By Rabbi Philip Warmflash, Executive Director
For the past several days, Elana Rivel and I joined a group of 25 professionals involved in Jewish education across the country for a conference in Miami (not a bad place to go in the middle of an Arctic Blast). While this group operates under the name ADCA, Alliance of Directors of Central Agencies, the name is somewhat a misnomer. Over the years since its founding, many of those organizations that had operated under the name “Central Agency for Jewish Education” have changed. They are now Alliances, Builders, Education Projects, and yes, even Learning Ventures. Some have transitioned from the status of an independent communal organization to that of the key educational arm of their local Federations. In all cases, regardless of the change in name and re-crafting of mission, each of these professionals and their organizations, are deeply and passionately committed to the future of Jewish education and Jewish life across North America.
So what did we talk about? We moved from the theoretical to the practical and back. Dr. Daniel Pekarsky, from the University of Wisconsin, was our scholar in residence and guided us through an investigation of factors and values that might allow for an “attainable utopian” vision of a Jewish community — and the roles our Jewish institutions might play in realizing that vision.
We spent time in sessions exploring and sharing our current successes, and the opportunities and challenges that we face in each of our communities. These were conversations that were not easy, but were rich with ideas. We looked realistically at the current state of our American Jewish community; we focused on exciting, innovative projects that are showing promise for Jews in our communities; we reconnected, reflected and refreshed ourselves to return to our communities to continue this important work.
I am hopeful that the warmth of the Miami weather, and the warmth of the collegiality of this hevra, this group of talented, passionate professionals, will sustain us though the rest of this cold winter and will lead to creative ideas that will nurture innovative initiatives for Jewish Learning Venture and for our Jewish community.