“It’s like family, everyone is so welcoming,” says Lindsay Stroiman, whose children, ages four and two, participate in ECE programming at the Boulder Jewish Community Center (JCC). “My kids love the programs, and I really feel a sense of community here.”
Stroiman’s experience is exactly what Rose Community Foundation’s initiative, BUILDing Jewish ECE, is aiming for. “Families with young children are in the midst of formative years, when friendships are cemented and life routines established,” explains Lisa Farber Miller, Rose Community Foundation senior program officer for Jewish Life. “We see ECE as a way of welcoming entire families into our Jewish communities and showing them all that Jewish life offers.”
Looking to capitalize on the opportunities for connection presented by ECE, BUILDing Jewish ECE helps synagogues and JCCs with ECE centers increase enrollment, better engage Jewish families and build stronger connections to the Jewish community. It is the first program of its kind in the nation.
Jewish ECE Centers Improve Connections to Community
In 2016, the Boulder JCC completed two years in the initiative, alongside other Jewish ECE centers, and learned how to implement and improve business practices such as marketing and enrollment conversion, and to leverage technology to support those practices. “The initiative helped us think about the ways people connect to community. It’s about more than getting school or program enrollments, but how do we engage the entire family and keep them connected for the long-term. We now have systems that help us do that,” says Susie Valdez, director of early childhood education at the Jay and Rose Phillips Early Childhood Center at the Boulder JCC.
A recent evaluation shows that the initiative vastly improved the ECE centers’ practices. For the Boulder JCC, the organization nearly doubled enrollment, is attracting more diverse program participants and is better connecting people to each other and to the JCC’s breadth of programs. BUILDing Jewish ECE participants now serve as models for Jewish ECE centers around the country, and standards of excellence developed through the initiative (published in April 2017) will help the centers achieve exemplary educational practice and excellence in areas like marketing, and family retention and engagement.
Rose Community Foundation Role
Rose Community Foundation takes the long view on solving community challenges. That means taking the time to understand issues, and seeking innovative ways to affect change. One such issue is Jewish early childhood education (ECE). For ten years, the Foundation has been working to enhance Jewish ECE practices in our communities, and BUILDing Jewish ECE grew out of this ten-year focus. The initiative is led by Rose Community Foundation and involves a comprehensive partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), JCC Association, and United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).