January 12, 2010, New York The Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ), an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), will honor 11 years of Reform Judaisms support of Jewish early childhood education at their annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ this week.
The conference, from Jan 12-15, will explore the theme Ani VAtah: You and I Can Change the World. Blazing New Trails. Two-hundred and fifty educatorsthe most to ever attend this annual event -- from across the country will explore connections between early childhood education, the earth, sustainability, and contemporary forms of communication.
In light of recent events, there will be a service held in memory of, and in prayer for, the victims of the Arizona shooting. There will also be a Debbie Friedman tribute sing-a-long.
Keynote speaker Mark Horowitz, director of Early Childhood Education for JCCA (Jewish Community Centers Association) will discuss ways to blaze new trails in the area of early childhood education.
A highlight of the conference will be an address by Chair of the URJ Board of Trustees Peter Weidhorn. Weidhorns presence at the conference underscores the Reform Movements commitment to early childhood education.
It is critical that we focus on building vibrant early childhood education programs and plant the seeds of Jewish learning in our children from a young age, said Weidhorn. Our success will help grow the next generation of Jewish leaders.
Although the Reform Movement has spoken out against Arizonas troubling new immigration laws, the ECE-RJ chose not to boycott the state of Arizona in protest. Rather, the ECE-RJ chose to come to Arizona to support local congregations. In response, Rabbis in the area issued a statement applauding plans to leverage the ECE-RJ Conference as an educational opportunity to reinforce one of the most important values that we teach in our early childhood classrooms: to treat the stranger with respect and dignity. The rabbis also noted that the ECE-RJ Conference is the perfect setting to lift up our teaching in the context of much needed comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.
The conference is being hosted by Temple Solel with Rabbi John Linder and cantorial soloist Todd Herzog providing an uplifting Shabbat Shira service. Temple Chai and Rabbi Evon Yakar will engage the group in a beautiful Shacharit worship service. In addition, Rabbi Andrew Strauss and cantorial soloist Susan Schanerman from Temple Emanuel of Tempe, will lead Havdallah and board installations with Director of Lifelong Learning at the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Jan Katzew officiating. Rabbi Katzew will deliver the sermon Friday night, which will include remarks in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
The conference will conclude with a special hands-on make and take session with local teacher and artist Karen Bell-Zinn, designer of the 2011 ECE-RJ Conference logo.
The conference will also see a change in the mantle of leadership when Tammy Vener (CA) accepts the role as ECE-RJs new President, assuming the post from outgoing President Norma Cahen. Tammy, a founding member of ECE-RJ co-hosted the ECE-RJ San Diego Conference in 2006 and has been an active board member.