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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776

Emily Grotta


Early childhood education directors, teachers, and volunteers from Reform congregations will converge on Atlanta January 16-19 for the fourth annual conference of the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism. More than one hundred people from across the United States and Canada are expected to attend the conference, to be held at the DoubleTree Hotel on Peachtree Dunwoody Road.

The conference, titled "Building Community: Jewish Early Childhood Education, the Foundation of Our Jewish Community Life," gives participants an opportunity to learn from leading early childhood educators while networking with their peers.

Ilene Vogelstein, coordinator of the newly established early childhood department at the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE), will deliver the keynote address on the role early childhood directors play in determining the education their pupils receive. Other speakers and workshop leaders are:

  • Debora Weinberg Antonoff, who facilitates the Union for Reform Judaism's Times & Seasons discussion groups for interfaith couples in the Atlanta area and has developed several courses for interfaith families.
  • Lorraine Posner Arcus, a nationally recognized authority on Israeli dance for children and teens and a recipient of the prestigious 2001 Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educators.
  • Laurie Bellet, art director at the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center and author of several books.
  • Nancy Bossov, RJE, director of Early Childhood Education in the Department of Lifelong Jewish Learning at the Union for Reform Judaism.
  • Rabbi Thomas Friedman of Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia.
  • Melanie Cole Goldberg, regional educator, Southeast Council of the Union for Reform Judaism.
  • JoAnne Grabia, pre-K teacher at the Schiff Preschool of Temple Emanu-El in Atlanta, GA.
  • Rabbi Jan Katzew, Ph.D., director of the Union for Reform Judaism's Department of Lifelong Jewish Learning.
  • Robbyn Laufer , a pediatric occupational therapist in early intervention, who works with children from infancy through adolescence who have various neurological impairments or developmental delays.
  • Dr. Edna Levy, a Jewish adult education teacher through the Florence Melton Mini-School at the MJCCA.
  • Lyndall Miller, consultant for early childhood education at the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education in Philadelphia and co-president of the National Association of Jewish Early Childhood Specialists.
  • Jon and Josh Nelson -- The Nelsongs, musicians whose original compositions and zany performing styles have endeared them to young children and teens all over the world.
  • Frieda D. Robins, director of the Early Childhood Project at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS
  • Cathy Rolland, director of Mountain Top Preschool and Kindergaten at Temple Har Shalom.
  • Joy Salenfriend, founding director of the Schiff Preschool of Temple Emanu-El of Greater Atlanta.
  • Jodi Schiff, a member of Temple Emanu-El and the driving force behind the development of the Schiff library.
  • Rabbi Julie S. Schwartz, the first woman rabbi to serve as a chaplain in the United States military and associate rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, in Atlanta.
  • Margo Tepper, who taught two and three year olds at the Schiff Preschool of Temple Emanu-El in Atlanta.
  • Dr. Lori Wilson of the Jewish Family and Career Services, in Atlanta, GA, who provides psychoeducational and neuropsychological evaluations to assess cognitive, academic, and socio-emotional strengths and weaknesses in children.

The program includes a special Shabbat celebration at Temple Emanu-El, as well as a Havdalah ceremony at Atlanta's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. A family concert, open to the community, will be held on Sunday morning January 18th at 10:00 a.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel. Designed for families of children under 8 years old, the concert will feature Jon and Josh Nelson, whose original, humorous compositions have delighted audiences around the world.

The Early Childhood Educators' Conference is co-sponsored by the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism, a newly formed affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as the UAHC). This organization represents professionals in all fields of Jewish early childhood education, serving as a voice for educators, educating synagogue leadership about the benefits of early childhood education for synagogues and families, providing information for its members and their extended communities about salaries, contracts, and benefits, and cultivating opportunities for lifelong learning and continuing education.

For more information, please visit the Early Childhood Educators' Conference Web site.


The Union for Reform Judaism is the synagogue arm of the Reform Movement in North America, and represents 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 congregations in the United States and Canada. The Union services include youth camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, adult education programs, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC..


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