Many years ago, while working in the Admissions Office
at the Hebrew Union College, I answered a phone call from a woman named Rochelle, in Thousand Oaks, who said she was running
a little school, and would like some advice working out new curriculum.
I'd had my required education classes in Rabbinic
school and plenty of years teaching experience, so I volunteered to help her myself. The day of our appointment, I managed
to get one of our Education students to assist us, and the three of us spent a long afternoon in the Learning Center of H.U.C.
growing more excited about what was developing.
I liked this person, Rochelle, I liked her ideas.
I could see she had a remarkable combination of vision, enthusiasm, and skills as a Jewish educator along with a true love
of her work, and a love for the students in her school. We decided not to lose contact, and see how we might work together.
I have worked along with Rochelle, conducting family
services and leading adult education. I was also very involved in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program, officiating at the services
and meeting with Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates and their families. The impressions I got from all this contact was clear:
the students enjoy learning at the Center for Early Jewish Education, and they learn a great deal. They like their teachers
who are dedicated and skillful. Perhaps the greatest sense I got from the students was their positive feelings about being
Jewish and studying Judaism. That is no mean feat.
I am just as enthusiastic about my experience with
the adults at CEJE. The adult education that they've been running since the summer of '84 has been phenomenally successful,
and has branched off into a parent's Havurah. The discussions have been exciting, insightful, and inspiring. Each time I drove
back into L.A. after one of our adult ed. classes, I felt that I'd relearned what Torah really is...how studying Judaism should
I could go on and on - the fine moments working with
Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates and their families, and the very fine moments watching it all come together at the service, the
great warmth and spirit at the family services - but I won't. I suggest those of you who haven't come, try it for yourself.
Rabbi Mordecai Finley