Nation’s Jewish educators convene in Portland in July

PHOTO: Mel Berwin and Rachel Nelson, standing in front of a Neveh Shalom class mural, are coordinating local participation in this year’s NewCAJE conference.


Hundreds of Jewish educators from across the country will convene in Portland this July for NewCAJE10. Local families can enjoy the talents of those who arrive from across the nation at public evening programs (see schedule below).

The conference features 240 workshops in 12 sessions with tracks for different age groups, arts, storytelling, music, technology and other focus areas. More than 30 exhibitors will share education-based products in the exhibit area. Evening programming, which is open to the community for $10 admission, will feature music, art, dance, theater, storytelling and other entertainment.

“I’m so excited about this amazing opportunity to go with so many local teachers,” says Mel Berwin who is helping coordinate the conference locally with Rachel Nelson.

“I’m excited for our educators to come together in deep learning and for our educators to connect to the local and national community,” adds Rachel. “They are not isolated. They are part of an international cohort infusing Judaism into everything they do.”

As the director of educational initiatives and intergroup outreach for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Rachel provides staff support for the Portland Area Jewish Educators. Mel is director of congregational learning at Neveh Shalom and sits on the program board of NewCAJE; she is the national liaison for the conference. Mel has attended CAJE conferences since 1990; Rachel attended her first conference in 2005. The financial collapse in 2008/9 drove CAJE into bankruptcy, but the following year Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox founded NewCAJE to continue the successful conferences.

“The conference will be a real change agent for the Portland community,” says Cherie. “It will link 70+ teachers from preschool through adult ed, from the day school and afternoon schools to the national network of Jewish education. They will make contacts with others they can reach out to during the year for help, advice and materials. Each of them will take 18 hours of professional development from the best educators in the country and beyond. They will be exposed to the most innovative ideas in the field. They will come back to their schools excited and invigorated for the coming school year. They also will become a stronger team having had this common experience together.”

“All of this will undoubtedly improve the education in the schools in Portland,” she concludes.

Portland was chosen to host this year’s conference because the national organization recognized Portland’s strong commitment to Jewish education.

“We believe that Portland is an exciting place for Jewish educational innovation and a place that provides a positive role model for other communities of how to appreciate and honor its teachers,” says Cherie.

This will be the third year JFGP has provided grants to send groups of educators to the conference. Two years of fundraising raised enough for 70 Portland area Jewish educators to attend this local conference.

Mel said she hopes more area educators will take advantage of other discounts and scholarships available through NewCAJE. Discounts are available for young professionals between the ages of 22 and 36, as well as for retired educators and multiple educators from one organization. Scholarships are also available from NewCAJE. Additionally, Jewish educators living in Washington state are eligible for a scholarship to attend the conference from the SAMIS Foundation. For more information, contact

Cherie hopes local families come to the evening programs during the conference.

“Our evening programs are beyond excellent,” she says. “Last year we had 60 nationally known musicians, artists, actors and storytellers participate in our evening programs. Families can come and join us Monday and Tuesday evenings for outstanding concerts and an excellent nonmusic parallel program that we do for those who don’t listen to live music during the three weeks. On Sunday evening, there will be an arts fair with lots of incredible venues to select from including theater, dance, art, storytelling and music.”

Evening programs run 8-10:45 Sunday, 8-10:30 Monday and 8:30-10:30 Tuesday.

Tickets for evening programs are $10/person and should be purchased by emailing


WHAT: 10th annual conference presented by NewCAJE: Re-Imagining Jewish Education for the 21st Century

WHO: Jewish educators from every stream of Judaism teaching every age group

WHERE: Reed College, Portland

WHEN: July 28-31; pre-conference Shabbat July 26-28

PUBLIC PROGRAMS: Evening entertainment suitable for families; $10 per person with children under 13 free. See below


TICKETS: (for evening programs) $10; email

Evening Programs at NewCAJE10

Evening programs are an exciting way to close out each day of the conference. We have some of the best Jewish performers and artists — familiar faces as well as new and upcoming artists. This year we are fortunate to have Chava Mirel chair the evening programs with Andrea Shupack. Together, they will cultivate three amazing nights of song, dance, storytelling, theater, music, art and much more!

Sunday, July 28

 A Taste of Artsfest 8-8:20 pm


(No instruments, a cappella music only)

Kaul Auditorium

Performances By:

Cherie Karo Schwartz

Cassandra Sagan

Batya Podos

Andrea Shupack

Ben Kintisch

Joel Shupack

Heather Klein


Artsfest Act 1 8:30-9:30 pm

Women Weaving Words

Cherie Karo Schwartz, Cassandra Sagan, Batya Podos, & Andrea Shupack Music Rehearsal Hall

Come on a women’s journey weaving wisdom, wishes, and wonder to open our history and heart-place in Jewish life. Our voices convey the kaleidoscope of our Jewish women’s spirit through stories, drama, poetry, movement, and unaccompanied song. We will interweave women’s themes of lifecycle, Passover, and (s)heroes. This is our reimagined reincarnation of a beloved CAJE program presented for many years. (There will be a cappella music only).

Chavruta: A Drummer’s Bat Mitzvah

Alicia Jo Rabins, Jodi Darby, & Lisa Schonberg Performing Arts Building 131

This 15-minute documentary short follows Lisa and Alicia as they trade drum lessons for Torah lessons. Their project combines ritual, study, and art, preparing for Lisa’s adult bat mitzvah by exploring Sumerian goddesses, the history of women’s drumming in the ancient Near East, female spiritual leadership, ecology, and how we pass on wisdom from one generation to the next. Chavruta is about everyday spiritual quests: the search for personal, authentic ways to express our Judaism, and the importance of continuing to learn and grow as adults. Followed by a Q&A with the Creator, Director, and Co-Star. (No live music; Film contains clips of music).

Introducing Israeli Folk Dance Fun

Barbara Birenbaum Winch Meeting Room (Old Dorm Block)

Put on your dancing shoes (or any supportive footwear with low traction soles) and join us on the dance floor. Barbara’s easy to follow instructions and fun set list will delight your feet and lift your spirit. Even if you think you can’t dance, you’ll enjoy this session with simplified steps and repetition as needed. A good time will be had by all!

From Junk to Funk: DIY Percussion Workshop

Beth Hamon Performing Arts Building 104

A professional percussionist and music educator shows you how simple household items and found objects can be turned into percussion instruments for pennies on the dollar of what the factory-made instruments would cost. After we make a few instruments, Beth will facilitate a Rhythm Jam so you can try out what you just created! This is a great opportunity for intergenerational programming, since it appeals to all ages. All materials will be provided, and everyone will have a chance to make something to take home. We’ll also take some time to create DIY rhythms on our brand-new instruments!

The Mysterious and the Mundane: Uncovering the Torah

Shoshana Gugenheim Performing Arts Building 332

Meet the Seattle Women’s Torah Project scroll, a collaboratively scribed sefer Torah written by 6 women scribes from around the world. Lead scribe and social practice artist Shoshana Gugenheim Kedem will bring us along a journey of uncovering the mysteries of the physical Torah, from ink to parchment to letters and more.

Zelda and Shifrele: A Concert of Untold Stories and Music

Heather Klein Kaul Auditorium

Hear the stories and songs of a Hungarian man and why he remembered this one nign, how one man heard this lullaby he thought he would never hear again, how a gypsy saved a man’s life, and all the inner workings of how you actually make Gefilte fish. Come and hear the songs and stories of Heather Klein’s journey inside the beautiful (and surprisingly accessible) world of Yiddish! (There will be live music with instruments).


Artsfest Act 2 9:45-10:45 pm

Stories from the Other Israel: Audio Documentaries from the Podcast ‘Israel Story’

Joel Shupack Music Rehearsal Hall

Israel Story, the celebrated podcast of intimate audio documentaries that public radio icon Ira Glass calls “The Israeli This American Life,” tells the story of a diverse Israel, and amplifies voices that are rarely heard. You’ll find human moments, dramatic twists, moving reflections, and something to laugh about — from stories about religious communities on the fringe to border-crossing romances to archaeological mysteries. Come hear producer Joel Shupack sharing moments from some of their most beloved episodes, as well as the premier of a story from an upcoming episode. (No live music; Podcast contains clips of music).

Make a Miracle Masterpiece

Flip Frisch Performing Arts Building 131

Nisim B’chol Yom, from our morning liturgy, reminds us to be thankful for even the smallest of miracles. Using the text as a creative springboard, and watercolor as a medium, you will reflect upon your own daily miracles. Come create a unique and personal piece of art you can take home that will remind you to express gratitude. No art experience necessary.

Experienced Israeli Folk Dance Fun

Barbara Birenbaum Winch Meeting Room (Old Dorm Block)

Kick up your heels for a lively session full of fun classics, golden oldies, and some creative choreography. Bring your dancing shoes (any comfortable supportive footwear with low traction soles, or go barefoot) and join us on the dance floor. Barbara’s easy to follow instructions and fun set list will delight your feet and lift your spirit.

Laughter Yoga

Julie Plaut Warwick Performing Arts Building 104

Join me for a laughter class, and let go of your stress! We will use playful interactions to oxygenate our bodies and create connections.

The Mysterious and the Mundane: Uncovering the Torah

Shoshana Gugenheim Performing Arts Building 332

Meet the Seattle Women’s Torah Project scroll, a collaboratively scribed sefer Torah written by 6 women scribes from around the world. Lead scribe and social practice artist Shoshana Gugenheim Kedem will bring us along a journey of uncovering the mysteries of the physical Torah, from ink to parchment to letters and more.

Life Review: The Hospice Musical

Benjamin Kintisch, Andy Bossov

With Ellen Allard, Chava Mirel, & Joshua Cohen Kaul Auditorium

Join us for the world premier of a new musical in early development. Set in a residential hospice, Life Review features a young Rabbi chaplain, a nurse, three patients, and their loved ones. Together they “sing of joys and sorrows…” These characters share stories and laughter as they try to find hope and meaning at the end of life. (There will be live music with instruments).

Concept, book, and lyrics by Benjamin Kintisch.

Music by Benjamin Kintisch, Jason Spiewak, Michael Miller, and Andy Bossov.


Monday, July 29


Produced by Chava Mirel & Andrea Shupack

8:15-8:30 Kaul Auditorium

Dedication to Velvel Pasternak

8:30-10:30 Kaul Auditorium

Performances By:

Eliana Light

Flip Frisch

Joshua Cohen

YedidYah Family Band

Carla Friend

Ilan Speizer



8:30-10:30 Performing Arts Building 131

Bringing Your Stories to Life

Through Art & Audio with It’s a Big Tribe

Telling our stories can help bridge the gaps between groups of people, and see beyond labels — political, denominational, etc. — so that we become real, relatable individuals. As we get to know each other through our stories, we become a family, a big tribe. Participate in a groundbreaking project from It’s a Big Tribe by recording and/or graphically depicting your personal Jewish stories — humorous, spiritual, inspirational, or life-changing. Join graphic artist and educator Hillel Smith, and master educator Batsheva Frankel (producer and host of the podcast Good to Meet Jews) for a fun evening of creating and sharing our stories.


Tuesday, July 30


Produced by Chava Mirel & Andrea Shupack

8:30-10:30 Kaul Auditorium

Performances By:

Kenny Ellis

Beth Hamon

Alicia Jo Rabins

Susan Shane-Linder

Chava Mirel

Ellen Allard

NewCAJE Choir

Nefesh Mountain.



8:30-9:30 Performing Arts Building 332

Sacred or Profane? What Every Jew Needs to Know

About the Making of Parchment

Ever wonder how the parchment for your Torah scroll was made? Ever ask yourself from where the skins were sourced? Are you prepared for the complex answer that may encourage you to consider only sustainably sourced parchment for your next Torah scroll, mezuzah, or tefillin? To learn about the contemporary parchment making industry and some emerging alternatives, join scribe and artist creator of Or Hadash | עור חדש , Shoshana Gugenheim Kedem, for an enlightening (and possibly uncomfortable) conversation.

9:30-10:30 Performing Arts Building 131

Let’s Schmooze About Shtisel

Join Rivy Poupko Kletenik for this interactive session, and unpack some of the basic themes of this very popular Israeli TV show — now on Netflix. There will also be opportunity to demystify some of the practices you might be wondering about, and suggest how they connect to core Jewish ideas.

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