter Yarrow, arm in arm with new friends and colleagues.
Now, a fraction of the former number of participants attend, but personally I am committed to helping NewCAJE get back on its feet. When I was beginning my career as a full-time Jewish educator, my experience in St. Louis gave me a vision of a national community sharing best practices and inspiring work. When I started writing Jewish music, I was invited to early NewCAJE conferences to share my compositions. And when I took on my current role at Temple Sholom, I attended NewCAJE in L.A. as part of a cohort of new directors of education, and formed a peer group that has supported me through my first few years on the job.
So every few hours this week, during the short breaks between workshops and mealtimes, I gathered a few of my musician friends together for some carpool karaoke, singing some of our original songs (and a few classic Jewish tunes) and posting the videos on Facebook. Our goal? To create some online buzz about this organization that has impacted not only the lives of thousands of educators, but all of their communities as well, by showing how much fun we were having learning together. By the time I got home yesterday, our final video had been viewed over 5000 times, all over the country and in Israel. I am so appreciative and proud to be part of a sacred community that supports my continued educational growth, so that I can continue to bring back the best of the Jewish educational world to our students, and share the good work we are doing!
L’chadaysh Et Hayashan (Renew the Old):