Peninsula adult school survives crisis 7 agencies pitch in

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Last May, it looked as if a pilot program for Jewish adult education in the South Bay was going to have to make a crash-landing.

Over a four-year period, the Peninsula Academy of Jewish Education (PAJE) had reached out to 400 adult students, one-third of whom were unaffiliated with other Jewish organizations. PAJE inspired the students to explore everything from Yiddish to Kabbalah.

But funding problems threatened to close the book on PAJE. That is, until a number of sources jumped in to rescue the school.

"It looks like we will have a future," says PAJE director Lori Goodman. "We'll always struggle with money, but it looks like we'll be in business next year and hopefully the year after."

Seven Jewish agencies, including synagogues and schools, were helping PAJE cover the cost of class brochures, instructors and sole staff member Goodman. But even with a number of grants, the school's annual budget was short $15,000 to $18,000 when the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California reported last May that PAJE was in danger.

After reading that article, an anonymous donor gave the school $10,000. A number of students chipped in more donations and the Koret Foundation gave PAJE a new grant for $8,000.

"People didn't want to see PAJE go. It's meaningful to a lot of people's lives," says Goodman.

Another factor in the school's survival was its new connection to Lehrhaus Judaica, the Bay Area's largest Jewish school for continuing education. PAJE classes are now offered through Lehrhaus, an association that was made possible by a grant from the Endowment Fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Com-munity Federation.

Goodman stresses that PAJE will maintain its popular format. The sessions are short — generally lasting three weeks — and they rotate between four South Bay synagogues.

Several classes are held at the same time and place to ensure that students can shmooze between lectures, says Goodman, who serves cookies and coffee at these venues in hopes of enhancing participants' social lives as well as their Jewish knowledge.

Currently, about 150 students are enrolled in classes such as Magic and Healing and Jewish Folk Medicine. Classes for April's session are already filling up, especially Rabbi Alan Lew's course on The Lost Art of Meditation. For information, call (415) 349-1610.