Posted on December 7th, 2015

Eight Gifts of ARJE Membership

Chanukah, our Festival of Lights is a time for lighting the Chanukiah, singing songs, eating those delicious latkes and sufganiot, and of course giving and receiving gifts. In my family, we stopped giving material gifts to each other years ago. Instead gather around the Chanukiot, sing the blessings and a couple songs together and then take a few moments to reflect on and appreciate the intangible blessings we have in our lives.

As I reflect on the gifts ARJE gives to us as a professional association, these eight strike me. (Get it? Eight!)

Gift #1: ARJE gives us the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with colleagues to whom we can turn for guidance, advice and support. Often times those collegial connections turn into deep friendships that span decades. For this I am thankful.

Gift #2: ARJE models and inspires excellence in Jewish education. Whether it is through our professional learning opportunities and our ongoing virtual conversations in our Facebook group we push each other toward better, deeper more intentional practice.

Gift #3: Our 50+ volunteers represent empowered and inspiring leadership. I am frequently amazed by their dedication, passion and creativity that bring ARJE to ever-newer heights.

Gift #4: Our 825+ members represent the diversity of the Jewish educational world. Just like the individual candles on the Chanukiah create an even brighter light by shining together, so too does our diverse membership shine a bright light on the many settings, modalities and facets of Jewish education. We shine brighter together!

Gift #5: We walk the talk. As individual Jewish educators we are each committed to lifelong learning and as an association we are learning organization.

Gift #6: Rarely do I hear our members say, “We can’t change that, because we’ve always done it that way.” Rather, our members and our association are committed to innovation. Our members are at the forefront of re-imagining Jewish education. ARJE is there to support, cheerlead and advance our field alongside you.

Gift #7: Let’s not forget the simple joy of fun and playfulness. ARJE members have fun doing their work, find moments for lightheartedness and laughter. We can laugh at ourselves and we find time to have fun together, both virtually and in-person.

Gift #8: Sixty years ago our founders sought to create a profession – the Jewish educator. We have succeeded in that. We embody the collective knowledge and practice of our field and we continue to develop new knowledge, practices and understandings. We are professionals.

Of course, as I imagine these eight gifts lighting up our ARJE Chanukiah, I cannot forget the Shamash. Our Shamash is our steadfast commitment to Judaism and the sacred work of Jewish education. It is that commitment that enables each of our eight gifts to come to fruition.

As you join together with your families and communities this Chanukah, I invite you to join me in celebrating these gifts we give to each other through our Association of Reform Jewish Educators. Chag urim sameach. May the lights shine bright for us all as we continue in our blessed work.

Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, RJE is the president of the ARJE.