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  • 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

  • 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


    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

  • 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

  • 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

    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, tune in to see who has earned these prestigious awards and celebrate the amazing year!

  • 12 Apr 2021 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,

    Here we are, just after Passover and I have been reflecting (really having flashbacks) on the past year. Just over one year ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global health pandemic. Global. Pandemic. Even the words feel large and overbearing. We heard phrases like “nothing like this since the Spanish Flu” and “is this the plague?” 

    Like our ancestors, we found ourselves in a desert with few resources, but we did not wander. We quickly figured out where we needed to go and created paths to get there. We were faced with obstacles and either conquered them or adjusted our route. We were intentional every step of the way. Nothing was going to stop us from reaching our destination. We stretched out our own hands and helped each other along. Everyone’s world was turned upside down and early childhood educators, as we always do, turned on a dime and reimagined not only education but community. And we rocked it.

    I am reminded of a quote by Gabby Giffords, former United States Representative from Arizona, “Jewish women - by our tradition and the way we were raised – have an ability to cut through all the reasons why something should, shouldn’t or can’t be done and pull people together to be successful.” I have had this quote on the wall in my office as inspiration, since 2011 when Giffords was shot in the head in an assassination attempt. Just as telling the story of leaving Egypt is part of our Jewish tradition, making things work with the resources we have is part of the tradition of early childhood educators.

    Over the past year I have witnessed and spoken with members of ECE-RJ (Jewish and non-Jewish), early childhood educators (all genders), who are living up to Gabby Giffords’ words. We heard that there could not be quality in online, remote early childhood education. And we did it. We were told that it was impossible to form a real community when we could not meet in person, and we did it. We were told schools and centers could not be safe and healthy in a pandemic, and we did it. We worried how we would support children, families, and teachers in this new way of living, and we did it. And we wondered how we were going to do all we believed in and still take care of our own families, and we did it.

    Sometimes it might have been by the skin of our teeth, and sometimes we did this with little or no support, but we did it. Many of us are still the only ones in our buildings, and we are still doing it. Every single day, we do it and we do it well. We take temperatures, screen parents and children for possible exposure to illness, sign children in, send reports to state agencies, keep in touch with every family, counsel parents and teachers through difficult times and situations, run high quality, safe and healthy schools, teach excellent classes, support our teachers, colleagues, children, and families. Every step of the journey, every obstacle we faced, we have rocked it all.

    So, thank you. Thank you, ECE-RJ members, across North America for, like Gabby Giffords, being my inspiration.

     Thank you, and keep rockin’ it!


    • Donna Becker Dear Fern,
      Thank you for making this touching and beautiful statement. It rings all the bells for me and it was said in a way that honors all we have accomplished on behalf of our school families...
      see more Dear Fern,
      Thank you for making this touching and beautiful statement. It rings all the bells for me and it was said in a way that honors all we have accomplished on behalf of our school families and our ECE-RJ family.
      I look forward to are future together in support, celebration and learning.
      6 months ago
    • Dale Cooperman Fern, absolutely true and even more, absolutely inspirational. thank you for helping us to see the light! as we have all shared, there were times when we felt the weight and the burden of this... see more Fern, absolutely true and even more, absolutely inspirational. thank you for helping us to see the light! as we have all shared, there were times when we felt the weight and the burden of this year... but words like yours make me want to stand up and cheer, "we did it!"
      6 months ago
  • 12 Apr 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    I feel like I am always counting. I’m counting how many days until I get to see my kids. How long until I can see my parents in person again?  How many miles have I walked?  How much time are we spending watching Netflix/Prime and Apple+?  Oh my! Maybe I should not count that last one.  

    Counting also occurs between Passover and Shavuot, when we Count the Omer. The mitzvah of Counting the Omer takes us from remembering the exodus and the celebration of spring to receiving the Torah on Shavuot. It brings a sense of connectedness to our rich Jewish history and the community.

    During the pandemic, we have also had to count on each other for support and understanding.  It has helped get us through some tough times.

    The ECE-RJ community, our network of early childhood educators, relies on the sense of belonging and the community we have built. In other words, counting on each other.  Spending time supporting one another through webinars, virtual conferences, social and networking opportunities helps us ground the work that we do. It is what we look forward to and trust.

     It is what we count on in every sense of the word.

  • 18 Mar 2021 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,

    We have a spring fog in Chicago. Over the past few months, we have had snow and ice, melting and refreezing, and now it looks like warmer days are on the horizon.

    For much of the country, the past few months brought some unusual weather patterns. Some areas withstood the weather well. Others, like Texas, really struggled.

    As I watch the fog lift, the grass is turning green and the flowers are blooming. As they do, I think of the storm we all have weathered for the past 12 months.  We have all been in the same storm and some of us – individuals, families, teams, schools, congregations, and organizations – weathered it a little more easily. At the same time, I do not doubt, that we all shared in struggles at one point or another.

     To me, it feels like my “inner fog” is beginning to lift.

    Over the next few months, most adults will have the opportunity to be vaccinated. More stores and restaurants will open again. While we will still need to be careful, perhaps continue social distancing and wearing masks, we may be able to gather more comfortably and with less fear.

    The warmth and sunshine on the horizon look pretty good but also uncertain and a little scary.  I have missed spending time in person with friends, family, and colleagues, but I have also become comfortable in not leaving my home on weekends and “stopping video” when I don’t want others to see me. I have greatly missed large family gatherings and special occasions, but I have really enjoyed not wearing uncomfortable shoes. I really miss hugs, but…nothing, I really miss hugs. As we emerge out of a pandemic and into a new world, I cannot help but wonder what will be different, what will be the same.

    As the fog clears, and the sun begins to shine in, what comes into view is an exciting opportunity for all of us: ECE-RJ’s virtual conference, Olam Chesed Yibaneh, Healing Our World with Light and Love. This wonderful event will help us emerge from the past year in light and love. It brings together early childhood educators from around the world.

    We are excited to provide two unique presenters, Sabína Steinunn Halldórsdóttir from Iceland and Beverly Sher and Adi Ben Yosef from Australia. Both are well-known educators in their home countries. In addition, Nefesh Mountain will provide meaningful music as we celebrate Shabbat as a community. Please join us for this momentous experience as we emerge from a global pandemic and help us bring light and love into our world.




  • 17 Mar 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    I'm sure that you know that membership in ECE-RJ is made available for ECE Directors, Assistant Directors, and Teachers! However, did you know that URJ Congregations looking for a new Early Childhood Education Director receive free 3-month membership? That is right, free.  

    As a member, you will have access to an assortment of placement materials designed to help a Congregation move through the entire placement process. The materials are in the Congregation (Lay leaders, Staff, Clergy, and Supporters) Lounge on the ECE-RJ website. The website also contains a Job Board to advertise the open position.

    We provide information to help you plan a coordinated course of action, form a search committee, develop a timeline, and inform your committee about ways to foster your new Early Childhood Educator's success.

    Along with sample job descriptions, recent compensation & benefits survey information, checklists, and interview questions, the site also lists helpful articles such as how to reduce bias in the hiring process and why salary transparency is a Jewish value.

    To receive your free membership, please contact Tricia Ginis, Executive Director at

  • 18 Feb 2021 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,  

     “And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.”  Amanda Gorman

     I am writing this on the day of the Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with many thoughts running through my head. No matter where our political ideals lie, which side of the aisle we are on, who we supported in the presidential race, or how we feel about the past four years; it is a time of change- a time for a change.

     My first thought today: I have wondered over the past four years, really missed more than wondered – kindness. Where did the kindness go? We used to have kind people as leaders. How did we get away from kindness? We have witnessed behaviors in adults that we usually see in toddlers. Temper tantrums, name-calling, untrue stories that are told as if they are true, etc. As directors and teachers, we know that the tone of the organization, school, classroom, is set at the top. If we treat our coworkers, children, and families with respect, compassion, and kindness it will likely spread. A change we desperately need in our country.

     Another thought as I watched the news clips today: I am represented! We are represented! You may have seen the meme “A Catholic, a Woman of Color, a Teacher, and a Jew walk into the White House. No punch line. Just amazing progress.” A woman, a teacher, a Jew—that’s me! If you are reading this, you likely wear at least one of those labels, too. For the first time, I feel that some of our country’s leaders know me, what I believe, what I think is important.  This was a long time in coming, a change we have waited for and are ready to embrace.

     And my final thought at the end of the day: The Hill We Climb, a poem by Amanda Gorman. I was mesmerized listening to her read the phenomenal poem she wrote for the inauguration. If you haven’t heard it yet, I am sure it is online. It is well worth the time. In a poem of unity, a poem for all of us, Gorman writes, “If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.” ECE-RJ is on this journey.  Change--our children’s birthright.



  • 18 Feb 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    A year ago, this month, we were in St. Louis for five days of learning, inspiration, rejuvenation, and reflection.

    We focused on the art of Intentionality, where deep connections were cultivated in a very intentional and meaningful way. We practiced mindfulness as a prerequisite suited for intentional learning and reflective practice. The scholar in residence, Rabbi Andrea Goldstein touched our lives and impacted us deeply. She awoke our souls and hearts, teaching compassion, patience, and mindfulness. Rick Recht, the incredible musician in Jewish music, not only brought us sounds that moved us, but also provided the most innovative and amazing leadership training. Shira Kline, AKA “ShirLaLa”—presenter, musician, and spiritual leader— infused soul-lifting songs and intentional practices into everything we did. How fortunate we were to learn from the best of the best!

    Little did we know how much our world would soon change. We could not even imagine that those five days, for most of us, would be the last time we had the opportunity to collaborate.

    Here we are, a year later, February 2021. ECE-RJ is looking to the future and preparing for our members to be together once again, after so much time apart.

    Please mark your calendars for April 14-17 for the ECE-RJ virtual conference. It will be a time to reflect and rejuvenate, which we all need.  It will be a time to look to the future of early childhood education and how we as a community can bring professionalism and best practices to the work that we are so committed to.

    Going forward we will need to repair the developmental damage done through isolation, virtual learning, and minimal social interaction. The conference is a great place to learn how to take on these new challenges. I am hopeful and optimistic we will have a better future and this conference will be a great place to start this new journey.   

  • 21 Jan 2021 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends:

    Happy New Year! 2021 is finally here! Just like every new year, some things change and some things stay the same. 2020 was a difficult year. Many of us suffered losses, postponed simchas, and faced new professional as well as personal obstacles. I never imagined an online preschool or taking daily temperatures of children in person. Nor could I imagine attending a Zoom shiva or wearing a mask to a wedding with no reception to celebrate. The list goes on and on. 2020 may be over, but the losses and challenges remain. 2021 does not erase 2020.

    I can choose to bemoan 2020, be glad it is gone, or I can take the experiences and use them to create a better 2021. I choose to do both. In taking stock of the lessons learned, many of my preconceived notions and assumptions have been challenged. I learned that Zoom preschool Shabbat means out of town grandparents can join in. We can teach and connect in an interactive way online. Zoom shiva means family and friends from all over the country can share stories and comfort each other. Celebrating a new marriage in my family is joyous even if everyone except the bride and groom are wearing masks. Taking daily temperatures and stamping hands means spending a few seconds eye to eye with each child, which is often the best part of my day. Out of almost everything that happened, came some good. I just needed to look for it.

    Another change for 2021 in the ECE-RJ world is the addition of Rachel Margolis, RJE as the URJ liaison to ECE-RJ. I have had the good fortune of working with Rachel over the past few years and am thrilled that she will now be working directly with us. Her energy, experience, and enthusiasm will truly be an asset to our organization.

    Rachel, Senior Program Manager with the URJ, focuses her work on building networks to bring innovation and improve the relationship between educators and their lay leaders. She also helped with the Project Excellence for Early Childhood Congregational Education (PEECCE) project, including teaching the congregational advisors.

    When not working with synagogue communities, Rachel sat on the Temple Beth Or Preschool Board (Raleigh, NC), and has served as the chair of the HUC-JIR Alumni Leadership Council and has been a member of the HUC-JIR Board of Governors. She is married to Rabbi Ari Margolis, of Congregation Or Shalom in Vernon Hills, IL. They have three daughters, Laila, Adaya and Eliora, and a sweet puppy Kenobi.  

    Please join me in welcoming Rachel to ECE-RJ.

    Wishing everyone a peaceful and calm 2021!




  • 21 Jan 2021 by Tricia Ginis

    It is important to periodically check your Reform Pension Board (RPB) account and settings. The new and approved online portal (MyRPB) makes accessing your information easy. It is so user friendly that even I figured it out. You will be surprised how much information is right at your fingertips. Here’s how to access it:

    • Log in at
    • Click on LOG IN in the top right corner of the homepage.
    • You will then see a drop-down menu with three options. Select the first option, LOG IN. 
    • You’ll will be taken to the Fidelity login page, where you’ll enter your credentials.

    This will take you to the MyRPB homepage. Make sure you bookmark this page. Don’t forget to delete any old RPB bookmarks you may have created. 
    Also, mark your calendars for RPB's next webinar, Outlook 2021: Saving and Investing in the Year Ahead, on February 4, 2021 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. An email to register will be sent directly to your email.

    If you have any questions regarding the Reform Pension Board, please feel free to reach out to ECE-RJ’s representative on the Board, Jill Cimafonte at

  • 21 Dec 2020 by Tricia Ginis

    It’s the story behind the story...

    I had the privilege of participating in the National Association of Temple Administrators (NATA) annual conference in December. The schedule was filled with amazing speakers, breakout sessions, social gatherings, and opportunities to connect in small groups or one-on-one. To be honest, I was worried about the amount of time I’d be on Zoom over a period of 4 days. Fortunately, I did not let that concern keep me from attending a workshop that has stuck with me.

    Abby Fifer-Mandell, the Executive Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at USC Marshall School of Business, lead a 3-part session on Human Centered Design, which I have to say was amazing. At the core of human centered design is relationship building and listening, extreme empathy and learning from the act of listening. And by listening, I mean really listening, paying attention to what is said AND what is not said and focusing on the why behind it.

    As I watched and listened to Abby share information on how congregations can think about applying human centered design, I was also aware of how she navigated leading a webinar, responding to the chat, and keeping her audience engaged while also juggling a young son who very much wanted her attention. She was dealing with the same factors that most of us are encountering during this pandemic – the blurred lines between our professional and personal lives. She had to navigate her own space, privacy and family, all while on Zoom!

    This pandemic has made us all pivot, change, and adapt, and we are all doing the best that we can with what we have. Perhaps using human centered design, which places the user and extreme empathy at its core, is exactly what we all need right now.  And this empathy should extend past our professional lives and into our personal lives, and past what we can see to what is going on “behind the screen,” literally and figuratively.

    Let’s make extreme empathy a priority. Let’s make it a part of how we interact with one another. Let’s take a look at the story behind the story. Let’s commit to looking past the surface so we can appreciate and truly understand where people are coming from. Let’s remember to consider not only what we see on the Zoom screen, but also what we don’t see in the rest of the room.




  • 21 Dec 2020 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,

    In 2012, when I began as Director of Early Childhood Education at a URJ congregation, I had never heard of Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism. I had been a director at a JCC and knew JCCA, a director at a University and knew NAEYC and Head Start, and I had taught religious school at both Reform and Conservative Congregations and was very familiar with the National Association of Temple Educators (now Association of Reform Jewish Educators – ARJE), the URJ, USCJ, and CCAR. Nevertheless, I did not know that there was such a thing as ECE-RJ.

    I had not been on the job long when I received a phone call from Cathy Rolland. (I imagine right now there are ECE-RJ members around the country saying, “I did too!”).  I do not remember much of the conversation except for thinking “What is ECE-RJ? Who is this person? How did she know about me? and, “When can I meet her because she sounds amazing?” Cathy convinced a very skeptical me to join ECE-RJ and register for the next conference. I signed up, not knowing what I was getting myself into, yet knowing I wanted to meet Cathy. I was not disappointed. Everyone at the Morristown conference knew Cathy and Cathy knew everyone. How could one person know so much about early childhood Jewish education in the Reform movement across North America? How is one person able to have such a positive impact, directly and indirectly, on so many educators, families, and young children?

    I quickly learned that Cathy, along with a few other directors of early childhood centers in Reform congregations, had created ECE-RJ as a way to bring together early education professionals to collaborate in new ways in the field of early childhood Jewish education. Cathy and her cohort designed an organization in which early childhood Jewish education as a profession would be recognized and elevated. An organization where ideas could be shared, support would be provided, important issues could be discussed, and high-quality professional development would be offered. We, ECE-RJ, are Cathy’s baby.

    A very fast eight and half years later, Cathy has continued to have an incredible impact on me, on ECE-RJ, on our members, and the centers, congregations, and schools in which we work. This, in turn, affects our educators, children, and families, and the future of early childhood Jewish education and Jewish life. Each family and each child that walks through our programs leaves with a little bit of Cathy in them. Cathy has pushed me, guided me, co-constructed with me, taught me, laughed with me, and cried with me. She has become a dear friend.

    The URJ, in their good sense, has moved Cathy to a new position (Senior Director, Emerging Networks/Families with Young Children) where her reach will be even broader and her influence will go beyond ECE-RJ and families with young children. Cathy has done an amazing job raising her baby, ECE-RJ, and we will continue to grow with our new liaison, Rachel Margolis (more on Rachel in January). However, I am not letting Cathy off the hook so easily. She is still my friend and teacher, and a friend and teacher to all of ECE-RJ. And I have her phone number!

    On behalf of all of ECE-RJ, I want to thank Cathy Rolland for all that she has done for us and for early childhood Jewish education. Cathy, your work has been immeasurable. Hazak hazak v’nitchazek, be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened.



    • See 2 more comments...
    • Edye Disner I remember welcoming you, Fern, to our newcomers' breakfast and saying - we have to get her involved, she's amazing! Cathy Rolland is one of a kind - a true professional who makes dear friends... see more I remember welcoming you, Fern, to our newcomers' breakfast and saying - we have to get her involved, she's amazing! Cathy Rolland is one of a kind - a true professional who makes dear friends across the nation. We are a fortunate bunch!
      10 months ago
    • Dale Cooperman like you fern, i am part of ece-rj because of Cathy,. How fortunate i feel to have basked in the glow of her leadership and friendship for the past 12 years! Cathy's ability to mentor so many of... see more like you fern, i am part of ece-rj because of Cathy,. How fortunate i feel to have basked in the glow of her leadership and friendship for the past 12 years! Cathy's ability to mentor so many of us has led to a strong early childhood "arm" of URJ, and her continued support of early childhood will continue to strengthen all of us. may you go from strength to strength, dear cathy!
      10 months ago
    • Jennie Rubin Cathy has been a trusted colleague, mentor and friend since I started in my position 16 years ago. Her vision and tenacity had lifted this organization and our field to incredible heights. Wishing... see more Cathy has been a trusted colleague, mentor and friend since I started in my position 16 years ago. Her vision and tenacity had lifted this organization and our field to incredible heights. Wishing you lots of love and luck as you blaze new pathways of engagement for a larger part of our community, Cathy! You are truly the best. xoxo
      10 months ago
  • 18 Nov 2020 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,

    I am writing this four days after the 2020 Presidential Election. After four days, or for some of us four years, of waiting, wondering and hoping who the next president would be, we have an answer. It has just been announced that Joe Biden is the President-Elect. The news shows have been talking about being a country divided and how Biden will need to bring us together. In Biden’s speeches he has spoken about healing and uniting, of being the president for all Americans. This is not going to be an easy task.

    In recent years we have seen some of our leaders behave in ways we would not allow in our classrooms. How did we get to a place where adults publicly humiliate others, deliberately hurt others because of the color of their skin or who they love? What are we going to do to create a world where all are treated equally and with respect?

    If President-Elect Biden and the leaders of our country (or any country) want to learn how to do this all they have to do is spend some time in our centers and classrooms. Every day early childhood Jewish educators guide children to learn to listen to each other, to look at things from other viewpoints, to respect each other’s thoughts and ideas and to express themselves in a clear and kind manner. Every day we listen to every child because we believe every child and their thoughts and ideas should be cherished.

    President-Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris cannot heal and unite the country on their own. They will need our help.

    Teaching children to advocate for themselves and others; teaching about diversity, equity, and inclusion; teaching that taking care of each other-even those we have not met; being kind, caring, and compassionate; helping those who need a hand or a meal or a safe place; these are Jewish values we can instill in our young children and their families. We can work together and we will make this world a better place. A better place today, tomorrow, and far into the future.

    I am hopeful. I am confident. ECE-RJ, we’ve got this.  



  • 18 Nov 2020 by Tricia Ginis

    For the first time ever, a member of ECE-RJ participated in a Reform Pension Board (RPB) meeting. Jill Cimafonte, Director of Early Childhood Education at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, NJ attended the October session.

    The RPB provides services to eligible employees of reform movement congregations and professional organizations.  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.  

    RPB benefits have recently been expanded to include not only ECE-RJ director and assistant members, but also ECE-RJ teacher members who work a minimum of 25 hours per week.  

    Here are Jill’s thoughts after attending:

    I was graciously welcomed to the quarterly RPB Board meeting in October, and I very proudly represented ECE-RJ with our own “seat” on the board.  

    While it was a bit intimidating, it was also reassuring to learn that there are many participants (just like me!) who have very little understanding of how investing with RPB works and what we should be doing to maximize the benefits of participating in RPB.

    The RPB is in the process of developing a simplified educational component for those of us that need help. Their website has resources that you may find helpful

    I will keep you informed as more educational information and resources become available.

    If you are an ECE-RJ member and would like more information about participating in RPB, please feel free to contact me.


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