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November 26, 2014 | 4th Kislev 5775
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Pursuing Excellence Through Your Early Childhood Center

early childhoodIn the realm of early childhood education, congregations are not only competing with other Jewish institutions but with a wide array of programs that are responsive and are meeting the needs of families. The increased costs of running schools and the impact of government-funded universal pre-kindergarten are among many factors that are changing the landscape of early childhood education.

Many of today's parents of young children are finding that their needs are not being met in our congregational early childhood centers (previously referred to as preschool) so they are going elsewhere. In order to compete, Reform congregations must take a comprehensive approach to early childhood education and develop a unique identity in today's ever changing marketplace. The early childhood director, synagogue professionals and/or lay leaders must work together as partners. Through the community of practice model, the URJ supports early childhood leadership teams as they navigate the change process.

Who We Are

Temple Sinai Toronto, Ontario
Temple Akiba Culver City, CA
Congregation B'nai B'rith Santa Barbara, CA
Temple Emanu-El Atlanta, GA
North Shore Congregation Israel Glencoe, IL
Temple Beth Ami Rockville, MD
Congregation Shaare Emeth Saint Louis, MO
Temple Emanu-El Livingston, NJ
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun Short Hills, NJ
Temple Sinai Summit, NJ
Temple Shaaray Tefila Bedford Corners, NY

Composition of CoP Teams

  • Congregations currently have a well-established early childhood center (preschool) with a full-time director.
  • Early childhood professionals who have experience with and are open to the process of organizational change.
  • Congregations that have identified a team that will participate in the community of practice - an early childhood director and a synagogue board member.
  • Congregations that have secured commitments (time, financial resources) from: president, board of trustees, and professional staff.

Participants look deeply at the realities facing their own congregations and learn about the challenges facing other members of the community of practice. Leadership teams work with partners from other URJ congregations guiding and supporting each other as they study and learn together. Members of this community of practice engage in critical thinking and deep reflection to begin working towards the pursuit of excellence. By bringing in field experts, the URJ provides a platform for professionals and lay leaders to examine and implement new ideas and share their findings, while forging new connections and learning from one another. The specific goal of this community of practice is to ensure that congregations make the early childhood center a gateway to deep, lifelong engagement for children and families alike.


Through an 18-month cycle, participating congregations: research and reflect on the realities of their congregation, study best principles of the field together, build a network of peer support and guidance, draft and implement transformative steps toward innovation, and share measurable results with the cohort and greater Movement.

Challenges Addressed

  • Improve the base of support for early childhood while integrating the ECC into the greater congregational community
  • Innovative membership strategies to engage EC families into the congregation
  • Need to meet today's families "where they are" regarding offering longer hours and more flexible scheduling
  • Increased demand for fulltime infant care
  • Changes in Early Childhood Governance Structure to include "early engagement"
  • Expanding role of Early Childhood Director
  • Moving away from programmatic evaluation to more comprehensive assessment of the Early Childhood Center

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