BUILDing Jewish ECE

BUILDing Jewish ECE is an early engagement program to guide synagogues, Jewish community centers and their early childhood education centers toward increasing enrollment, Jewish family engagement and connections to the Jewish community.

BUILDing Jewish ECE is a groundbreaking early engagement program—the first of its kind in the nation—designed to help synagogue and JCC early childhood education (ECE) centers increase enrollment, better engage Jewish families, and build stronger connections to the Jewish community. The initiative is open to all nine Denver/Boulder synagogues and JCCs with ECE Centers.


BUILDing Jewish ECE is led by Rose Community Foundation and involves a comprehensive partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), JCC Association, and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). This is the first time these national organizations are working so closely together.

BUILDing Jewish ECE is a two-year capacity-building process that provides the local institutions with ongoing coaching, training and guidance from the URJ, JCC Association, USCJ, and other experts, along with a “Toolbox of Resources” to expedite long-term growth. Together, we can help synagogues and JCCs better integrate ECE Centers into their institutions, creating exciting new ways for families to make friendships and engage in Jewish life.


BUILDing Jewish ECE is a result of eight years of research and work conducted by the Colorado Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative Steering Committee, comprising four entities, including Rose Community Foundation. The committee supported a new Early Childhood Director at the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, intensive professional development for teachers and directors, scholarships, and financial support to ECE centers.

Why ECE & Why Now?

When Jewish communities reach out to families with young children, everybody wins. Study after study shows how much of a child’s personality and identity—including their religious identity—occurs during the preschool years. In fact, 85 percent of a child’s cognitive development is formed by age five, the majority by age three. So if we wait to engage the youngest members of our community, we lose out on being an integral part of their development.

Family units, too, are in the midst of formative years when their children are young. This is often when friendships are cemented and life routines established. ECE isn’t just about teaching kids, it is way of welcoming entire families into our communities and showing them all that Jewish life offers. When kids are involved in Jewish rituals and Jewish life, their parents are more likely to become involved in home rituals and holidays too.

Our synagogues, JCC’s, and entire Jewish communities benefit when families with young children are engaged.  But we must do a better job of attracting them—72 percent of current Jewish ECE students with a Jewish parent do not belong to the JCC or synagogue. Let’s welcome in these families, and break down the silos between ECE centers and the broader institution. Financially, too, ECE and family engagement makes sense. A 2012 economic study found that if Jewish ECE centers in the Denver/Boulder Area were operating at best practice standards, their congregations and JCCs’ revenues could increase $720,000 annually, an average of 11 percent.

Again, everybody wins with effective ECE and family engagement. The ECE Centers in BUILDing Jewish ECE are learning labs for the Jewish world, offering a model for building and maintaining institutions premised on strong personal relationships, high caliber marketing, and superb customer retention systems.

Read more about the benefits of ECE.

Local Institutions

All nine Denver/Boulder synagogues and JCCs with ECE Centers have been invited to participate in BUILDing Jewish ECE.

Cohort I: July 2014 – to June 2016

  • Boulder JCC Preschool
  • Robert E. Loup JCC ECC
  • Temple Emanuel ECC
  • Temple Sinai Preschool

Cohort II: July 2015 – June 2017

  • Aish Denver Preschool
  • BMH-BJ Preschool
  • Congregation Hebrew Educational Alliance Preschool
  • Congregation Rodef Shalom Preschool
  • Garden Preschool and Early Learning Center at Chabad Jewish Center of South Metro Denver

Toolbox of Resources & Mentor/Coaches

The BUILDing Jewish ECE “Toolbox of Resources” is designed to expedite long-term growth. The tools and consultation services are valued at $92,000 per institution.

Toolbox includes:

  • Child Care CRM™ – a web-based software service solution to improve marketing effectiveness and convert more inquiries into enrollments. Centers will receive a one- year subsidy to pay for one-time start-up costs, staff support, data entry, and the annual fees for the software.
  • Website, social media, SEO audit
  • Marketing collateral, such as brochures, center video, etc.
  • Mystery Shopper program ” to test a center’s effectiveness when a parent inquires about or visits the school
  • Marketing and branding consulting and guidance
  • Specialized training and interactive workshops called “BUILD Its” for center staff regarding securing enrollments, family engagement, and parent communication
  • Independent family satisfaction surveys and analysis
  • Marketing action plan for center marketing strategies and enhanced family engagement
  • Ongoing mentoring, training, and coaching from industry experts, working closely with ECE leadership teams.

Mentor/Coaches and Industry Experts:

  • Cathy Rolland, director, Engaging Families with Young Children at the URJ, is the Mentor/Coach for the URJ synagogues
  • Mark Horowitz, vice president of early childhood education and family engagement at the JCC Association, is the Mentor/Coach for the JCC’s
  • Maxine Segal Handelman, early childhood education specialist at United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, will be a Mentor/Coach for Cohort II Conservative synagogues
  • Karen Stokes, expert in ECE management and operations, will be a Mentor/Coach for additional cohort II synagogues
  • Julie Wassom, president of The Julian Group, Inc., renowned expert in marketing ECE centers in the secular world, is the project director and marketing specialist.


BUILDing Jewish ECE is designed to lay the foundation to achieve significant long-term outcomes:

  • Increase Jewish identity for children and families
  • Strengthen connections and relationships for families with young Jewish children
  • Increase recruitment, enrollment and retention in Jewish ECE centers
  • Maximize opportunities for families with young Jewish children to engage in your synagogue and/or JCC
  • Build an inclusive, inspirational, and welcoming environment to ensure long-term participation in your community

Standards of Excellence

The Standards of Excellece (SOE) for Jewish Community Centers and Synagogues with Early Childhood Education Centers are guidelines are designed to help synagogues and Jewish community centers (JCC) with early childhood education (ECE) centers achieve exemplary educational practice—to understand what this looks like and how to create these experiences in your own ECE Center. The SOE also addresses areas such as marketing and integration of ECE center families into JCCs and synagogues. To learn more and download the standards, click here.


BUILDing Jewish ECE is made possible by the generous support of the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Colorado, Rose Community Foundation, JCC Association, Union for Reform Judaism, and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

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