Right from the Start: Union for Reform Judaism Committed to Early Childhood Education Cathy Rolland Brings Experience & Enthusiasm to Unions Staff
NEW YORKOctober 2, 2007Cathy Rolland, the founding president of the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ) and a leader in the field, joined the Union for Reform Judaism this month to direct its department of Early Childhood Education.
Rolland, who was the director of the NAEYC accredited Early Childhood Education Center at Mountain Top School for Young Children at Temple Har Shalom in Warren, NJ, for 11 years, succeeds Nancy Bossov RJE, who directed the program since 2002. In addition to Rolland, two regional educators work with early childhood issues, providing direct service to schools and early childhood programs throughout the Union.
The Reform Movement takes early childhood education seriously, Rolland said, noting that no other Jewish denomination has devoted such resources to developing synagogue-based early childhood programs. We know that these programs give young children a head start in becoming informed and connected Jews, she said. And we know, too, that the parents of these children are more likely to become connected to the Jewish community when their children are coming to school in the synagogue.
Rolland said her experience at Har Shalom taught her what teachers need to create a warm and nurturing early childhood experience in a Jewish setting. But, she added, it is not necessary or always feasible to have a full-blown school program. And so she has set as one goal helping small and isolated synagogues create programs that will connect young children and their families to the congregation and help them develop Jewish values and habits.
The parents of todays young children are hungry for information and ideas on how they can create Jewish homes that nurture Jewish values, Rolland said. And so, in addition to the work we will be doing with the synagogue and school leaders, we will continue to develop resources for the parents of our youngest children.
The Chai Curriculum recently introduced by the Union includes lessons for parents and for teachers. The Union has also developed holiday resources and books, music CDs and curriculums, and Ganeinu, a scholarly journal for educators and teachers. These are available online at www.urj.org/educate/childhood.
Over the past five year the Union has been working closely with the ECE-RJ to insure that the needs of the educators who work with the youngest learners are being addressed. Early childhood education is part of a seamless transition into Jewish life, Rolland said. Our goal, in working with the Union congregations is to create a life long Jewish education model that starts quite literally at the beginning of life.
The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.