Friday, August 15, 2008

My Post CAJE 33 Post

(cross-posted from my blog on

A few thoughts on CAJE 33.

CAJE 33 was a good conference. One of the better conferences, on the whole. Good, solid programming. A great campus, and the University of Vermont staff must be the friendliest people on the planet. The dorms were nice, and the food was quite good as well (that is, for CAJE.)

The keynote speakers were inspiring. (Kudos to Joel Hoffmann for substituting on opening day when Dennis Ross couldn't make it.)

Joel Hoffmann and Melanie Birger-Bray and the entire Mazkirut can be justifiably proud.

As usual, I was so busy doing other things that I didn't get to anywhere near as many sessions as I would like to have. I particularly missed not being able to go to the "Blogging Cafe" with Ester Kustanovitch (of My Urban Kvetch.")  (She, like many others, was delayed in arrival due to the many storms that interrupted air travel last Sunday.)

The new Davis Center at UVM is an incredible space-a real model of what the "Student Union" ought to look like for the 21st century.

Jeremy Poisson from Behrman House and I led a session on getting comfortable with technology. It was an eye-opening experience for both the students and the teachers. More on that in future blog posts. As a result of what I noticed at this session, and another presentation I gave as part of Carol Starin's annual "Five Things" extravaganza, I'll be hanging up a new shingle in the area of providing technology consultation and training services for Jewish Education and Educators. I've already found a great name. In Hebrew, the word consultant is yo-eitz, so I'm calling my company "YoEitzdrian." Yeah, I know. Groan. Again, more in a future post.

Joel Grishaver and Josh Fixler from Torah Aura led a fascinating discussion on Jewish Education as a Conserving Activity.

Helene and Michael Kates had the always unenviable task of organizing the evening entertainment. A host of vatikim along with some up and coming artists made for a well-rounded program. The venues at UVM weren't the best, but the staff for MJ Productions did their best to make things sound decent.

I heard a few grumbles about how popular performers were programmed against each other, but, knowing first hand how difficult this is, having been Evening Program chair or co-chair three times, I'd say it's simply unavoidable.

This year, I had the good fortune to accompany Fran Avni, storytellers Janie Grackin and Dante Gordon, and a service led by Ellen Dreskin.

I was honored to emcee performances by Peter and Ellen Allard, Jeff Klepper, Sababa, and Stacey Beyer.

The Kusitz Mafia (we will NOT be shushed!) was back in full force. Yours truly, along with many others, kept the music going all night long (on Weds. nite, they were still going when I left at 5:30am) in the lounge of University South dorm. At one poiint, I think there were fifteen guitars being played (along with percussion, violin, madolin, and, of course, chicken.)

CAJE Rising Star was back, again hosted by Sam Glaser. Though not as well attended as last year (except for the final  evening)  we were treated to lots of talented CAJE-niks. On the final evening, hosted by yours truly as Sam had to leave CAJE early three talented performers competed: Seth Zimmerman, a teen from Charleston, SC; Todd Herzog; and Ross M. Levy. Ross was the eventual winner, but all three gave great performances to a very large crowd. While the large crowd waited for the results to be tabulated, they were entertained by comedian Yisrael Campbell. Unbelievably, Yisrael held the crowd both captivated and in stitches for an hour! How may comedians can do that?

Before the final night of CAJE Rising Star, all of CAJE 33 traveled off campus to the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Burlington. It's a beautifully restored vintage cinema/vaudeville venue.

Doug Cotler organized the closing program, and he has set a new standard for CAJE Closing Programs. A host of CAJE artists-vatkim as well as rising stars performed, and the audience got to sing along to lots of songs as well --all accompanied by an orchestra!

I'm told that a highlight of the show was Doug singing "Manischewitzville" with EJ Cohen signing. Yours truly was backstage running the Powerpoint slides with all the lyrics and didn't get to see a thing, but from the laughs, it must have been hysterical.

At the closing, we were introduced to another rising up and comer-Doug's own son Kyle rocked the house with his absolutely AWESOME Oseh Shalom complete with air guitar solo performed by the audience.

Jeff Klepper and Mark Bloom led the CAJE Chorale through its paces in fine form.

The speeches were kept to a minimum, too.

All in all, a great experience. Looking forward to next year in San Antonio (yet again.)


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