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  • 21 Jun 2022 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,

     

    The past two years for ECE-RJ and me as president have been exciting, full of unexpected changes and challenges, and required much thinking, rethinking, doing, and redoing. I imagine that it was similar for each of us in our personal and professional lives.  

     

    I have heard and used the word "unprecedented" so many times – usually referring to something negative. Unprecedented global pandemic. Unprecedented mass murders. Unprecedented school closures. Unprecedented staff shortages. I recently heard someone say, “I hope we never see unprecedented times again.”

     

    But isn't every day unprecedented? Every day over the past two years, every day before that, and every day in the future is unprecedented. No two days are exactly alike, and each morning we wake up, we have an unprecedented day ahead of us. We have an opportunity to look at our jobs and our lives in a new light. An opportunity to rethink and redo, to make the world a better place. An opportunity to lay the groundwork for each young life, each family we touch to grow into themselves and their Jewishness with joyous learning and community.

     

    In the months before I was installed as president of ECE-RJ, Lisa Samick and I had many discussions about what we wanted to do in the next few years. We were so excited! Our planned path took many twists and turns. And a few nosedives. But through it all, ECE-RJ members were always our top priority. So, together with the Board of ECE-RJ and members joining in, we rethought and redid and rethought and redid again. If you joined us for the 2022 plenary, you heard about our revised mission and vision statements and a new board structure that brings more members together. Keep your eyes on UNITE, the member forums, and social media for more updates and how you can engage with ECE-RJ in the unprecedented days ahead.

     

    And now, with Lisa as President, Ellen Lefkowitz as First Vice President, the entire board, along with Executive Director Tricia Ginis and URJ Liaison Rachel Margolis and the amazing membership of ECE-RJ, our organization is in great shape and great hands, and on a phenomenal path that will inevitably have twists and turns and will keep moving forward. 

     

    On a personal note, I want to thank Lisa Samick, Rachel Margolis, Tricia Ginis, Ellen Lefkowitz, Pam Ranta, April Schafer, Lori Kowit, Leslie Scheck, Cathy Goldberg, Zoë Miller, Sheila Purdin, Shelly Sender, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Cathy Rolland, Judi Goozh, Marc Newman, and the many, many others in ECE-RJ who supported me and continuously and consistently elevate the field of Jewish Early Childhood Education and ECE-RJ.

     

    I’m looking forward to each unprecedented day ahead. I hope to see you in San Diego in November for the first ECE-RJ in-person conference in over two years!

     

    Fern Katz, Immediate Past President, ECE-RJ

    Director of Early Childhood Education

    Sinai Preschool

    Chicago Sinai Congregation

     

    • Dale Cooperman Well done, Fern. This article put all our lives over the past 2 years into the proverbial nutshell. Your leadership (and the leadership in this extraordinary organization) certainly helped me get... see more Well done, Fern. This article put all our lives over the past 2 years into the proverbial nutshell. Your leadership (and the leadership in this extraordinary organization) certainly helped me get through all our days, unprecedented or not. Your perspective here was an "aha" moment, because every day is just that. Unprecedented. And, it has certainly affirmed my love for this field and for you. thank you.
      10 days ago
  • 08 Mar 2022 by Fern Katz

    I Have Missed Relationships the Most

    I think that what is most different for me these past two years, and what seems to affect all the different aspects of my life – home, family, friends, work, organizations (ECE-RJ), etc. – is the actual building of relationships. I still have most of the same relationships I had before, but I have not had the opportunity to build many new relationships. I would not have thought I would miss it so much, considering how hard it can be to develop or strengthen a relationship.

    As an EC director, last year it was harder than ever before to get to know new families well and this year it is only a little easier. It has been so long since parents could spend time schmoozing in the lobby with each other and me, so long since we have had an in-person Tot Shabbat dinner where I got to know the extended families of the children and welcome out of town grandparents who came in to visit on that particular weekend so they could go to Tot Shabbat, so long since I have seen the faces of siblings without masks.

    I miss in-person professional development, meetings with colleagues, and conferences. I even miss (but not much) the initial and sometimes awkward moments of trying to remember names and pronounce them correctly. I miss the next part of a new relationship- where two or more people get to know each other, finding the commonalities and putting more emphasis on those than the differences. I miss playing Jewish Geography - the back and forth of finding who you have in common – because there almost always is someone.

    I have so greatly missed having an in-person ECE-RJ Conference to attend. I miss the learning, the praying, the singing, the talking, the celebrating. But mostly I miss going to an ECE-RJ conference and seeing old friends, and then leaving the conference with new friends, knowing that by the next conference the new friends will be old friends. Please, come to the November 2022 ECE-RJ Conference in San Diego – Lech Lecha: Moving Forward Together. Reconnect. Reimagine. Rebound. This conference is going to be a very special experience – one that I think we all need. If you are my old friend, please come so we can have a real hug. If you are a friend that I don’t know yet – I cannot wait to meet you, and to soon think of you like an old friend, too.

     

    Fern 

  • 18 Feb 2022 by Tricia Ginis

    Reflecting On This Year's Kallah

    Soon after the 2022 Virtual Kallah, I found myself sitting in my office with an overwhelming sense of personal and professional fulfillment.

    My mind began to wander. I first thought about all the fantastic sessions we offered and was blown away by the caliber of speakers and the amount of information we could cover in such a short time.

    For some reason, I started to think about specific pieces that stuck with me, like Rabbi Sandra Lawson singing a song to us that she had written for her mom, "You Can Be Anything." It was such a personal story that she shared about her mother's support and love.

     I thought about Rachel Hall and Tani Prell's session about creating anti-oppressive classrooms and realized how much we have to learn and how much intentional work needs to be done in this area.

    I remember Eliana Rubin sharing her story and feeling so proud of her strength and ability to feel comfortable to share and vulnerable enough to allow us in. I teared up as I thought about the shared stories during the panel discussion. The feeling of support and understanding could be felt through Zoom.

    All of the attendees were as mesmerized as I was. We spent Shabbat afternoon with Dr. Tamar Andrews, learning and sharing baking stories. Each one reminded us of the relationships and memories we had in the kitchen with family and friends. She shared that "Real relationships that elevate us and our lives require simple and honest ingredients that we put in by hand.  Ingredients such as communication, empathy, and love. We have to work on these relationships quite a bit until they form into real ones and then allow these relationships the time they need until they bake into something that we savor."  

    Soon after, I realized how lucky we were to have scheduled a Havdalah and reflection program to process the work and learn from the week together. The timing was unbelievable as Havdalah began just a few hours into the hostage situation in Colleyville. The time together was so meaningful.

    Yolanda Savage-Narva shared a poem by Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.  

    I have only just a minute,

    Only sixty seconds in it.

    Forced upon me, can't refuse it.

    Didn't seek it, didn't choose it.

    But it's up to me

    to use it.

    I must suffer if I lose it.

    Give account if I abuse it.

    Just a tiny little minute,

    but eternity is in it.

     

    It was a perfect culmination of the 2022 ECE-RJ Kallah and left us with a charge to continue the work to Listen, Learn and Act towards transformational change.

    For those who attended the 2022 Virtual Kallah, I hope you left with the tools and mindset to bring what you learned back to your early childhood program and temple community and with the intention of Lishmoa, Lilmod, Lif'ol: LISTEN, LEARN AND ACT.

  • 18 Feb 2022 by Fern Katz

    The Board Is Working on A New Organizational Mission and Vision

    February 2022As I am writing this, I have just completed Day 2 of the ECE-RJ mid-year Board Meeting – I am both drained and energized. While we have a monthly meeting to work on the organization's regular business, the Board meets twice a year for a few days to work on big picture items. There was a time when the ECE-RJ Board met in person and worked on whiteboards, giant Post Its, and chart paper. This is not that time – and even though we are meeting on Zoom, we will still be able to work together and accomplish some heavy tasks ahead of us.

    It is essential for ECE-RJ to be robust and relevant and to strengthen Jewish Early Childhood Education in congregations across North America. The timing was right for us to look in the mirror and make decisions about who we are, who we are not, and who we should be.

    We asked URJ North American Board member, Chuck Gealer, to help us work through the challenging task of revising or recreating ECE-RJ's mission and vision statements – and it is our good fortune that Chuck agreed. Chuck has been guiding us, pushing and pulling us to dig deep, think, discuss, and synthesize our ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and goals. And reminding us that this is a process that will take months.

    We are currently in the middle of this process, and I am both drained and energized. I am looking forward to bringing more information to you over the coming months.

    It is an exciting time to be a member of ECE-RJ.

  • 20 Jan 2022 by Tricia Ginis

    Another Successful Kallah is in the Books

    Kallah gives us sacred time and space to come together and support one another in our learning. This year's Kallah was no different. It was a time to share our journeys and get reinvigorated with the joy of why we do what we do. Like Kallah's past, we unwound, laughed, sang, and celebrated who we are and what we do.

    This year, our focus was advocating for equality and creating communities where everyone is accepted and celebrated. Early childhood centers play a significant role in creating a welcoming congregational community. As directors, assistant directors, and teachers, we must lead in welcoming and supporting Jews and educators of color, advocating for LGBTQ+ awareness and minority rights, and offering equal access and accessibility to all.

    For four days, we explored the many ways we can work together to open our ears and widen the tent surrounding us. We had a slate of presenters who showed us how to create a responsive community by breaking barriers and building brindges: Lishmoa, Lilmod, Lif'ol (Listen, Learn, Act).
       
    The workshops allowed for deep and meaningful conversations that challenged us to explore the importance and value in listening to others with an authentic and open mindset. 
    We learned from various voices and perspectives, providing us with essential takeaways to facilitate much-needed change—to take action, break down barriers, and build bridges.
    If you have never attended a conference or a Kallah, I highly recommend you do.

    Please take a look at the recap of the Kallah and mark your calendars for our next IN-PERSON (fingers crossed!) ECE-RJ Conference in San Diego, CA, November 2-5, 2022 .

  • 20 Jan 2022 by Fern Katz

    A New Year Brings Hope

    Happy 2022! This is going to be an important year for young children. It looks like we are going to see two major changes that will have an immense impact on life and society. It is expected that the Build Back Better Act will pass with funding for early childhood education and that the vaccine for Covid-19 for children under 5 years of age will be approved by the FDA.

    I am really excited about the vaccine. I hope that it will bring a turning point for this crazy disease that has impacted every aspect of all of our lives. It seems that almost everywhere I go – in person and virtually – from work, to family get-togethers, to funerals, to social media – I hear the phrases “Follow the Science” and “Read the Data.” The scientists who have developed the vaccines, the scientists who interpret the data, the ones who figure out how to fund the research and development, the medical professionals who give the vaccines, the truck drivers who bring the vaccines to the pharmacies, the packaging engineers who designed the packaging, the hazardous waste collectors, every single one of these people, every person who has had a hand in developing, distributing, promoting, and all the other thousands of steps it will take for everyone to have access to this vaccine … every single one of them was once a young child.

    Each of these individuals, at one point or another, was the recipient of early childhood education. It may have been in a “formal” environment (classroom) or an “informal” place (home, playground).  It may have been “play-based” or “academic” or watching Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Wheel of Fortune. The education may have been planned and intentional, or it may have been organic and unexpected. But at some point, each of these people who have a hand in getting this vaccine into the arms of young children, learned how to read and count, think and sort, categorize and create. Maybe they read science journals and maybe they read traffic signs. Maybe they do trigonometry and maybe they count the boxes they load on the truck.

    I want to thank all their teachers. The classroom teachers, the parents and caregivers, the babysitters and grandparents, the neighbors, siblings, Big Bird, Mr. Rogers and Vanna White.  And you. I want to thank you in advance, because the future scientists and truck drivers, economists and politicians, the ones who are going to take us to even higher heights of science, more brilliant art, music, and literature, and the ones who may bring about a peaceful world – they are in our classrooms, our programs, our sanctuaries, our parks, and our homes, now.

    So, on those days when it is hard to get out of bed and face yet another day of pandemic preschool, remember - the change makers, the ones who will make the world a better place, they are in front of you right now. 

     

    Fern

    • Dale Cooperman Fern, this is one of the best reminders of why we do what we do, in the best and worst of circumstances. thank you for this - and as i look around at these children with whom i share my days, ... see more Fern, this is one of the best reminders of why we do what we do, in the best and worst of circumstances. thank you for this - and as i look around at these children with whom i share my days, and celebrate their wondrously insatiable curiosity, i will remember your words.
      5 months ago
    • Heidi Baker Ditto!
      5 months ago
  • 16 Dec 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    The Pandemic Has Changed How Things Are Done

    It is easy to take something you have done repeatedly for granted. For example, planning a staff meeting, providing professional development opportunities for teachers, or connecting families with congregational leadership. It does not take much each time you do it. Maybe a few tweaks here or there, but that is it. We almost never reinvent the wheel when it comes to such tasks.

    The pandemic has really changed how things are done. We have had to completely reinvent very interaction, every activity, every step along the way has been uncharted territory. We are continually evolving and changing everything from welcoming families into the preschool and temple community to coordinating drop-off and pick-up.  The way directors have had to work to engage and connect their staff in a virtual world, and how teachers have adapted to a new normal either in the classroom or in a virtual learning situation, is incredible.

    There have been no blueprints or instructions to refer to when needed. Directors and teachers are relying heavily on each other to share what works and what doesn’t. ECE-RJ continues to play a vital role in figuring it all out.

    We have worked to provide resources and support for members through:

    • Publishing a monthly newsletter chock-full of ideas and information
    • Producing the annual conference by shifting to a virtual format while still finding ways to build relationships and a supportive community
    • Holding virtual professional development opportunities for teachers and directors, featuring the top experts in related fields and in partnership with organizations like Paradigm Project and the JCCA.
    • Engaging in advocacy efforts to raise the pay and benefits of people in our field
    • Providing online forums to network, share information, and ideas
    • Providing consultative services for congregations going through a leadership staffing search and those needing guidance and support with their early childhood center. This includes re-evaluating a program, staffing, curriculum, COVID-19 processes & procedures.
    • Hosting a national job board

    ECE-RJ continues to be committed to building vibrant, contemporary, and inclusive educational communities whether we are in a pandemic or not. Our membership works to bring people together in our institutions and to ensure the radiant and sustainable future of Jewish Early Childhood Education. Please feel free to reach out for more information about what ECE-RJ has to offer and let us know how we can support the early childhood professionals in your congregation.

     

    Tricia

     

     

     

  • 16 Dec 2021 by Fern Katz

    Grateful to Have ECE-RJ Leading Us Into 2022

    We have almost reached the end of 2021 and even though we are only a few months into 5782 and only a few months into the 2021-22 school year, we are still closing out 2021. This has been an important year in Jewish Early Childhood Education. As a field, we have been successfully operating preschools and childcare centers in a pandemic and we have done it with courage, grace, and many new challenges. We have witnessed the inauguration of new President of the United States, an unprecedented female Vice President who happens to have a Jewish spouse and a mezuzah now hangs on the doorpost of Number One Observatory Circle.

    2021 has been a year of difficult changes, staff shortages, and worry. It has also been a year of advocacy, exciting changes, and joy. We have seen increased opportunities in professional development, partnerships and now we are at the cusp of the passing of the Build Back Better Act which has brought awareness to the needs and plight of early childhood education, that we have lived with for far too long; and hopefully funding for families with young children and preschools.

    I cannot predict what will happen in 2022, but I am glad and grateful that we have ECE-RJ to lead us into the new year and pave the way for more changes, more opportunities, and more joy.

  • 22 Nov 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    Take Action to Help Early Childhood Education, We Need Your Voice

    I receive calls nearly every day from early childhood directors, executive directors and congregational leaders. They want to find out what resources are available to help early childhood centers struggling to find qualified staff, how can they manage budgets while keeping in line with current COVID-19 protocols and ratios as well as keeping a balance between enrollment and staffing. Times are tough right now for the field of early childhood education. Sara Wasserman of Sh’ma Koleinu shares some information on the current situation and what we can do to help.

    Please take a moment to read and take action. We need every voice. Now more than ever before.

    Early childhood centers across the United States are struggling with staffing, enrollment and finances. While this is not new, the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on many of the long-standing issues affecting early childhood education, including, for example, affordable access to early childhood education, low teacher wages, and the lack of financial support from the government. The Build Back Better plan, which is being negotiated in Congress, seeks to address some of these issues. 

    One of the key objectives of the Build Back Better plan is to provide free or low-cost half-day preschool education for three- and four-year-old children across the country. As currently proposed, the Build Back Better plan would expand access to early childhood education for families across the country by offering parents program choice, infusing funds into schools both for improvements and increasing teacher salaries, offering teachers support to pursue higher level degrees, and stressing the importance of early childhood educators’ work on a national scale.

    The key to the Build Back Better plan, and the future of early childhood centers, is a mixed delivery model. As currently proposed, the federal government will support the existing childcare infrastructure with an infusion of funding intended to provide access to high quality preschools to 75% more families than currently have such access. Public schools, licensed center-based childcare providers, licensed family care providers, community childcare providers, and Head Start programs will all be eligible to receive funding from the federal government.

    This bears repeating: EVERY early childhood center will be able to apply for federal funding to increase teacher salaries, invest in the quality of the school, and reach so many more children. 

    We therefore need everyone to advocate for the field of early childhood. Contact your elected officials so we can get this bill passed! To find out who you should contact, visit: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/map

     

    Sh’ma Koleinu (Hebrew for Hear our Voices), is a coalition dedicated to listening to and advocating for children, families, and early childhood education. 

  • 22 Nov 2021 by Fern Katz

    How A Lack of Qualified Teachers Impacts Families and the Economy

     

    Early childhood education is in crisis. Last month I wrote about the crisis of the shortage of educators and the challenge of finding qualified teachers who want to work in a demanding field that typically has low wages. 

    This month I am writing about the trials and impact this shortage has on families and our economy. According to a survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, four out of five daycare centers nationwide are understaffed. How does lack of available early childhood education impact more than families and children? A shortage of teachers means a shortage of spaces available in preschools and childcare for young children. A shortage of spaces means parents of young children may not be able to work. For many families, without childcare it is impossible to work. A young child cannot be left alone while a parent works outside the home. For parents that work in the home, it is nearly impossible to devote adequate attention to work and a child or children at the same time. Most of us, including families with young children, need gainful employment to pay their bills, feed and shelter their families, and be productive members of society in order for an economy to thrive.

     My niece, like many parents, was faced with the childcare dilemma in her plans of returning to work after her the birth of her baby. She shared with me her desire to return to work as a nurse, a job that is important for the health and safety of her community as well as providing necessary income so that she could raise her child. And yet she explained to me that she was having a hard time finding quality affordable childcare. The centers that were affordable were not accepting any more children because they did not have the staff needed. The one center they found that had space was so costly that what was left after paying for childcare would not be enough to pay their mortgage and all other bills - even in a two working parent professional family. My niece’s solution: She found a center quite a distance from both of their jobs and their home and they are on the waitlists at three centers that are closer.

     For our society and economy to function and to thrive, affordable high quality early childhood education is needed in every urban, suburban, and rural area in the country. Childcare cannot bankrupt families, and at the same time needs to significantly raise wages to attract and retain educators. It is time for the federal government to take a more active part in funding early childhood education – and you can help make this happen. Let your legislators know that you support federal funding for early childhood education in a mixed delivery system and that this funding is necessary for an economy to grow and thrive. You can do this by email, post card, phone call, and the easiest way is to go to this link https://fyff.quorum.us/campaign/34126/ and take 30 seconds to fill out the form. Call or write everyone you know and ask them to do the same. It is time to act.

  • 22 Oct 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    Looking for a new Director of Early Childhood Education? Hiring can be a difficult undertaking. Did you know that Unconscious Bias is a part of the hiring process whether we like it or not. It is hard for people to put aside these influences. The judgements we make on any number of things about the candidates can be the deciding factor on whether a candidate is considered for the position or not. How can the search committee leave these biases out of the hiring process? Each committee member needs to understand what their unconscious biases are.

    Here are some things that can affect perception of a candidate:

    • Affinity bias- gravitate to those who are most like ourselves.
    • First Impression Bias- when the candidate walks in the door- look great, sound great, must be great
    • Confirmation Bias- influences us to unconsciously seek information only the information that supports our early stage findings or assumptions-encourages us to under weigh, undervalue or ignore information that might conflict our early stage findings- stop listening deeply, stop probing for solid evidence or understanding, even skip questions
    • Resume- Any part of your resume can be a deciding factor (college, addresses- mailing address (undesirable location or distance), email address (crazymom@gmail.com)
    • Social Media postings-Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.
    • Appearance: Height, weight, ‘attractiveness’, clothing

     

    Tips and Techniques to minimize unconscious bias

    • Watch Unconscious Bias: Stereotypical Hiring Practices with Gail Tolstoi-Miller Tedx Talks will help the search committee begin thinking about their own unconscious bias and open the conversation about how the committee can work to avoid the biases affecting the candidate selection process.
    • Be honest with ourselves to identify our own biases, preferences, and stereotypes
    • Visit https://wrj.org/implicit-bias to learn more about implicit bias and take the test to see what your implicit biases are.

    Need help with a search for a new Director of Early Childhood Education? Feel free to reach out.

    Tricia Ginis
    Executive Director
    tginis@urj.org

  • 22 Oct 2021 by Fern Katz

    We are in a crisis.

    Now, more than ever, the outlook is bleak for early childhood education and educators. There is a great need and a great shortage of educators in the field of early childhood education, including Jewish education. Without enough teachers there are not enough programs. This was an issue before the pandemic, and now it is much worse and impacting more and more families with young children.

    On September 19 of this year, the Washington Post published an article by Heather Long with the heading ‘The pay is absolute crap’: Child-care workers are quitting rapidly, a red flag for the economy. The article provides both statistics and stories from parents and teachers illustrating the crisis that we are all in.

    The statistics are staggering:

    • Day Care workers earn in the bottom 2 percent of all professions
    • The child-care industry if down 126,700 workers
    • The hiring situation in early childhood is worse than in restaurants
    • More than 10,000 workers have left the industry since June, 2021
    • More than a third of providers are thinking about quitting or closing their business “as a sense of hopelessness permeates the industry”

    In the Early Childhood Jewish world, we see this every day. And we are worried. Just a few of the comments I have heard recently include:

    • I can’t afford to send my own child to the program I work for
    • I can make more money as a cashier at Walgreens
    • I worked throughout the pandemic and received only a cost-of-living increase. It is still barely minimum wage
    • We live in a country that values money – it is clear how little they value educators
    • I love teaching and I love children, but I am so tired of being treated like this – little money, no benefits, little respect

    If you are reading this, you are probably not surprised. You probably have heard this before. You are likely a person who cares about young children and the field of early childhood Jewish education, who sees the value in the work of ECE-RJ, and who wants to support educators and education.

    Keep reading.

    We have an opportunity.

    Now, more than ever, is the time for our collective voice to be heard.

    The United States Congress is considering a bill that would support early childhood education and make quality early childhood education a right, not just a privilege, for all three-and four-year olds. The proposed legislation would reduce costs for families and offer wages for early childhood teachers that are comparable to educators in local public schools. Federal funding can work for Jewish and other religious schools in a mixed delivery system. While accepting federal funding would mean removing religious aspects from the curriculum; ethics, values, and honoring the cultures of all children can remain. Religious aspects of the program can take place before or after the funded program as enrichment class or family programming. This may be a challenge and a change for some

    • Sara Losch Thank you for this. I"ll be retiring after 38 years in the field and I worry that I can't leave my school staffed and prepared. As my final push at our synagogue (where i"ve been the director for... see more Thank you for this. I"ll be retiring after 38 years in the field and I worry that I can't leave my school staffed and prepared. As my final push at our synagogue (where i"ve been the director for 33 years), I am pushing for large increases for our preschool staff. By the way, for context: I run the religious school too where our staff earn $65-70 per hour with no training. That keeps me up at night.
      8 months ago
  • 03 Sep 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    The pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on early childhood education. The continuing public health crisis has made an already stressful and challenging job even more difficult.

    It is not surprising to find directors and teachers feeling stressed out, overworked, and underappreciated. It can feel very isolating in a building where stress is coming from all directions. You have parents worried about the health and safety of their children, teachers who feel underpaid and overworked, and Temple administration and lay leaders (with declining Congregational membership), who are more than ever looking toward ECE programs as a source of income. 

    What has been a bright light and a source of nurturing support are the private forums and webinars offered by ECE-RJ.  They are places where members can go to be with others who are having the same experiences and experiencing the same feelings and emotions.  They are places to share, vent, and find an empathetic ear. This is not the time to go at it alone. We all need each other.

    If you are looking for a network of early childhood educators to provide guidance and support, ECE-RJ is the place to be. I’d love to share more about ECE-RJ and how we can support the work that you do. Feel free to reach out!

     

    Tricia Ginis
    Executive Director, ECE-RJ
    tginis@urj.org

  • 03 Sep 2021 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,

    This month, as we begin another year of unknowns (but really, isn’t every year unknown?), I was asked to write about how ECE-RJ has impacted me. I think the request was to write from a professional viewpoint – but the effect has also been very personal.

    Nine years ago, at about this time of year, I joined ECE-RJ. At the time, I thought, “Why not join?”

     I had been an Early Childhood Jewish Director but not a director of a congregational preschool.  Maybe it would help me learn the ropes.  I had no idea what to expect but thought I would give it a shot. Now, as I begin my tenth year at this congregation, I look back and think, “Joining ECE-RJ was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

    The difference that ECE-RJ has made in my professional and personal life is monumental.

    The beginning of my ECE-RJ experience was a pretty quiet one. I did not know anyone when I went to my first conference in Morristown, N.J., and I did not know what to expect. I stayed in the background, learned a lot, and had some great discussions with other members. It wasn’t until the last night, when I signed up to go to dinner with people I had never met, that I made my first ECE-RJ friend (she is still one of my favorite people).

    Over the next several months, I followed the Listserv and saw there were many educators who shared similar experiences and were ready to help each other along the way. As a side note, a few years ago ECE-RJ moved away from the Listserv to forums on the ECE-RJ website, a much better way to share and support!

    A year after the conference, I found I needed to connect with someone I had met in New Jersey. My daughter was traveling to a place where she did not know anyone, and neither did I, or so I first thought. I remembered I had met one person at the ECE-RJ conference who lived in the area, so I reached out, reintroducing myself and asking if she would be an emergency contact to calm a nervous mother. She wrote back and said she would be honored. “Honored,” I thought. “Who says that?”

    Well, a kind and loving ECE-RJ member who would help another in her ECE-RJ community. Fortunately, my daughter did not have any emergencies, and even more fortunately, I made a lifelong friend.

    After that, I slowly became involved in a committee, doing small tasks and meeting more people. Soon, I had contacts and friends all over North America. That grew into more and more involvement that has proven to be so rewarding. But it began with small steps and taking a risk – saying I wanted to help.

    From small steps and risks comes growth.

  • 09 Aug 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    As the new membership year begins it is important to understand the benefits of membership with Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ). Membership includes access to private forums, webinars, yearly conferences and kallot and participation in the Reform Pension Board.

    Not only do Early Childhood Directors and Assistant Directors, who are members of ECE-RJ, have the benefit of utilizing the Reform Pension Board (RBP) when working at a Reform Congregation, but Teacher members now have the benefit as well.

    RPB provides retirement and insurance products tailored to fulfill the financial needs—and shared values—of modern Reform Movement professionals. As one of the Reform Movement’s cornerstone institutions, RPB works to enhance the financial security of our professionals and help you plan for and achieve the lifestyle you want throughout your lives.

    Your employer must be a congregation affiliated with the Reform movement, HOWEVER, your congregation does not need to participate in RPB to contribute towards your retirement to utilize this benefit. With RPB, you can plan for tomorrow today. 

    For only $140 an early childhood center can offer this benefit to their staff.  Click HERE for the 2021-2022 membership year pricing.

    RPB Director and Assistant Director Guidelines:

    • Membership in ECE-RJ
    • Is Employed by a Reform Movement Congregation (URJ)

    RPB Teacher Membership Access Guidelines:

    • Membership in ECE-RJ (options below)
      • School Membership - $140 for July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022 membership year which includes all teaching staff when a director is a member in good standing
      • Individual Teacher Membership - $54 per person for July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022
    • Works a minimum of 25 hours a week in the early childhood center
    • Has been employed by a Reform Movement Congregation for a minimum of 1 year (URJ)

    Reform Pension Board Newly Expanded Tier 1 Fund Lineup—Now Live!
    The new lineup gives you more funds to choose from that will help you to manage your risk while growing your savings. Learn more at rpb.org/tier1summer

     

    If you have any question regarding the Reform Pension Board, please feel free to reach out to ECE-RJ’s representative on the Board, Jill Cimafonte. Her email is JCimafonte@tewnj.org

  • 09 Aug 2021 by Fern Katz

    Ah, summer.  As a child, the summer months meant fun, camp, swimming, and freedom from school. I did not give too much thought to the year behind me and only some thought to the next year, mostly who would be my next teacher and if my friends would be in my class.

     As an adult and an educator, the view from the other side of the desk is a little different.  Now, each summer I reflect on the past year, often with some regret, with thoughts of “I should have done this and I wanted to do that.”

    This year, ECE-RJ was at the center of my reflection, and I had many “I wish we hads” and “I wanted tos.” Until the ECE-RJ Board, your board, our board, made a list of accomplishments. I was blown away. While, for many of us, this past and unprecedented year felt overwhelming and that we were barely keeping our head above water, these are some of the things that we, you and I, ECE-RJ did:

    • We partnered with the URJ in a webinar to bring attention to the new needs of our centers, directors, and teachers.
    • We held a phenomenal virtual conference with presenters from Israel, Germany, Iceland and Australia, and North America.
    • We strengthened partnerships with other Early Childhood Jewish organizations.
    • We elevated our UNITE newsletter and enhanced our social media presence.
    • We assembled more and stronger committees.
    • We held our first fundraising event, very successfully.
    • We increased the number of Meet-Ups and offered social, as well as professional, opportunities for meeting and sharing.
    • We worked with congregational leaders to support their early childhood centers and programs.
    • We increased the help and support for each other through our professional forums.

     

    Look at what we, ECE-RJ did. In a pandemic.  In a year when sometimes just making it through the day felt like a win, look what we did. And we did it together. Imagine what ECE-RJ can do in 2021-2022.

  • 17 Jun 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    In 2005, I was teaching second and third grade when I read in the local Jewish News that Temple Solel of Paradise Valley was hiring a new Director. My effort to convince a friend to apply backfired. Instead of her, it was me who applied, and was hired.  At the time I thought it was a ridiculous decision, leaving my teaching position with set hours, many breaks, and a fantastic schedule.

    Being a teacher was reliable and worked well with my family life. I could be there for my kids when they needed me (they were going to the school where I was teaching). While the pay wasn’t great, the benefits outweighed most alternatives.

    Although it was one of the best decisions I ever made, I realized quickly I had a lot to learn. Fortunately, I became involved with ECE-RJ. While ECE-RJ connected me with other Early Childhood Directors on a national level and provided me with guidance and insight, I would have appreciated much needed mentoring from a conference specifically designed for new directors.

    This is why I am excited about ECE-RJ’s involvement in the New Directors’ Institute (NDI). NDI is a conference for synagogue Education Directors, Early Childhood Directors, Principals, Directors of Congregational Learning, and Clergy-Educators new in their roles or hired within the past two years. The conference is a collaboration between ECE-RJ, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Jewish Educators Assembly, Cantors Assembly, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Association of Reform Jewish Educators, and Reconstructionist Educators of North America.

    The virtual conference will take place July 12-15, 2021. Participants will:

    • Learn best practices for educational leadership.
    • Become part of a learning community of colleagues.
    • Leading Jewish educators facilitate your learning and growth.
    • Special sessions designed for Early Childhood Educators.
    • Ongoing support and mentorship throughout the year.

     

    I wish the conference was around when I started as a Director. I believe it is so important, members who attend will also receive a complimentary registration to ECE-RJ Virtual Kallah, January 12-15, 2022, and will also receive a $100 membership discount to  ECE-RJ if they join by September 1, 2021.

    The deadline to enroll is June 25, 2021. For more information and to register, please visit uscj.org/ndi.

  • 17 Jun 2021 by Fern Katz

    Last June, ECE-RJ installed new officers and held our annual board meeting on Zoom. It was the first time we were not in person, the first time not holding a chuppah over our new board member’s heads, and the first time not sharing hugs. Each summer the ECE-RJ convenes a multi-day board meeting and for the first time we were not sitting around a real table together, feeling the presence and wisdom of those who served before us, and thinking and discussing the best ways to serve our members and strengthen ECE-RJ.

    We began the 2020-2021 year in unprecedented times. It was a journey on a long and winding road – not knowing which way it was going to turn. We were only sure of three things: we would need to adapt to whichever way the road turned, we would need to overcome any obstacles that was in our way, and would need to care for ECE-RJ members (board members included). With this in mind, our priorities became “adaptive leadership” and “nurturing our membership through compassion.” As we worked through the year, talking with members, planning meet-ups, writing on the forums, writing for UNITE, we always came back to “Are we being compassionate? Are we adapting? Are we leading?”

     ECE-RJ moved along the winding road, straightening it out a little when we could. Soon we realized that in this unprecedented year, we had an unprecedented opportunity: We could forge our own path and pave our own road. So, we began looking for opportunities that might move us in an even better direction. We straightened the first curve with continuing the important work that had been done in previous years—such as strengthening relationships with affiliates and professional organizations within the URJ, building committees, and opening up the communication and work between the committees.

    We also created more meet-ups for learning and relationship building. We held a virtual conference with presenters from Iceland, Israel, Australia, Japan and more.  

    It was a hard year and exciting year. It was a year of loss and a year of growth. Where will we take our road next? I hope to see everyone along the path throughout the coming year.

     Congratulations to all early childhood Jewish educators and members of ECE-RJ – you did it!

  • 20 May 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    I would like to share the following note from Shelly Sender, VP of Learning about this year’s ECE-RJ conference. 

    The first-ever ECE-RJ Virtual Conference 2021, Olam Chesed Yibaneh is in the books, and I am happy to share it was a huge success. With over 435 registrants, the ECE-RJ Conference offered four days of global perspectives in early childhood education practices, social networking, spiritual connections, deep conversations, and International/global sessions representing seven countries and a wide range of topics.

    One of the joys of a conference, as you know, is reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones, including getting the opportunity to hear their stories, network, and join for a laugh or two in an environment of camaraderie and learning.

    There was trepidation as we developed the conference. We worried that changing from an in-person meeting to a virtual conference would make us lose the atmosphere and culture of connections. I have to say we did not!  

    All of the conference sessions were recorded and are available for conference attendees to watch. ECE-RJ is now making the recordings available for purchase ($130) for Directors. These recordings can be used for professional development. One idea is to hold a staff ‘watch party’ with guided discussion. If you are interested in purchasing the recording links, please contact Tricia Ginis, Executive Director, ECE-RJ at tginis@urj.org

    A special note of appreciation to an amazing group who worked tirelessly and collaboratively to pull off this conference.  

    • Zoe Miller, TX
    • Carol Pastor, NJ
    • Becca Taute, TX
    • Kelsey Winocour, TX
    • Pam Ranta, CA
    • Ellen Lefkowitz, CA
    • Cathy Goldberg, CA
    • Lisa Samick, NY
    • Jennie Rubin, NJ

    Thank you to American Jewish University and Remini for their sponsorship of the conference. We are grateful for their support.

    Now it is time to set our sights forward to the rest of the year and the start of 2022, when we will have our second virtual conference, January 12-15, 2022.  We encourage you to stay involved and take advantage of all ECE-RJ has to offer. We are committed to being your advocate and connection to professional development opportunities and collegial connections.

    Shelly Sender
    VP of Learning, ECE-RJ

  • 20 May 2021 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends, 

    Here it is the end of May and we are completing our very first pandemic school year. Whether in person, on Zoom, or hybrid, we have all successfully made it through the year. Go us! Many (if not all) of us had challenges and obstacles we never dreamed of and a mental and emotional load that at times weighed us down as we wondered how we were going to once again get up. And we were there for each other. ECE-RJ members lifted and supported each other through the forums, through emails, through UNITE, through texts, through meet-ups and our Virtual Conference, Olam Chesed Yibaneh.  Just knowing that there were ECE-RJ colleagues and friends across the country who really understood what I was going through helped me manage through some of those difficult moments. Across North America, in our own congregations, cities and states, we had a shared experience. And now, that experience has ended and we are about to begin new experiences and a new journey. 

    A few of those experiences will be coming up for ECE-RJ in the next month or so. First, I would like to welcome Judi Goozh as our liaison to the North American Board of the URJ. Judi is a retired speech and language pathologist having worked with pre-k through high school students. This is her fifth year on the NAB Board and has been on the Families with Young Children team, worked as a PEECE coach, and is participating in the URJ ECEC Network meetings. Judi is a long-time supporter of early childhood Jewish education and ECE-RJ and will be a wonderful partner in the next steps of our journey. Please join me in welcoming Judi to ECE-RJ!

    I hope you will attend our virtual Plenary Session and Board Installation! On June 23 at 2:30 pm ET ECE-RJ will give an update on the organization, install our new board members (Louise Van Schaak, Ellen Lefkowitz, Leslie Scheck, and Zoe Miller) and bestow the Person of Valor Award and the Marc Newman Shomrei Or Award to two deserving ECE-RJ members. Register here https://urj.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZElf--gpzMpG93iGUAuVepaqe3srtF-An8I, tune in to see who has earned these prestigious awards and celebrate the amazing year!

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