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  • 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.