Stories of Impact: Toward A Lifetime of Jewish Engagement

“The seamless integration of Jewish curriculum has been extraordinary to watch and experience. We now celebrate family Shabbat every week, and our daughter leads the blessings. She has blossomed with self-confidence and charm.”
– Parent of a child attending a Denver/Boulder Jewish early childhood education center

Rose Community Foundation recognizes that the most important years of a child’s life – for building cognition, character, and identity – are the first five. Since up to 85 percent of these key developmental capabilities are formed by age five, high-quality Jewish early childhood education is critically important.

The region’s Jewish Early Childhood Education (ECE) centers play an influential, yet often unrecognized, role in introducing children and their families to Jewish life. With 230 educators teaching 1,100 children in 80 classrooms, the nine Jewish ECEs in Denver and Boulder develop healthy, successful learners and provide gateways to future Jewish engagement. The centers are also an important economic engine of the community, generating more than $6.3 million in revenues.

To continue to grow the number of families who choose Jewish ECE, it is critical that the centers’ teaching, classroom environments, and family engagement be of the highest caliber. By keeping quality teaching and educator training at the forefront, we can increase the impact of the Jewish ECE experience, and make our institutions and Jewish community more sustainable for the long term.

Background

Nine years ago, diverse stakeholders representing the Denver/Boulder Jewish community came together to focus on improving the Jewish ECE experience. Jewish ECE Centers, partners and funders on the project include:

Denver/Boulder Jewish Early Childhood Education Centers

  • Aish Denver Preschool
  • Boulder Jewish Community Center Preschool
  • Congregation Hebrew Educational Alliance Preschool
  • Congregation Rodef Shalom Preschool
  • The Denver Synagogue/BMH-BJ Preschool
  • Garden Preschool and Early Learning Center at Chabad Jewish Center of South Metro Denver
  • Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center Early Childhood Center
  • Temple Emanuel Early Childhood Center
  • Temple Sinai Preschool

Colorado Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative Partners

  • Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado
  • Colorado Agency for Jewish Education
  • Colorado Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative Steering Committee
  • Jewish Early Childhood Center Directors Council
  • Rose Community Foundation

Funders

  • Paul Gillis
  • The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation
  • Mizel Family Foundations
  • Rose Community Foundation
  • Two anonymous donors

Their efforts led to the formation of the Colorado Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative in 2008. Under the auspices of the Colorado Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (Colorado JECEI) Steering Committee, in 2008 nine early childhood education centers embarked upon a series of shifts in approach to the teaching, learning environment and integration of Jewish values into classrooms. Colorado JECEI sought to improve the quality of early childhood education centers, promote Jewish identity, and expand access to Jewish ECE for families of diverse circumstances. The Initiative’s specific goals underscored a larger hope of regional Jewish stakeholders: to make ECE a gateway to a lifetime of Jewish engagement for children and families alike.

To achieve these goals, ECE centers took transformative steps. Educators experienced new ways of teaching and learning, and undertook intensive professional development from national experts and from one another. They employed innovative approaches to communicating Jewish content in the classroom, and forged new connections with families and host institutions. This professional development work continues today.

Colorado Jewish ECE Initiative Progress Report

To gauge Colorado JECEI’s progress, a comprehensive research study was conducted in 2012 by Michael Ben-Avie, Ph.D. The findings of his report are helping to guide the continued JECEI efforts in the community. The report found several positive outcomes have been demonstrated to date:

  • Better teaching at ECE centers
  • Better learning environments
  • Better integration of Judaism into ECE curricula
  • Better connections between families and Jewish life

We encourage you to read more about our progress with Colorado JECEI by reading the full 2012 progress report (PDF) or the executive summary (PDF).

Rose Community Foundation is proud of our role in the Colorado JECEI project including the grants and guidance we have provided, and the donor and other funder engagement we have helped lead to bring other partners to the project.

Learn more about our work in promoting Jewish growth and learning, and other Jewish Life priorities.

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