The Chicago Early Engagement Leadership Initiative (CEELI) Community of Practice (CoP) is a groundbreaking initiative in North America by virtue of its scope and outcome measures. 

Original Cohort

Launched in 2014 and supported by the Chicago-based Crown Family Philanthropies, the project convened a cross-denominational cohort, encompassing twelve early childhood centers from legacy organizations, various synagogue movements and independent entities. Each leadership team included lay leaders and professional staff. The lay leaders provide essential support, advocacy and a perspective from outside of the trenches.

This cohort dissolved competitive silos and encouraged strategic innovation and problem solving across the greater community. The twelve teams understand the necessity of collaborative approaches to efficiently and effectively meet strategic challenges faced in today’s competitive early childhood marketplace.

The URJ provided this cohort with professional expertise in marketing, business and sales development, technology, marketing, social media, branding, pediatrics and child development.

Current Implementation

CEELI's success has led to support by an anonymous funder, in addition to the continued support provided by Crown Family Philanthropies.

CEELI’s collaborative approach has also been instrumental in informing the framework for the 2015 cohort of URJ Communities of Practice.

In addition, in 2017 CEELI began hosting a series of “bootcamps” for Jewish early childhood educators across denominations and for the Chicago community at large. These seminars are intended to provide educators and members of the Chicago Jewish community with resources and tools to pursue excellence in a wide range of areas as they engage the next generation.

For more information, contact Susan Zukrow at (312) 259-4493 or

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