I cannot believe that it is the Year 2020! I hope that everyone had a wonderful and bright Hanukkah and New Year’s.
Biennial was incredible this year with its huge focus on Early Childhood Education and Engagement! In addition to several outstanding learning tracks, lead by our colleagues and thought partners, there were two groundbreaking experiences for early childhood and engagement professionals and the leaders who support them.
On Wednesday, December 11th, there was a Symposium hosted in partnership with URJ, HUC-JIR, ARJE, and ECE-RJ, and it was available for anyone serving in roles that intersect with education and engagement. The Symposium’s Keynote Conversation, “Striving Toward Creativity and Collaboration: New Ideas in Jewish Education and Engagement,” led by Lisa Langer, RJE and Miriam Heller Stern, PhD, RJE, was truly incredible. After the Keynote, participants broke up into smaller groups to discuss the topic:“How might Jewish education and engagement be a catalyst for a more whole, just and compassionate world?” These smaller discussions focused on the WHY, the WHO and the WHAT of Jewish education.
On Thursday, December 12th, URJ hosted an invitation-only Summit, “Sparking Jewish Engagement Summit: Mapping an Extraordinary Jewish Future". This program brought together funders, researchers, thought leaders, and practitioners to explore critical and timely issues in early childhood education and family engagement. One of the main topics addressed was the low wages for early childhood and engagement professionals; “Leadership pointed out, this is not just an issue of educational quality and the Jewish future; it is an issue of justice and righteousness, and valuing the people we need the most (Dr. Miriam Heller-Stern.)” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism and Doron Krakow, President and CEO of JCC Association of North America, launched a historic effort to advance the field of early childhood education and family engagement. The Summit ended with Rabbi Jacobs and Doron Krakow raising their arms together, which was a true sign of “Hineni”, a partnership that will change the future for our field.
These two groundbreaking events would not have been possible without the vision and hard work of Cathy M. Rolland, RJE, Director of Emerging Networks/Families with Young Children Strengthening Congregations, Cathy’s team, and the amazing collaborative partnership she has with Mark Horowitz, Vice President, Director, Sheva Center for Innovation in Early Childhood Jewish Education & Engagement.