After 30 years of providing Jewish educators with resources and training, the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education is shutting down at the end of February.
It’s only the latest in a growing list of Jewish nonprofit organizations — national and local — that are pulling back or closing altogether due to tough economic times.
While CAJE was not affected by the Madoff scam, Executive Director Jeffrey Lasday cited the economic crisis as the reason for the organization’s closing.
“No, we were not involved with
Madoff,” he said. “It had to do with the current economic environment. Unfortunately we got caught in this whole downtrend in the economy.”
The announcement came after the biggest CAJE conference in seven years. CAJE 33, held in August 2008, attracted over 1,500 Jewish educators from across the country to the University of Vermont, but it wasn’t enough to save the organization.
CAJE 34 was scheduled for San Antonio this August, Lasday said; however, it will not take place.
CAJE must now deal with paying off its debts, including a large balance to the University of Vermont following CAJE 33.
Lasday hopes they can pay off their full debt, but it’s not going to be easy. The exact figure owed was still being figured out as of Tuesday.
“We’re working that out right now,” he said. “We’re going to be doing the best we can.”
To help, the CAJE Legacy campaign kicked off following the closing announcement. Current members are being asked to donate and hopefully help pay off the full amount.
Nearly 3,000 educators use CAJE services a year, Lasday said. From the annual CAJE conferences to media tools they put out to offer support for Jewish educators, all of those people will be losing a valuable resource in just a couple of weeks.
“A lot of workshops and opportunities are not going to be available,” said Tzippy Mazer, head of Hebrew/Judaic studies at Community Day School. “One of the beauties of CAJE is that it’s not one vendor or company. It’s a list of reputable teachers with a huge variety of topics. It’s going to be a great loss, it’s a great resource.”
Some of CAJE’s most successful programs might survive the closure. Jewish Education Service of North America is looking into taking over some of CAJE’s programs. However, Lasday said he didn’t know what programs, if any, would actually be transferred.
“I think it was a real tragedy for Jewish educators for the North American Jewish community,” Lasday said. “For 30 years CAJE was the organization supporting Jewish educators and providing them with resources. It’s going to be missed.”
(Mike Zoller can be reached at email@example.com.)