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  • 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!

  • 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!

    Fern

    • 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.
      1 month 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!"
      1 month 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.

     

    Fern

     

  • 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 tginis@urj.org.

  • 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.

     

    Fern

  • 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!

    Fern

     

     

  • 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 rpb.org
    • 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 JCimafonte@tewnj.org

  • 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.

     

    Tricia

     

  • 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.

     

    Fern

    • 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!
      5 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!
      5 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
      5 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.  

     

    Fern

  • 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 https://www.rpb.org/

    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.

     

  • 26 Oct 2020 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,

    We are being heard and we are having an impact!

    ECE-RJ members are making a difference.  Lisa Samick, First Vice President of ECE-RJ, and I were honored to participate in the planning and implementation of the URJ webinar “Navigating the Unknown: How Congregations with Early Childhood Centers Must Collaborate for a Sustainable Future.” 

    The webinar was attended by about 400 lay and professional leaders that included senior rabbis, executive directors, board presidents, and many of our ECE-RJ Director members.

     If you participated, I hope you will agree with me that it was meaningful and just might make a difference for some of our centers and for our field.

    In small groups and with guests from across the Reform movement, many challenges of early childhood Jewish education were discussed including budget impact, the additional requirements of operating an in-person center in the midst of a global pandemic, and the time and emotional strain we and our teachers face every single day. It was a thought provoking 90 minutes, very well spent.

    The highlights for me were when Rabbi Rick Jacobs spoke about our centers and programs as the “beating heart” of the congregation and Rabbi David Stern, immediate past president of CCAR, spoke about how we are all responsible for “all of it,” meaning all leadership is responsible for the budget and the needs and value of early childhood Jewish education.

     The outcome of the webinar was the creation of an accelerated network supported and facilitated by the URJ. It is my hope that many ECE-RJ members and their congregational leadership teams will participate in this network and work together towards finding solutions for shared problems and concerns related to the current challenges facing our field.

    I really believe we were heard, and our work is valued. Become involved in ECE-RJ and help us keep it going!

    Fern

  • 26 Oct 2020 by Tricia Ginis

    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.

    This year is different. Every interaction, every activity, every step along the way has been uncharted territory. We are reinventing everything from welcoming families into the 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 are no blueprints or instructions to refer to when needed. We are relying 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
    • Holding bi-weekly virtual professional development opportunities for teachers and directors, featuring the top experts in related fields
    • 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.

  • 29 Sep 2020 by Tricia Ginis

    ECE-RJ Now Has A Seat ON RPB Board

    I am pleased to announce that for the first time, ECE-RJ has a seat on the Reform Pension Board (RPB), the  organization that provides clergy, professionals, educators, and other staff of Reform Movement congregations and other qualified organizations with retirement plans and programs. This includes all ECE-RJ members.

    After a thorough review of applications, a founding ECE-RJ member, Jill Cimafonte of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, New Jersey will represent us on the Board. Jill will serve a two-and-a-half-year term.  

    I want to thank Marc Newman. He has served as the ex officio member of ECE-RJ, serving as the liaison between our organization and RPB.  Marc has spent many years advocating and representing our organization and has brought early childhood professionals into the conversation. Marc’s dedication and volunteerism have helped our organization grow tremendously. He most recently helped in getting ECE-RJ teachers access to RFB services. In the past, only directors and assistant directors could participate.

     

    Thank you Marc for all your hard work. 

    • April Schafer Thank you Jill for filling this role! What an honor to be on the board and helping us move into the future for all early childhood Jewish educators!
      8 months ago
    • Edye Disner absolutely FANTASTIC! Thank you Marc for YEARS of efforts to accomplish this! and Thank You Jill for taking this position.
      8 months ago
    • Jill Cimafonte It is a privilege and an honor to fill the seat! I look forward to representing our amazing organization!
      8 months ago
  • 29 Sep 2020 by Fern Katz

    Watch Out 5781, As Early Childhood Educators, We Can Do Anything

    Dear Friends,

     One year ago at this time, we were in the midst of the 5780 High Holy Days. My early childhood education center was ready for Rosh Hashanah, and my house and life were almost ready. The biggest unknown was how many people were actually going to show up for dinner—you never know with my family.

    Home and work were filled with people, apples, challah, honey, and shofars. We sang songs, prayed, ate, and celebrated. It seemed that every day there was at least one communal experience to be shared with family and friends. Both work and home were joyous and fun.

     As I write this we are about to begin 5781 and it is nothing like 5780.  This year there are many unknowns. I don’t know if our classes will continue on-site or if we will return to online learning. I don’t know if everything we are doing to keep the center healthy and safe will be enough. I don’t know if I will feel like an observer or a participant at virtual services. And I absolutely do not know how to cook a holiday meal for less than 20.  

     We are preparing and celebrating much differently than other years. Many of us are not having school-wide celebrations and are not attending services in a sanctuary with a community. Some of us will not hear the shofar blasts in person, and if we do it might be from sitting in a car. Could you ever have imagined a “drive-by shofar blowing?” 

     What I do know, have always known but really came to light in 5780, is that early childhood educators can do anything. We create amazing experiences with toilet paper tubes and masking tape, spur imagination with a mere facial expression, and inspire exploration with a bucket of water and a slotted spoon. And we build and maintain relationships and community no matter where we are.

     To my ECE-RJ community, I wish you a year of more knowns than unknowns and a healthy and happy 5781.

    • April Schafer Thank you for leading us through this crazy time queen superhero! Love you and wishing you a happy and healthy 5781!
      8 months ago
  • 21 Aug 2020 by Tricia Ginis

     ECE-RJ’s Work During the COVID Crisis, Working with Members on Dues, and Pension Benefits for Teachers

    Our world has been turned upside down and inside out over the past few months. We have been agile, pivoting, and adjusting at every turn. I’ve spent a lot of time listening and talking with congregations and directors about a variety of topics including re-opening of schools, staffing changes, furloughs, and the general strain Covid-19 has put on the congregations and the early childhood centers.

    The weight of these topics has been overwhelming. ECE-RJ is working to support the congregations, directors, assistant directors, and teachers in a variety of ways. The organization spent the summer working on three main areas of focus: membership accessibility, pension access for teachers, and professional development. We will continue to listen to our members and help to facilitate topics that resonate as we move through this pivotal time.

    Working with current and new members on dues
    ECE-RJ is committed, without risking the sustainability of the organization, to do everything we can to allow members to join or renew. The first round of dues adjustments is completed. The second round of applications will be reviewed by mid-September. Please use this link to apply for round 2 of the 2020-2021 dues adjustment.

    Now, Pension Benefits For Teachers
    We are pleased to announce that not only do Early Childhood Directors and Assistant Directors, who are members of ECE-RJ, have the benefit of utilizing The Reform Pension Board when working at a Reform Congregation, but Teacher members now have the benefit as well. Please look at this document to see if you and your staff qualify.

  • 21 Aug 2020 by Fern Katz

    Time For Personal Reflection

    While Early Childhood Educators around the country are gearing up for a new school year, the month of Elul, in which we gear up for the New Year, is upon us. Directors, teachers, and consultants are giving enormous time and thought to develop policies that are warm and welcoming, and yet safe and sanitized. I believe we are all thinking about our coworkers, the children, their families, and the staff at our congregations and organizations. It is a heavy load to carry, the health, safety, and comfort of others.  And, we are probably not thinking about our own health and comfort. We aren’t supposed to be thinking about ourselves, right? Well, Elul tells us differently.

    Elul is a month when it is suggested we set aside time to think about our lives over the past year. It is a time for personal reflection.  To me, it feels like most of the past year was consumed by the pandemic. And it was. But now I am asking myself, who was I during the whole year?

    If you are like me, you have spent a lot of time thinking about others, planning for others, taking care of others, and little time on yourself. Reflection is hard. Finding a few minutes during the day is hard. But I am willing to give it a try.

    As Elul approaches, I will begin to set aside a few minutes a day to reflect on what has happened over the year and who I was.  Was I kind (at least most of the time)? Was I considerate? Did I help others? Was I the person I wanted to be? I find self-reflection very difficult and I know I will come up short, very short. And I know I would be a better person if I put in a little time and energy to work on myself, even if it is just for 5 minutes a day.

    Elul begins (began) August 21. Who is with me?

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