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2017 RS Conference

"The questions are 'what should we change, and how do we get there?"

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For 80 years, BJE has been the only organization wholly dedicated to Jewish education in Los Angeles, across the religious spectrum and in all aspects. More than half of the money we raise to provide educational opportunities to young people in our community comes from individuals like you. We’re grateful for your support and can’t do it without you.


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Education Trends, and Event Updates.

December 1, 2017 at 4:00pm

Celebrate BJE's 80th by participating in our Night of 80 Shabbats!

BJE's Night of 80 Shabbats is a one night celebration where community members gather together for Shabbat dinner in homes all across Greater...

BJE Builder and Board President Dr. Alan M. Spiwak (right) with BJE Executive Director Dr. Gil Graff
BJE Builders
Mar 16, 2017

Dr. Alan M. Spiwak
BJE President

I think what is most important to me is making sure that Jewish education is available to any family who wants it. Whether it’s religious school, day school, summer camp, or something else, it’s all about making sure we continue to offer Jewish kids great experiences in Jewish environments. That’s how they’ll become active participants in Jewish life as adults.

My own kids benefitted from day schools and Jewish camping, and I saw how it provides a basis for both a value system and a knowledge base about who we are as Jews.

My kids are now adults and both are parents. They’ll have to make their own decisions about Jewish life for their families. But I’m grateful we were able to provide the opportunities we did, and we always tried to lead by example. I feel blessed that they’ve already had their own engagement in the Jewish community as adults.

Professionally, I was trained as a clinical psychologist and my area was children and families, so getting involved with educational organizations was a natural fit. My leadership with BJE has given me an opportunity to work with a terrific professional staff, and to see all the incredible effort that goes into producing all the programs and events that BJE makes happen. I’ve also appreciated being part of addressing specific educational needs in the community and helping ensure access to Jewish education.

BJE E-News
Jun 20, 2017

"The question is no longer 'should we change?'", said Amy Asin, Director of Strengthening Congregations at the Union for Reform Judaism. "The questions are 'what should we change, and how do we get there?"

These questions were addressed in a keynote by Miriam Heller Stern, PhD, National Director HUC-JIR's School of Education  and multiple workshops including: "Start with Why: How a Religious School Relates to a Synagogue's Purpose" led by Amy Asin and  "Doing the Math: An Equation for Change that Works", led by Rob Weinberg, PhD, past Director of HUC-JIR's Experiment in Congregational Education.

"For years we've been saying this is a community that doesn't have individual sites that are willing to change," said Rabbi Yechiel Hoffman, EdD, Director of Youth Learning Engagement at Temple Beth Am. "But there's a momentum for us to do this as a larger ecosystem and to see Rabbis and lay leaders and board presidents together with their professionals, really having conversation about change that is happening, not change that is presumed, And even though everybody might be in a different state in their change process, everybody has this aspiration to truly make what we do better for the members of our communities."

Beginning Fall 2017, BJE in partnership with URJ will convene 8-10 Los Angeles complementary Religious Schools to further the conversation and help those schools take a deeper dive into the change process. 

For a full gallery of the days events, click here.

BJE Thought Leaders
May 25, 2017

Throughout the 2 weeks of the trip, we experience the full scope of both the horror, and the hope, that humanity is capable of. We stand as witnesses in places where we confront that it is possible that human beings can do such things to one another, ask ourselves what we want to do with this knowledge, and also celebrate the hope, heroism, joy and beauty of humanity. We stand one afternoon at a mass grave of Jewish children and just a day later celebrate the joy of Judaism, Jewish life, ritual, traditions in a Havdallah ceremony in one of the oldest synagogues in Warsaw, and then sing, dance, and crowd-surf our survivors to the joyous music played by a Klezmer band.  We experience Yom HaShoah at Auschwitz-Birkenau, followed by Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut a week later in Israel. Our trip spans the full spectrum of Jewish life.
              - Alisha Pedowitz, BJE's Director of The Center for Excellence in Teen Experiential Education

Zbylitowska Gora - from the blog:

Our morning in Kraków started under sunny skies and mild temperatures. We took a very short bus ride to the Jewish quarter of Kraków and enjoyed a glimpse of the rich history of Jewish life in this beautiful city, which extends back to the 12th century. At that time, Jews were invited, valued and protected residents who contributed richly to Polish society. In Kraków, we saw many remnants of that life, including three beautiful synagogues, posters advertising klezmer performances, and restaurants that serve Jewish food.

Upon completing our walking tour, we boarded the buses and made the drive to one of the most difficult sites of our trip: Zbylitowska Gora, located just outside the town of Tarnow.

A short walk through a well-tended middle class neighborhood is a lovely forest, where Nazis took all of the 800 Jewish children from the town of Tarnow, brutally beat them to death, and dumped their bodies into a pit not much larger than a backyard swimming pool. Today, we walked through that same idyllic forest to a simple patch of grass ringed by an equally simple blue metal fence: The final resting place of those 800 children. Standing around that fence as a single delegation, we tried to align the beauty of the forest and the near constant chirping and trilling of birdsong with the incomprehensible evil that occurred here. We cried, we sang, we blessed the children, we recited the mourner’s Kaddish and took some time to offer the children our individual thoughts, written on pieces of paper and hung on the fence or nearby trees.  
          - Brian Milder (staff)

Student Reflections

It was surreal to be standing there, and at first, I really could not wrap my head around what had happened here, and could not really access my emotions. During our time for solo reflection I sat down near some flowers, and saw some that were still just buds and had not yet bloomed. I picked several of them and made a bouquet – and then immediately realized what I had done. It was just like all of these children. Their life was cut short, and just like the flower buds, would never have the chance to blossom into their full potential. I wrote my note to the children and hung it, with the buds, on a nearby tree. I want to teach others about what happened here, and encourage people to bring beauty, not hatred and evil, into the world. - Zoe

Standing in two lines and having the survivors march out of this place ahead of us was when it hit me. It was so bittersweet. There should’ve been so many more people walking between our lines. People from this town; people the same age as our survivors. - Aaron L.

This made me even more determined to live a meaningful life…a life these kids did not have the opportunity to have. I am more determined to do more, study harder, be kinder and love more. - Brian P.

The teens were all clearly impacted by the day and their reflections continued throughout the trip. 

Yom Ha'Atzmaut and the March of the Living, Jerusalem

This was a very big day, and one that was in stark contrast to our March in Poland. As somber as Poland was, this March was an equally exuberant and joyous celebration of our survival and thriving in the State of Israel.

Starting at Jerusalem’s City Hall, we marched along the edge of the Old City until we entered through the gate and proceeded to the Kotel. Chants, songs, rhythmic drumming, prayers and waving Israeli flags were our constant companion as the delegations combined and snaked their way through the city.

We left notes in the cracks of the Western Wall, prayed and enjoyed a ceremony that concluded the March, after which our group was free to explore a portion of the Old City, buy souvenirs (again), and enjoy even more shawarma, falafel, ice cream and ice cafe.

Our day was far from over, as we boarded buses for Latrun, the IDF tank museum and home to the grand-finale of the March of the Living, enticingly entitled the MEGA Event. The MEGA event is rather hard to describe. Simultaneous lasers, dozens of dancers, massive video displays, fireworks, and aerial acrobatics were on full display (and that was only one number). A mosh pit and 55 cheers of “Am Yisrael Chai” rounded out a night that our students loved.

We finally returned to the hostel for a slide show compiled by staff-member Terry Wunder. It was an awesome recap of the trip, a link to which will be forwarded shortly.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Israel. - Brian

If you would like to read their travels, please go to:  You can follow on Twitter @MOTLbjela or on Instagram @bjemotl.


Our Accomplishments

BJE’s impact is felt throughout greater Los Angeles. These are just a few
ways we’re making a difference this year.

Number of Schools


Across the Jewish spectrum, Jewish schools in Los Angeles receive a wide range of services and support from BJE.

JKidLA Views


BJE helps connect individuals and families to the Jewish educational experiences that are right for them.

Engaged Students


From birth through young adulthood, young Jewish people in Los Angeles are engaged in Jewish life through BJE programs and accredited or affiliated schools.

Grant & Resource Dollars


BJE leverages the strength of our vibrant community to generate public and private funding that benefits Jewish educational programs and institutions throughout Greater Los Angeles in a wide range of ways.

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