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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 19, 2019
Last week, JCC Association of North America and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) announced a major new partnership to address immediate challenges facing the field of Jewish early childhood education and family engagement. This marks the first time JCC Association and the URJ, the two largest providers of Jewish early childhood education in North America, are partnering on a joint initiative of this scale. Their work together impacts more than 65,000 children from 50,000 families and 10,000 educators across 475 early childhood centers in the United States and Canada.
The partnership, which officially launched during an Early Childhood Engagement Summit at the URJ Biennial in Chicago, will embark upon three major task forces to address the challenges confronting the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers in early childhood education; explore a new high-quality credentialing process for early childhood professionals; and reimagine the business model for Jewish early childhood education centers in their many settings, including JCCs and synagogues. All three task forces will convene in early 2020 and meet regularly thereafter. Significant progress is expected to be presented at JCC Association’s JSummit in May, with Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the URJ, participating.
“We are currently experiencing a crisis in Jewish early childhood education. Research shows that early learning plays a critical role in putting children on the path to long-term success both within and outside of the classroom. It also creates a crucial foundation for the next generation who will learn and live Jewish values. And yet, our early childhood educators and classrooms are hamstrung by dated business models that aren’t adequately serving families and communities.” said Doron Krakow, President and CEO of JCC Association. “Jewish early childhood education is the preeminent vehicle for engaging young families at perhaps the most formative time in their lives when it comes to charting the course of their participation as a family in Jewish community. Together, through this unprecedented joint initiative, JCC Association and the URJ will leverage our decades of experience, and the strength of our incomparable platforms for Jewish community engagement, to build a brighter future for young families.”
JCC Association’s early childhood education programs touch tens of thousands of young lives and young Jewish families each year. The organization’s Sheva Center for Innovation in Early Childhood Jewish Education & Engagement empowers teachers and program directors across the United States and Canada. The Reform Movement is the largest Jewish denomination in North America. Its network of 850 synagogues supports and engages as many as two million North American Jews each year. Mark Horowitz, Vice President and Director of the Sheva Center and Cathy Rolland, Director of 20/30s Emerging Networks and Families with Young Children, will be the day-to-day leaders in the execution of the initiative.
“Our future as a people depends on the care and education we give our children today,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the URJ. “This is why Jewish community organizations must work together to ensure we can support well-qualified early childhood professionals in jobs that compensate them for the important work they do to care for our families. We welcome this opportunity to working alongside JCC Association experts and educators to ensure that Jewish pre-schools and early learning childcare centers serve the community for decades to come.”
The partnership launch event featured 110 philanthropists, expert practitioners and thought leaders and included representation from organizations within the Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, as well as major independent Jewish early childhood centers. JCC Association and the URJ leadership and educators are available to discuss the event and initiative.
“This is an impactful moment in demonstrating the possibility of collaboration among Jewish organizations on such an important topic: the future of Jewish early childhood education,” said Alan Solow, Honorary Board Chair of JCC Association, and Chair of the Joint Council Task Force. “It will be hard work to knock down the barriers that have prohibited our work towards cooperation, but I’m encouraged that together we can change course and change the Jewish trajectory.
About JCC Association of North America
JCC Association of North America strengthens and leads JCCs, YM-YWHAs and camps throughout North America. As the convening organization, JCC Association partners with JCCs to bring together the collective power and knowledge of the JCC Movement. JCC Association offers services and resources to increase the effectiveness of JCCs as they provide community engagement and educational, cultural, social, recreational and Jewish identity-building programs to enhance Jewish life throughout North America. By supporting the 25,000 Jewish communal professionals who connect with two million JCC participants each year—JCC Association encourages engaged lives of purpose and meaning.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 850 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.