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January 27, 2015 1:21 pm

Initiative Gives Synagogues, JCCs ‘Toolbox’ to Boost Early Childhood Education

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A Sukkot celebration at the Boulder Jewish Community Center in Colorado. A new initiative is working to help early childhood education programs at synagogues and Jewish community centers. Photo: Provided photo. – A growing multi-denominational effort dubbed “BUILDing Jewish ECE,” led by the Denver-based Rose Community Foundation, is seeking to help synagogue and Jewish Community Center (JCC) early childhood education centers increase enrollment as well as improve their engagement with Jewish families and communities.

The initiative—whose current partners, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the JCC Association of North America, will be joined by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) this summer—provides participating synagogues and JCCs with a “toolbox of resources” for long-term growth.

The “toolbox,” which the initiative says amounts to a $92,000 value per institution, consists of website, social media, and search engine optimization audits; new software and database support; and a “mystery shopper program” to test a center’s effectiveness when a parent inquires about or visits a school, among other items.

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“We must bring families into Jewish communities at formative stages of their lives and their children’s development,” said Lisa Farber Miller, senior program officer at the Rose Community Foundation. “The JCC Association, URJ, and USCJ recognize the importance of early childhood education and family engagement and that is why—for the first time ever—they are working so closely together.”

Two URJ synagogues and two JCCs comprise the initiative’s current cohort, which was launched in July of 2014. Five other synagogues, including two Conservative congregations, will be part of the second cohort.

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