A Parent’s Perspective on a New Era for Jewish Early Childhood Education

By Kerem Szczebak [This piece is the second of a series examining Jewish early childhood education and a new initiative, BUILDing Jewish ECE.] Denver parents are fortunate to live in a city with an abundance of early childhood programs. Here, it is possible to send children as young as infants to top ranking early childhood education (ECE) centers and schools, many of which are nationally accredited, schools that deliver cutting-edge and research validated programming for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children. As a mother to two young boys, I appreciate the educational strengths of these top-ranking schools. But, I also value the singular importance of Jewish ECE as a gateway to engaging my family in Jewish life. I am all too aware of the need for quality Jewish education and … [Read more...]

The Conflict Within: A New Look at Experiential Jewish Education

By Aron Wolgel [This is the sixth in a series of articles written by participants and alumni of the YU Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education (EJE), highlighting EJE related ideas and practices.] When Jewish experiences are constructed to be memorable and formative, the level of connection is heightened to produce Jewish identity. The focus on creating Jewish identity highlights the key point that Experiential Jewish Education (EJE) is different from educating through Jewish experiences. Growing up, my Jewish education was full of many enjoyable and memorable Jewish experiences, through a strong foundation in Jewish day school and many summers in Jewish sleep-away camp. Yet, my Jewish identity really began solidifying itself when my family moved to a city where there was no … [Read more...]

Changing the Negative Narrative of Synagogue Education

Stephen Wise Free Synagogue religious school program; photo courtesy.

By Nancy Parkes As a Director of Congregational Learning, I know the negative comments about synagogue schools all too well. Sometimes they are blatant comments made by adults who have limited or no knowledge of the changes that are happening in synagogue schools. Sometimes they are comments directed at the families, suggesting that they care less about their children’s education because they made the choice to send their children to a synagogue school. Sometimes - and by no means any less powerful - children who attend synagogue schools are simply not mentioned when lay leaders or clergy speak about the education and experiences that will lead to the development of future Jewish leaders. As much as we as Jewish educators try, the overwhelming message from our critics is that we are not … [Read more...]

The Need for Rest-and-Digest Philanthropy: Strengthen Jewish Education by Tending to Jewish Educators

By Zachary Lasker, Ed.D Most of us can identify with the automatic response triggered when a child falls into potentially dangerous or stressful circumstances - he goes missing at the supermarket, she chases a ball into the middle of a busy street, he wakes up from a night terror. Without any conscious decision, we drop what we are doing and a jolt of energy and clarity propel us to ward off danger. When the challenge is surmounted, we settle back into a more calm and relaxed state as our system recharges for the next crisis. We can generally tolerate incidents of stress presented when caring for a few people at a time, but what happens to the body and mind when it takes responsibility for 20, 100, 500, or 1,000 people and the frequency of stress inducing events increases … [Read more...]

Prioritizing Jewish Early Childhood Education

photo courtesy Boulder Jewish Community Center

By Lisa Farber Miller, Cathy Rolland, and Mark Horowitz [This piece is first of a series examining Jewish early childhood education and a new initiative, BUILDing Jewish ECE.] Jewish early childhood education centers are the gateway for long-term family involvement in Jewish life: Parents have a child, enroll in a center, connect with new friends, and enjoy meaningful and enriching Jewish communal experiences designed for the entire family. This, of course, is the ideal experience. But, for too many communities and families, this is not the case. Despite services that Jewish community centers (JCCs) and synagogues offer, many families remain unreached, unengaged, or as one-stop-shoppers who “exit” Jewish communal life when children “graduate” from an early childhood education (ECE) center. … [Read more...]

At the Dawn of 2015, How Fares Jewish Day School Governance? Better and Better

By Dr. Harry Bloom It has been five years since I published the first quantitative study of North American Jewish day school governance practices as part of my doctoral work at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration (“The Relationship Between Board of Directors Practices and Jewish Day School Financial and Educational Performance Based on Research Among Jewish Day School Board Presidents.”) Now, there is a new 2014 study, conducted - as was the 2009 study - with the support of the RAVSAK, Schechter, PARDES and YU networks among approximately 100 Jewish day school Board presidents. It reveals that some considerable progress has occurred in strengthening day school governance practices. I personally believe that day school governance matters quite a bit and that these … [Read more...]

Crisis of Affordability: The Value Proposition and Cost of an Excellent Day School

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By Steve Freedman [Note: Following, is one example of many being implemented at day schools to deal with the "tuition challenge." The approach Hillel Day School implemented was truly a test case - advocated by Pat Bassett, the former President of National Association of Independent Schools. The school was also fortunate to secure a funder willing to invest $15 million in this endeavor.] As the school recruitment cycle kicks into high gear in this new year of 2015, almost every news feed these days includes a conversation on the value and worth of a day school education. And it’s no wonder: on average, 50 percent of parents reconsider their decision each year. Foremost on their minds is the cost of tuition. Just this week, the trending subject on Jewish publications, blogs and social media … [Read more...]

Costumes and Usernames: Simulations, Real and Virtual, in Experiential Jewish Education

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By Yael Steiner [This is the fifth in a series of articles written by participants and alumni of the YU Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education (EJE), highlighting EJE related ideas and practices.] Thinking back to my summers as a camper, my most vivid memories involve costumes. Counselors and units heads were constantly dressing up, turning ordinary activities like lunch into dramatic events of great historical significance. During an afternoon trip to Lake Chautauqua, our counselors transformed into British soldiers, patrolling the lake on motorboats and preventing us, the Ma’apilim (illegal immigrants) from entering Palestine. Each summer felt like a time warp to an era in Jewish history, brought to life through the creative and dramatic efforts of the staff. As a … [Read more...]