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Posts tagged ‘Early Childhood Education Initiative’

Addressing Two Fundamental Challenges Facing the Jewish Community – Affordability and Access

As part of a multi-year effort to address two fundamental challenges facing the Jewish community – affordability and access, our Federation is rolling out the first of its major initiatives for 2012: Reducing Barriers and Increasing Access to Jewish Life.

Tackling affordability, early childhood education and special needs

The goal is to make at least $1 million available for need-based scholarships, and provide an additional $500,000 in grants to support early childhood education, and programs to help ensure a welcoming and inclusive community for children with special needs and their families.  We’re one of a number of non-profits in the region working to keep families rooted to the Bay Area by maintaining access to quality education and enrichment activities, despite the high cost of living.

“We’re working to ensure that participating in Jewish life does not become a luxury out of reach for Bay Area families,” said Laura Mason, the Federation Senior Program Officer who is heading up this initiative.  “People are struggling to make ends meet, and our partner organizations report that requests for financial aid continue to increase.”

“For us, the connection to Jewish Life is a priority, but we know we are actually one of many organizations responding to an increase in the need for financial assistance,” said Jennifer Gorovitz, the Federation’s CEO. “As is the case with so many pressing issues, it will take a coalition of organizations to help bridge these resource gaps.”

There are three program areas within the initiative to Reduce Barriers and Increase Access to Jewish Life:

  1. The Affordability Project.  With membership costs, tuition and program fees that reach into the many thousands each year, more than half of all households in the Bay Area don’t earn enough money to participate fully in organized Jewish community.  The Federation, with the support of individual and foundation donors, including the Jim Joseph Foundation, will be awarding 6,000 scholarships to families in need, helping to ensure a community that is vibrant and accessible to all.
  1. Early Childhood Education (ECE).  The Early Childhood Education program area will focus on increasing access to a high quality Jewish preschool for all families.  The program will work to advance the field on major issues such as teacher compensation and rigorous standards of excellence, while encouraging meaningful lifelong connections to Judaism for children and families.
  1. Special Needs.  There are approximately 9,000 Jewish children under the age of 18 in the Bay Area who have special needs. Many of these children and their families cannot participate in Jewish life, including attending day school, camp, synagogue and other family programs because these environments have lacked the supports they need to serve these children.  The Federation’s initiative is helping to build the capacity of the entire community to be inclusive by funding professional training for Jewish educators, expert consultation in early childhood education, high quality camping experiences, and effective social enrichment activities for children, teens, families, and friends.

To advance this work, we will convene a series of events in the coming year

Stakeholders and donors will share information on strategies and preliminary goals and gather input from the community. The first of these events is May 24, 2012 and will focus on early childhood education, inviting education professionals from the entire region to a half-day event, culminating in a panel discussion with experts in early childhood development, educator compensation and philanthropy.

Household budgets stretched in Bay Area

Recent reports tracking economic indicators for the Bay Area and Silicon Valley indicate that while certain sectors of the economy have seen improvement, median household incomes continue to shrink.[i] At the same time, the Bay Area is the third most expensive place to live in the US[ii], with housing expenses absorbing the lion’s share of earnings. This continual decline in household income has meant that many of the 130,000 Jewish households cannot participate in Jewish life the way they want to.  Reducing financial barriers is critical to maintaining a robust Jewish community in the Bay Area.

“So much of being Jewish is our experiences,” said Jennifer Gorovitz. “Our work is intended to make schools, summer camps, and synagogues more accessible…these are the places where great connections are made, and it is those memories that help sustain us…one Jewish generation to the next.”

[1] Silicon Valley Index 2012

[2] Bay Area Council Economic Institute, “Bay Area Economic Profile March 2012


Gratz Fellows begin professional development

This fall, under the leadership of Director Janet Harris, the Federation’s Early Childhood Education Initiative (ECEI) took a significant step toward improving early childhood education in the Bay Area.

Twelve teachers, most in their 20’s and 30’s, began a two-year online program to receive their Certificate in Jewish Early Childhood Education through a partnership formed by ECEI and Gratz College in Philadelphia.

The program began on October 18 and 19 when the new Gratz Fellows participated in a retreat at Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma to build relationships among themselves and the teaching staff to enhance their online learning experience. One participant expressed her doubts before the retreat, asking what could possibly be accomplished in 24 hours? Her response at the end of the retreat . . . “Magic!”

Gratz Fellows participated in a retreat to enhance their online learning experience.

Gratz Fellows participated in a weekend retreat aimed at enhancing their online learning experience.

This certification program is the first step toward supporting professional development for our Early Childhood Jewish educators, one of four key focus areas of ECEI.

“Educating young children and their families is the beginning of a link that will connect them to their past and future,” says Harris. “We, as a community, have to work together and own the problem so the youngest children get the best education possible.”

To reach that goal as a community, ECEI was created by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, and the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley.

Scholarships for the certificate program were generously funded by the Jewish Community Endowment Fund; retreats and a community of practice meetings take place thanks to funding from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. The Bureau of Jewish Education partners the project.

For more information contact Jasmine at jasmineb@sfjcf.org or 415.499.1223 x8105.

Recognizing the power of our community

I have now worked in our Jewish community for over a year and a half—as my first job out of college, I came to the San Francisco Bay Area and entered my first “real job” with the kind of nervousness usually reserved for the first day of school, group presentations or performing onstage. I had no idea what to expect, or where I was going. My connection to the Jewish community growing up was slim to none, although my mother would sometimes light the menorah around Hanukkah.

Jasmine Blanchard, Early Childhood Education InitiativeA year and a half later, I have come to realize that I unknowingly entered a profound, caring and wonderful community by stepping into my position with the Jewish Community Federation. I feel that I made one of the best decisions of my life by choosing to be here and by working with such amazing people who have a strong desire to do good and to do tikkun olam – “repairing the world.” As an individual who cares deeply about people in need, I know that I have found my niche in the nonprofit world, and the Jewish community is one with such strong values and integrity, that I know I belong exactly where I am, and doing exactly what I am meant to do.

The power of who we are can be expressed not in what we say, but in what we do. I can think of no better example than of when I announced to my friends and colleagues that I would be moving to Berkeley. Immediately, I had offers of help, food, furniture, and anything I could possibly need. I can’t help but notice and compare this move with all of my other moves, when I had to bribe and beg anyone who would listen for assistance. There is a stark difference between this time, and all of those other times, because of the fact that I am in a community that consists of individuals who support each other.

I would like to thank my associates, my friends, my colleagues, the professionals, lay leaders, and everyone in this community for making me a part of something wonderful; a community and a presence within the world that gives back what they receive and then some, with a desire to make the world a better place than when they found it. There is no greater strength, no greater power than to do good, and our Jewish community does just that.

-Jasmine Blanchard
Administrative Assistant, Early Childhood Education Initiative

Congratulations to Janet Harris

Janet Harris, Recipient of the 2009 Shomrei ha'Kabbalah "Guardian of the Tradition" Award

Janet Harris, recipient of the 2009 Shomrei ha'Kabbalah "Guardian of the Tradition" Award

We’d like to raise a cheer for Janet Harris, director of the Bay Area Early Childhood Education Initiative, as she is being honored by the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay for her lifelong commitment to Jewish early childhood education. She has worked tirelessly on behalf of young children and their families in the Jewish community for over 35 years, and on May 7, through the Shomrei ha’Kabbalah “Guardian of the Tradition” Award, we will show our gratitude by offering her some much deserved acknowledgment. We hope you will join us in honoring Janet.

Thursday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m.
Congregation Beth El
1301 Oxford Street, Berkeley

Contact 510.318.6453 or riva@jfed.org to RSVP. Read the online flyer for full details.

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