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.