The CASJE network—a nexus of funders, educators and researchers—is of great personal interest to me and is very important to my work as an applied researcher conducting evaluations for funders that document efforts of Jewish educational organizations. Simply, there is no other professional network like CASJE; its existence enables me to connect to a community of practitioners who share a mutual interest and concern for Jewish education.
I have participated in multiple CASJE processes designed to lead to applied research: First, I was a member of the Israel Education group and wrote a position paper on assessing outcomes in Israel education. More recently, I participated in the Problem Formulation Convening (PFC) for Global Jewish Peoplehood (GJP) Education and was invited to participate in a deeper follow-up conversation with a PFC funder to explore possible next steps.
I think the quality of discussion during the Peoplehood PFC is indicative of the potential of CASJE’s efforts. The PFC brought together a diverse group of researchers, practitioners, and funders for a focused conversation, while also advancing my own understanding of the GJP Education field. As follow-up, we have to continue our meetings and discussions to help shape and advance the field. We have to effectively communicate these advancements to broader audiences. And of course we have to attract funders who want to commission theoretical or applied work with added value for the field—over and beyond the evaluation of a particular program. This is challenging but it is why CASJE exists.
Going forward, I hope CASJE can effectively break the mold of “academia vs. the field.” CASJE-generated discussions and resulting collaborations need to continue pairing funders, researchers, and practitioners in an authentic fashion so that "usable knowledge" is produced. This knowledge might have great theoretical or academic importance, but its primary audience—and hence its production and packaging—is for funders and practitioners who are able to easily apply and use it. From my perspective, CASJE is moving in this direction and hopefully will succeed. CASJE might also consider how the connections it creates between a researcher such as myself and the community of practitioners can be more ongoing; not limited to a specific project and/or those project participants. Might it be possible, for example, to develop a group of volunteer researchers, funders, and practitioners who can help further CASJE's work, mixing the benefits of volunteers and CASJE's professionals? Already, I have benefited from the CASJE discussions and I believe the field benefits as well from their documentation and publication, which ultimately lead to applied research.