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  • 17 Dec 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Social justice is the idea that society can embrace differences and that society can treat everyone equally. This includes gender, race/ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and language.

     It is important to teach children the value of diversity and equal opportunity because doing so enables them to be more accepting of others throughout their lives. While families are the majority influencers in shaping children’s values and morals, we, as early childhood educators, also bear some of this responsibility.

    Some say that teaching children right and wrong should only occur in the home. I disagree. In fact, not only do I think we should incorporate social justice into our curriculums, I believe we are obligated.

    Social Justice is a key component of the Reform Movement, with which our programs have a connection.  Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, explains it all in just a few sentences:

    "Reform Jews are committed to social justice. Even as Reform Jews embrace ritual, prayer, and ceremony more than ever, we continue to see social justice as the jewel in the Reform Jewish crown. Like the prophets, we never forget that God is concerned about the everyday and that the blights of society take precedence over the mysteries of heaven.”

    Children in my program are involved in many social justice programs throughout the year including:

    • Making holiday cards for Holocaust survivors; 
    • Sorting food drive donations before they are brought to the local Food Banks;
    • Creating get-well packages for the sick;
    • Providing gift bags to immigrant students and families; and
    • Donating books to families in need.

    These experiences have provided opportunities for the children and their families to see how giving of yourself not only makes the recipients feel good but it makes the doer feel even better.  Let’s start the conversation on, “What types of Social Justice Experiences do you offer at your program?” Check out your ECE-RJ Forum for the conversation and let us share ideas between our colleagues.




  • 12 Nov 2019 by Lori Kowit

    With Thanksgiving approaching, we often talk about being thankful with the children and families in our program.

    The term “gratitude” in Hebrew (Hakarat Hatov) is translated as “recognizing the good.”  

    Gratitude comes so easily to us when things are going well.  We often take the good for granted. With young children, we talk about the value of being happy with your lot.  As adults, we often say that we should count our blessings.

    As we know, the more children are exposed to, or practice, something, the more it becomes a part of who they are. It is up to us to help children practice and develop their gratitude habits by helping others. One way to help others this year is to help those impacted by the tornados in Texas and the wildfires in California.  

    Dallas’s Temple Emanu-El had many congregants and families in their early childhood center impacted by the storm. The temple is asking for donations of school supplies, meals, gift cards, and other items. Please visit their website to learn more.   

    The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas buildings were also impacted by the storm.  The JCC “took a hard hit” and Federation building “sustained substantial damage”.

    Friends in California also need our support. I have learned that members of congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa, Congregation Beth Shalom in Santa Clarita, and University Synagogue in Los Angeles were impacted by the wildfires. Also, two Jewish schools in Los Angeles—Milken Community School and the American Jewish University—were closed for the day, when a brush fire broke out nearby. If you know of other congregations or Jewish organizations impacted by the fires, please let me know.    

    In helping the temple families and important Jewish institutions in Texas and California we can teach our children how to perform acts of gratitude during this season of giving thanks. 

    It is my hope that in this upcoming holiday season (and of course year-round), we can perform acts of kindness for those in our community, those affected by the tornados in Texas, the wildfires in California and other natural disasters in the United States and around the world.

    Lori Kowit

  • 12 Nov 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    Because of Your Participation, We Will Have A Strong Compensation and Benefits Report

    Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2019 ECE-RJ Compensation and Benefits Survey. Our Vice President of Administration, Susie Weiner, reports that we received 501 responses from 125 schools throughout the country. In December, she expects to receive collated data from Associate Research Inc. (ARI), the contractor doing the study. She wants to thank everyone who responded.

    As a network of early childhood professionals, I am not surprised by the way we continually come together to support each other in the work that we do. This is yet another example of professionals coming together to advocate for early childhood educators in terms of compensation and benefits for Directors, Assistant Directors and teachers.

    I want to thank Susie and the dedicated volunteers who helped to coordinate the 2019 Compensation and Benefits Survey.

     Tricia Ginis,

  • 07 Oct 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    Help with Using ShulCloud for Early Childhood

    Are you using ShulCloud in your congregation? Are you trying to incorporate your early childhood center into the Shul Cloud system but can’t quite seem to figure out just how to do this? After seeing many questions and posts on the ECE-RJ Directors’ Forum, it seems that many of the early childhood directors whose congregations are using Shul Cloud are finding that the School Module does not easily accommodate the needs of early childhood programs.

    I decided to do a little research to see what can be done to help these congregations. I think I found a solution or at least someone who has a solution to this problem. Meet Adam Polansky-Shapiro, CEO - Shul Solutions. Adam’s experience as an Administrator and Executive Director of a synagogue and its school helps him to understands the need for integration within the congregation. He specializes in solutions for ShulCloud database systems.

    ECE-RJ is offering a Directors’ Meet Up (Zoom conference call) so that Adam can share a little bit about what he offers and answer questions relating to Shul Cloud. I encourage all Directors who are currently using ShulCloud, or are considering moving to Shul Cloud, to invite the Executive Director at their congregation to join them for this call. Adam may have the answers you are looking for in terms of integrating all programs within the congregation including the early childhood center.

    The Meet Up will take place on October 25, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET. Registration details are coming soon.


  • 07 Oct 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Midterm elections will take place on November 6. It will be here before you know it. It is our civic duty to vote. While we should not push our beliefs on anyone, I do see it as our responsibility to encourage the families in our schools to vote and get engaged in the election process. 

    Some of the ways to engage families in the election process include:

    • Share information from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism  
    • Bring voting to your classrooms.  Have the children vote on something, anything. This exercise will encourage the families to discuss voting and the elections at home. We can influence the future voters by making voting a habit or what is expected of all adults.
    • Encourage families to bring their child(ren) to the voting booth.
    • Read books in the classrooms that promote voting and share the list with families.
    • In preparation for the 2020 election, share this link with your families who may not be registered to vote.

    Reform Jewish Movement Leadership Statement
    Last month, the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) issued a statement regarding the “coarseness of public discourse” currently taking place in the United States. 

    The Reform Jewish Movement Leadership Statement, which included “We must all expect more from the president of the United States,” was signed by leaders of the URJ and leaders of all of the Union’s affiliated organizations, including ECE-RJ.

     “The words of the High Holiday prayer book are written in the collective, reminding us that responsibility for misdeeds and their correction lies with the community as much as the individuals,” said the statement.

    The statement also quotes Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who said, “Some are guilty; all are responsible. Indeed, decency knows no party. Whether we are Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, conservatives, moderates, or liberals, we all bear the responsibility to uphold the norms of ethical speech and moral conduct that have made our democracy great.”

    This mid-term election is very important for the work we do with children, families and our communities.  Who we elect will have a direct impact on the direction of this country. For me, I am paying close attention to a candidate’s position on gun control and the Me Too Movement (#metoo).  



  • 16 Sep 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Dear Friends,

    As I sat down to write my article for this month, I wanted to write about the new school year, providing words of wisdom to help everyone start off the year on a positive foot. But I keep thinking about a question many of you may be getting from parents. I can’t get it out of my mind. While my mind says to write about the new school year, my heart says to write about this topic.

    Your parents may want to know if they should buy a bulletproof backpack…really. How scary is this? It makes me so sad. On the other hand, I understand why. 

    A bullet-proof backpack manufacturer was on CNBC recently. He said that while they have been marketing their backpacks since 2007 (following the Virginia Tech campus shooting), there has been a 200 percent increase in sales over the past year.

    Please know these bulletproof backpacks only protect against handguns; they are not rifle-proof. The material used to make the bags is considered a soft body armor, which is not resistant to all bullets.

    Keeping children safe is about more than buying expensive gear that may not be effective against an active shooter. Children (everyone) need to pay attention to their surroundings, trust their instincts, and learn the school’s emergency procedures.

    This year my own school opened up with a full team of armed security guards. These guards are in our school during our hours of operation. Many schools practice active shooter training so the staff and children are fully aware of how to respond. In our school we announce to the children, “There is an uninvited guest in the school” and our staff participates in annual ALICE (Alert, Lock-down, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) training.  

    It is so difficult for me to get my head around this, but this is the world we live in today and this is what needs to be done.

    I wish you all a happy, smooth and safe start of your school year.


  • 16 Sep 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    Being supported in the work we do as early childhood professionals can come in many forms.

    Members constantly gush about the value of networking and community support that ECE-RJ provides.

    Sharing ideas;  supporting each other; responding to each other’s questions;  and being there for one another is part of what makes ECE-RJ who we are.

    The conversations in emails, during MeetUps and at conferences and kallot are enlightening, innovative and inspiring. Keeping track of what we hear and learn is another story. 

    The solution to this challenge has arrived in the form of Forums on the ECE-RJ website.  The three NEW Forums (one each for directors, assistant directors, teachers) are private communication tools that allow for the same type of support and “dialogue” as our emails (Listserv) with the added feature of archiving and searching.

    All documents, conversations, images, and videos are saved directly to the website, and members can search within each “lounge” (Director Lounge, Assistant Director Lounge and Teacher Lounge) to find what they need. No more digging up old emails.  No more cringing as you hit send when you know that you are asking a question that was asked before.  We now have one place to keep track of all of the conversations, all of the ideas, and all of the support and encouragement.  We even get email notifications when there is a new comment, so we will not miss a thing.   

    Come check it out the forum for your membership category. Please know the Director Listserv is still up and running as we transition over to the new Forums.

  • 08 Aug 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    New Survey To Help With Attracting Quality Directors, Assistant Directors, and Teachers

    ECE-RJ has hired Association Research Inc. to publish a compensation and benefits report. A survey will be sent out to all Directors of Early Childhood Education within the Reform Movement, and a separate link was provided for the Directors to share with their staff.

    One of my roles is to serve as a resource to congregations who are going through the placement process for a new Director of Early Childhood Education. I have seen how difficult it is to put forth a competitive salary and benefits package that fits within the constraints of a tight budget and can still attract highly qualified candidates. By hiring an independent third-party firm like Association Research, we will have solid data to help congregations make informed decisions during their hiring process.

    We expect to be able to provide the results from the survey this December.

  • 08 Aug 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Dear Friends,

    I want to share with you a topic that I am passionate about, the children in migrant detention centers. As someone who spends every day with young children, watching on the news what is occurring just breaks my heart. 

    I just think about how sad and scared these children must be, separated from their families and living in an unfamiliar place.   

    In mid-June, attorney and children’s-rights advocate Warren Binford gained access to a Clint, Texas Border Patrol facility where 351 migrant children were detained; more than 100 were under 13 years old, with the youngest just over 4 months.  

    Children are being separated from their families and placed in what I believe are inadequate facilities.  Center employees, who are not their parents, are punishing these children, including making them sleep on the floor. This is not right.

    Can you imagine what the long-term effects will be on these children? Past studies have found that children who are subject to traumatic events, such as what these migrant children are going through, experience a stress response commonly known as fight or flight.

     Many times, if this fight or flight response is prolonged, it can change a child’s brain architecture. The consequences include learning difficulties, increased depression, and other social and emotional lasting effects.

    As professionals, who spend our days protecting and helping young children grow mentally and physically, we need to make our voices heard on this matter.


  • 20 Jun 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Dear Friends,

    Tricia Ginis, our Executive Director, and I just returned from Baltimore where we attended the URJ North American Board (NAB) meeting. The Board is the governing body of the URJ. As the President (and Executive Director) of ECE-RJ, we are non-voting members of the Board. During the meeting, we heard from several different leaders in the movement.

    • Julie Levi Lerner, URJ’s Executive Vice President, shared the 2019-20 URJ Growth Objectives. These objectives focus on three areas: Outreach, Mobilization and Capacity Building- to create “an active network to build a whole, just, compassionate world.”
    • The NAB voted and approved an Anti-Semitism Resolution.
    • Isabel (Liz) Dunst and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner from the Religious Action Center (RAC) talked about the RAC’s New Reform Movement Social Justice Strategy.
    • Alec Harris, AnnDee Levy, and Liz Grumbacher spoke about the 2019 Biennial and the new learning experiences and changes that will be occurring.
    • The board approved a new congregation, Temple Beth Shalom from Melrose, Massachusetts, into the URJ.

    The last week in June the ECE-RJ Board will be in New York for our Summer Board Meeting. We have a packed agenda, including the installation of two new board members -- Susie Weiner (MI) as VP of Administration and Pam Ranta (CA) as VP of Accounts.

    On behalf of ECE-RJ, I would like to thank Paula Katz (TX) and Marci Sperling-Flynn (IL) for their dedication to ECE-RJ and for all of their hard work on the board.


  • 18 Jun 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    It is astonishing to me that “on average, women working full time in the United States are paid just 80 percent of what men in comparable positions are paid. Sadly, the gender pay gap also exists within Jewish institutions at similar rates. Salary data from Reform Movement professional associations reveals that Reform institutions are not immune from these societal problems.

    The issue of pay equity is often defined as a woman’s issue, yet we know it to be an issue of human rights and social justice. By engaging the entire Reform Movement around this issue, we are reinforcing the message that economic justice for women is at the core of our fundamental Jewish values.”

    In my role as Executive Director of ECE-RJ, I often work with Directors during contract negotiations as well as guide congregations throughout the placement and on-boarding process.

    The reform movement has been working on the Reform Pay Equity Initiative and Jennie Rubin, Immediate Past President, has been the ECE-RJ representative on the task force. Here  is what Jennie has to say about her work on this issue:


    Over the last 2.5 years, I have been ECE-RJ’s representative to the Reform Pay Equity Initiative (RPEI).

    Powerfully lead by Rabbi Mary Zamore, Executive Director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN), and Rabbi Marla Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), organizational representatives from every arm of the Reform Movement came together to address the pay inequity that exists between genders.

     The research done initially, in 2016, illustrated that, in general, women in the Reform movement were making $.83 to the $1.00, compared to their male counterparts. This was slightly better than the national average but still disconcerting.

    Because our professional organization is over 99% female, early childhood educators’ salaries could not be factored into the study. There weren’t enough men in the profession to determine inequity based upon gender. However, the information ECE-RJ provided is consistent with what national survey studies have indicated. Our profession is drastically underpaid. It is even more apparent when compared with other educational colleagues who work within Reform institutions.  Our teachers usually possess specialized training but are compensated less because of the age group they work with.

    Jeneen Interlandi said it perfectly in the title of her NY Times Article, “Why Are Our Most important Teachers Paid the Least?”

    Research continues to validate how important our work is for both the secular and Jewish future. Diana Granger stated, in an article for eJewish Philanthropy “If we believe in Judaism as an ethical guide, promoting decency and dignity… we have to bridge the massive gap between the real and ideal…especially...when we examine the grim reality of how we (under) compensate and (de) value Jewish early childhood educators.” 

    As we continue our journey toward equitable compensation, including pension, benefits, and professional development for full-time employees, the incredible resources created by The Reform Pay Equity Initiative are available for all of us to reference at .

    Become familiar with the resources. Share this website with others within your organization.

     If you are the employer, make strides where you can. Remember that ECE-RJ is one of your most valuable resources. We are continuing to strengthen the mindset regarding the value of our work. Let’s work together to make sure that we are compensated accordingly.

  • 22 May 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    Making Membership More Affordable

    It’s hard to believe that ECE-RJ is entering its 20th year of providing valuable resources to directors, teachers, and stakeholders of early education programs with a connection to a Jewish organization.

    ECE-RJ is excited to begin this milestone membership year 2019-2020 with some exciting news.  

    Starting this year, Assistant Directors can join for only $120 and a school’s entire teaching staff for only $180 when the school’s Director is a member.  

    Why are we making it so affordable?

    ECE-RJ—as a community of dedicated, supportive and passionate professionals who understand the unique challenges and rewards of working in Jewish early childhood education—is only as strong as its members. The more members, the better the organization.

    We want to make it as easy as possible to join and receive the many resources available to members. We want your assistant directors and teachers to have access to:

    • Unite, our newsletter that provides practical information for use with congregations, schools, and classrooms
    • A database of pertinent information and ideas
    • A vibrant email Listserv (discussion group)
    • Monthly Meet-Ups (conference calls) to discuss specific topics
    • Private teacher Facebook page
    • National conferences and Kallot

     ECE-RJ is committed to building vibrant, contemporary and inclusive Jewish early childhood educational communities. We support and promote the professional growth of our colleagues.

    Join us in the conversation, elevating the field of early childhood education and learning opportunities!

    Learn more about the benefits of membership

    20th Anniversary Member Rates

  • 22 May 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Dear Friends,

    As many of us are winding down the school year, it is important for us to remember that the children and their families may be feeling a little unsettled about what’s to come, including transitioning to the next age group/classroom, saying good-bye to teachers and friends, or going off to Kindergarten. These unknowns are stressful for everyone. As the saying goes, “It take a village to raise a child,” and we have all been a part of that village. 

    Many of our Early Childhood Centers weave mitzvot into our curricula. However, with the stresses of 21st-century family life, it is easy to lose sight of the long-term goals we hold for our children that transcend the challenges of the moment.  Keeping the important goals in mind, like striving to “Grow Menschlich [mensch-like] Children” (or good people), require intentional action and resources.

    There are many tools that are available to today’s families to keep the parenting “big picture” in mind. Below is a list of a few.

    This series of conversation and resource guides are easy to pick up and follow on their own. This is a great resource to share with families.

    This link will take you to the URJ’s “Parenting” page that holds many wonderful resources/articles that can be shared with families.

    The article highlights strategies that early childhood educators can share with families in an effort to prevent challenging behavior during transitions both inside and outside the home.

    A list of apps for both parents and children, and one that can be used together.

    Let’s keep this conversation going by sharing resources on our listservs and Facebook pages.



  • 18 Apr 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    Sometimes we need a break…A sabbatical may be the answer

    Sometimes we just need a break – a time to reflect, refresh, renew and rejuvenate. In my role as Executive Director, I encourage congregations to consider offering a sabbatical to all senior staff, including the Director of Early Childhood Education. Most congregations are hesitant to offer either a paid or unpaid sabbatical because the employees are valuable resources. They should consider the many benefits, not only to the employee but to the congregation.

    Some benefits of a sabbatical include:

    • The employee comes back feeling refreshed and renewed.
    • The sabbatical time can be spent expanding their knowledge, learning, experiencing and finding inspiration to bring back to their role.
    • It is a time for personal reflection and growth.
    • Providing Sabbatical shows employees that they are respected and appreciated for what they bring to the congregation, often leading to an even deeper commitment to the work that they do.

    Ellen Lefkowitz, Preschool Director at Temple Sinai, Oakland, CA, recently came back from a three-month sabbatical. Read more about her experience below:  


    Benefits of a fall, three-month sabbatical

    This past fall, I had the opportunity and privilege to take a paid, three-month sabbatical from my position as Preschool Director. During my time away, I visited other schools and colleagues, did some creative learning, and took some personal time. It was inspiring to see best practices happening at other schools and also rejuvenating to be able to dive into some learning in new ways. In my conversations with others, I am consistently met with a reaction of both shock and awe to hearing that I was granted this time away from work. Although sabbaticals are not unheard of in the Jewish community, they are most often reserved for clergy and in some cases a synagogue educator. Among my early childhood professional community, it is virtually unheard of for a director of an early childhood center to receive this benefit. Even though this practice is not the current reality in our professional community, I can attest to the fact that, as our community did, we were able to reevaluate the way in which this benefit can be offered to all senior staff members (clergy, religious school and early childhood educators, and executive director) on our team.

    I have been in my position as the Preschool Director for eight years. Over that time, the non-clergy members of the senior staff have worked tirelessly to advocate for parity for the entire senior staff in many of the non-salary benefits we are offered, specifically pension contribution, conference allowance, sick and vacation time. During that time, we met with key lay leaders to help them better understand the work that we do, how our work supports the greater mission of the congregation, is a meaningful entry point for families, and what is the full extent of our roles as members of the senior staff. We gradually made progress in these areas, and so when we decided to propose the sabbatical benefit a couple of years ago the groundwork had already been laid and relationships built with the personnel committee and board of directors. Consequently, the proposal was met with positivity and support from the community.

    As a result of my time away, I feel refreshed and renewed. It allowed me to gain a deeper, positive perspective on my work and the school. I am bringing new ideas and professional development opportunities back to my staff. I believe that any time away from the day to day life of the school is not only rewarding for the individual but also enriching for the school community. Just as many of our colleagues receive this benefit, as early childhood professionals, we also deserve this time to reinvigorate our work and our souls.

  • 18 Apr 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Dear Friends,

    I am so excited to share with you about the launch of an exciting partnership between ECE-RJ and the URJ,  PEECCEProject Excellence for Early Childhood Congregational Education.

    Through the PEECCE initiative, your congregation will gain access to a customizable tool and a URJ-trained coach to self-reflect on topics including seamless integration of Judaism; family satisfaction and retention,; marketing and communications; and partnerships throughout the larger congregation.

    The formal duration of the pilot will be June 15, 2019-June 2020.   

    A select group of congregations are being asked to apply to participate in the PEECCE pilot which is launching in June, 2019.

    In March, ECE-RJ and the URJ selected five lay and professional volunteer coaches to participate in the PEECCE training in coordination with the URJ’s Spring Training in Chicago. During the training, the coaches spent time learning about the standards, exploring the role of a congregational coach, bonding as a team, and acquiring tools focused on the power of storytelling. Currently the five incredible coaches are; ECE-RJ Past Presidents, Jennie Rubin, Heidi Baker & Tammy Venner; URJ Board Members , Judi Goozh & Lois Nyren.

    We are delighted to be a part of this important partnership with the URJ and hope you will share this informational one-pager with your lay and professional partners as more congregations will be invited to apply to participate in PEECEE in the near future.

    In the meantime, please be on the look-out for important updates on the 2019 Biennial which for the first time ever, will provide a learning path focusing on Essential Tools to Engage Families with Young Children

    Keep your eyes peeled as the PEECCE process is underway!   



  • 22 Mar 2019 by ECE-RJ

    Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ) was deeply saddened to read about the allegations of sexual harassment that were written about in the New York Times article about Michael Steinhardt. As the professional organization for a career that is primarily women, we know this behavior exists within the Jewish and greater community, and we condemn it with as much force as our words can bring.

    We have devoted our lives to teaching children about respect, responsibility, and care for one another. These foundational principles, as they relate to women within our society, are challenged when people in power display incomprehensible behavior. We will continue to demand ethical behavior from those we associate with. In addition, we will continue to speak out for our colleagues who have been victims of sexual harassment and assault.

    As we continue the important work of shaping the next generation, ECE-RJ strengthens our commitment to educating, inspiring and uplifting our communities, so that equitable treatment and a safe work environment will be the only acceptable option for all people in our society.

    Please also read the statement from the Union for Reform Judaism.

    March 22, 2019



  • 02 Mar 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Twelve Exciting Months, Many Things Accomplished

    Dear Friends, 

    What an exciting journey we have been on this year since our adventure to Israel in February 2018.

    North American Board Meetings
    In early June 2018, Tricia Ginis (Executive Director) and I attend the URJ North American Board meeting in Austin, TX. We were witness to the URJ becoming the first religious organization to formally adopt the Jerusalem Program, the official policy platform of the World Zionist Congress Adopting the platform serves to identify the Reform Movement formally and explicitly as a Zionist movement. 

    URJ – ECE-RJ Collaboration
     In December, Tricia and I attended the meeting in Arizona. We were proud to collaborate with the Families with Young Children  North American Board r epresentatives (and friends), Judi Goozh and Connell Saltzman, to present on the amazing work that the FWYC team is doing and to share the sacred partnership between their team and ECE-RJ. Tricia and I spoke about the benefits of ECE-RJ membership, including the Sparks of Judaism class that Nancy Bossov is leading for our members. Tricia also shared information about the consulting work she does with congregations (including job placement and visioning work) and our members (including contract negotiations). 

    Board Installation and Focus Groups
    Later in June, the ECE-RJ Board gathered in Cleveland. In front of my congregation, clergy, family, co-workers and friends I was installed as president of the ECE-RJ. During the board meeting, we conducted our first member focus group with four directors and six teachers from the Cleveland area.  We hosted the second focus group with three directors from the Phoenix area. These focus groups have been a wonderful opportunity to get to know our members more intimately. 

    Rabbi Aaron Panken Memorial Scholarship
    We created The Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism Rabbi Aaron Panken Memorial Scholarship. Mary Passel and Susie Wexler are the first two recipients of the scholarship.  Both are pursuing Executive Master’s Degree from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

    URJ Pay Equity Committee
    Jennie Rubin, Immediate Past President, represented ECE-RJ on the URJ’s Pay Equity Committee, to look into gender pay gap issues. Since 99.9 percent of early childhood education (ECE) professionals are women, there were no data to review. However, they did find a great disparity in how ECE professionals are compensated. In response, ECE-RJ will now post salary ranges, when communicating about salary. 

    New ECE-RJ Board Members
    Jennie Rubin served as the chairperson for this year’s ECE-RJ Nominating Committee. The other committee members were Jill Cimafonte, Amy Damast and Carol Paster. Together, they diligently interviewed candidates and created a slate  of  Susie Weiner, Michigan (VP Administration) and Pam Ranta, California (VP Finance).


    The Woman of Valor and The March Newman Shomrei Awards
     This year, we awarded the following awards to deserving members of ECE-RJ.

    The Woman of Valor award to Carol Paster
    “As a Founding Member, your continuous dedication and assistance has guided our organization in many ways by serving on several Nominating Committees, documenting through photography  our journeys and time together, and providing creative professional development and support to our members”. 

    The Marc Newman Shomrei Or award to Louise Van Schaack
     “For all of the hard work and dedication that you give to the organization, chairing the committee that did extensive and important work on the by-laws and volunteering for many committees and willing to help wherever needed."

    As you can see, we have been working hard, and we are looking forward to 2019 and all of the exciting agenda in front of us.




  • 02 Mar 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    Planning For Your Future is Extremely Important

    If you are a Director or Assistant Director member of ECE-RJ you have access to the Reform Pension Board (RPB). At the recent 2019 San Antonio conference, Alyce Gunn, Chief Financial Officer at RPB, shared some information with our attendees that I thought was important to share.

    Did you know?

    1. If someone is eligible to participate in the RPB (i.e., ECE-RJ member, Director of Education, working for URJ congregation), the person can participate regardless of whether their employer makes an employer contribution.  Employees can contribute their own money via elective salary deferrals up to the IRS maximum annual amount, which for the 2019 calendar year is $25,000.  The only requirement is that the employer would have to send the money to the RPB on the employee’s behalf since contributions must be made as part of payroll (i.e., employees cannot send  money directly, like they would to an IRA).
    2. The RPB offers employees the ability to contribute elective deferrals on either a pre-tax basis (traditional) or a post-tax (Roth) basis.  The advantage to making Roth contributions is that contributions and earnings will be tax-free in retirement.  Roth 403(b) plans are not subject to compensation maximums like Roth IRAs are, and they have higher contribution maximums than IRAs.
    3. The RPB recently undertook a fee benchmarking study which showed that its fees are very competitive.  90% of other 403(b) retirement plans are more expensive to participate in than the RPB, whether looking at administrative fees or investment fees (which are often embedded in a fund’s daily price).  Fees can be a detractor to long term performance/growth; they matter when comparing plans.  This is important when choosing between the RPB plan and an alternate plan offered by the congregation for their general staff.
    4. The Reform Jewish Values Fund – the only socially responsible fund in the market using the resolutions of the CCAR, URJ and CSA-RJ as the basis for investments – is only available through the RPB’s plan.
    5. The RPB’s investment line-up ranges from professionally managed, diversified funds to self-directed Vanguard index funds.  All funds track well to their performance benchmarks.
    6. Employees who contribute at a rate of 10% or more of their compensation (combined employer and employee contributions), automatically receive up to $50,000 of group term life insurance and $30,000 of accidental death & dismemberment insurance at no extra cost.  Employees whopurchase LTD insurance also qualify for free contribution insurance which ensures that the employer contribution continues to be made to their retirement account while out on disability (after the requisite waiting period is met).
    7. The RPB plan is portable from one Reform congregation to another.  There is no requirement that participants roll their money out of the RPB if they stop working in the Reform Movement  retire, however they are unable to make additional contributions.  RPB can hold and service a participant’s money through their entire life, if they wish.
    8. RPB offers very personalized service, especially in retirement.  Their customer service team knows participants by name and will take the time to discuss whatever issues might be on one’s mind.  The only thing the RPB cannot do is provide investment or tax advice to a participant.

  • 11 Feb 2019 by Tricia Ginis

    Soon after arriving home from San Antonio, I found myself sitting in my office with the lights off staring into space. I had an overwhelming sense of fulfillment, both personally and professionally. My mind began to wander. I first thought about all the great experiences we had in Texas. For some reason, I started to remember specific details like the inspirational notes written on bananas, creating Peace Flags, the music of Shira Kline, and the bus trip from Dallas to San Antonio

    Then it hit me. Those great experiences and everything else that occurred did not happen by accident. It took a year’s worth of strategizing, planning, executing and coordinating. Imagine how many (wo)man-hours it took to come up with a theme, locate and book a hotel, find keynote speakers, set up 27 different breakout sessions, develop webpages and emails, plan and coordinate meals (including  addressing special dietary needs), plan Shabbat and Havdalah services, set up and run registration, provide nightly gifts like lavender oil, and the list goes on and on.

    It was a total group effort, with many, many people helping out. Numerous sub-committees comprised of dedicated volunteers ironed out and pieced together all of the many details. The countless volunteer hours of intentional planning and hard work made the conference a meaningful experience.  

    While there are so many people to thank, let me just say that it was a pleasure working collaboratively with April Schafer, VP of Conferences and Biennials, and Fern Katz, First Vice President, for their vision and leadership throughout the entire process.

    For those who attended, I hope you left the conference feeling renewed and refreshed, and with the tools and mindset to bring Peace in our Time to your family, community, congregation, school, and students.

  • 11 Feb 2019 by Lori Kowit

    Dear Friends,

     I want to share with you a portion of my President’s report from the 2019 Annual Plenary Meeting at the San Antonio Conference.

    “Many of us know the impact that this amazing organization has on our personal and professional lives. Fifteen years ago, I was working as the part time assistant director of an independent Jewish ECE.  The school was struggling, enrollment was declining, and we were renting space - we knew we needed to make a change.  My sister-in-law was president of the parent council and sat on the board of The Temple-Tifereth Israel. She began to work closely with Rabbi Richard Block, the Executive Director, the board and the Director of Educator, Debbie Neiderman on an acquisition of Ganon Gil.

    The Temple called upon the help and support of the URJ (which was brilliant), and Nancy Bossov, Director, Early Childhood Education came to Cleveland to work with the school and the Temple on this new venture. Nancy suggested, or shall I say insisted, that I become a member of ECE-RJ. A few years later, I attended my first conference in San Diego, CA.

    OMG, what??? Travel to CA by myself and attend a conference not knowing anyone besides Nancy. I was terrified!  Fast forward many years, I stand here today as the President of this amazing organization, and I look out at all of you, and Nancy and Debbie are here, wow what an amazing feeling this is!”

    I am honored to serve as the President of ECE-RJ. I have personally grown as a leader, and I have been able to meet so many amazing colleagues and visit many cities nationally and internationally, including Israel. Thank you to those who have guided me and those who I have met along my journey.


    With pride and love… L’Shalom,


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