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Changes to sharpen CJL’s focus
July 1st, 2012
“The Milwaukee Jewish Federation sees its principal duty to be actively involved in ensuring the Jewish future. It does so by focusing on the next generation through its support of high quality Jewish education within all streams of Jewish life.”
This is one of 21 times that Jewish education is mentioned in the Dream Statements created at the Jewish Community Summit in June 2011.
Jewish education, which is also mentioned in the new community vision statement, has a long history as an area of the very highest priority for the Milwaukee Jewish community, and the Reimagining process has confirmed its important status.
The Coalition for Jewish Learning, a direct service program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, has been supporting and promoting high quality Jewish education for 15 years. It has done so in many ways, including providing support, training, and curriculum guidance to the community’s educational institutions andensuring the highest educational standards.
Led by its volunteer advisory board, CJL has been going through an intensive discernment process over the past year, carefully examining the relationship it has with each of its programs and activities. The key questions are:
• What can CJL do that no other organization in the community can do?
• What programs could be better led by other organizations?
In essence, this mirrors the Reimagining process that the MJF has been undergoing, beginning with the Community Summit. The opportunity lies within these processes to sharpen the focus: to determine what programs and efforts are most vital to the community, and re-allocate resources in order to carry them out with excellence.
The Congregational School Initiative is one of the programs CJL has chosen as a major area of concentration.
According to CJL Executive Director Steven Baruch, in the coming school year CJL will partner with five synagogue-related schools, working with their leadership teams, facilitating classes and seminars for staff and providing curriculum and consultants. There will be a new emphasis on contemporary educational technology.
Other key priorities for CJL will be its leadership of the Helen Bader Day School Scholarship process, educational consultation and advocacy, educator recognition, and gathering and dissemination of school census data.
In addition to programmatic changes, this summer CJL will move its offices from the Karl Jewish Community Campus to the Helfaer Community Service Building on Prospect Avenue.
“This move seeks greater efficiency through sharing of resources and forging new areas of collaboration with other departments of MJF. In an effort to honor the importance of Jewish education expressed by the community at the Summit, MJF is, literally, drawing CJL closer to its center,” said MJF Interim Executive Director Sheryl Primakow.
The Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, a department of CJL, will also move to the Helfaer Building, and its programs and priorities will remain unchanged.
As CJL prepares to put more focus on direct support for Jewish education, a number of part-time staff positions have been eliminated. In addition, the Creativity Center, which had seen declining usage in recent years, will be closed.
The Reading Room that CJL operated collaboratively with the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center will remain unchanged, under the direction of the JCC, and the contents of the CJL library will be condensed into the Bursak Library on the third floor of the JCC building.
“The resources of CJL will be strategically focused on excellence in Jewish education, which is our core mission,” said Baruch. “Our goal is to nurture the next generation and ensure the future of Jewish Milwaukee by strengthening Jewish education. I can’t imagine any work that’s more important.”
Jen Vettrus is the transition coordinator of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.