BJE consolidates its resources, sets up one-stop shopping

When Tila Bibliowicz was writing her undergraduate thesis on the importance of one-on-one instruction in Jewish learning, she pored over the books and periodicals at the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco.

During that time, she also borrowed videos from the Bureau of Jewish Education's media collection for the conversion students she tutors at Congregation Emanu-El and Congregation Sherith Israel.

Meanwhile, Bibliowitz also browsed the Battat Resource Center for ideas and lesson plans for her fifth-grade class at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco.

"There's a short amount of time to shlep around and return," she said. "I go to the library and resource center often. If I had more time, I would go more often. It's all just a matter of time."

Like Bibliowicz, many Jewish educators find themselves running back and forth to the resource centers. But a recent shift in BJE resources may streamline such operations.

This fall, all three BJE sources will combine under one roof, sharing staff, hours and resources.

The result is a sort of "one-stop shopping for teachers and members of the community who want Jewish information," said Brad Lakritz, BJE technology coordinator.

Until a few weeks ago the media center and Battat Resource Center were housed at 1333 Balboa Ave. The library was located at 601-14th Ave., next door to the BJE.

Although located nearby each other, the buildings were separated by the BJE's parking lot. Each had separate hours and staff.

The consolidated center, which has not yet been named, shares not only space at 601-14th Ave., but also employees and hours.

The decision to join the three entities under one roof was financially motivated, Lakritz said, but he believes the move also "makes the most sense" for people using the facilities.

"We've been talking about it for years," he said.

The BJE estimates it will save about $25,000 to $30,000 annually in administrative costs. Most of those funds are being redirected to pay for early childhood education.

No employees were laid off in the restructuring, although one staff departure was "mutually agreed upon," said BJE executive director Robert Sherman.

In the wake of the consolidation, the BJE's librarian, Battat director and technology co-ordinator are working as a team, he said, "each [contributing] his own area of expertise."

Lakritz agreed, adding "The main task for me now is to find ways to use our technology to expand the ways for our resources to be better accessed."

For example, rather than merely lending the video "Schindler's List" to an instructor teaching the Holocaust, Lakritz hopes he and his staff can help teachers supplement their curriculum.

"I'd like to see us help teachers use video more effectively," he said. "It's up to us to make it happen."

Rina Racket, education director of grades 8-10 at Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City, supports the idea.

"I think the consolidation is wonderful. I was always going back and forth between Battat and the library, looking for background at Battat, looking for something general in the library," Racket said, adding she's already planning her teaching strategy for the year and its theme "Jerusalem 3000."

"I'm always looking for something more to back up what I'm teaching," she said. "And now it will be easier to use all three resources."