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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