Congratulations to Bay Area's ECE Initiative Director, Janet Harris!

“Educating young children and their families is the beginning of a link that will connect them to their past and future.  We, as a community, have to work together and own the problem so the youngest children get the best education possible. “ 

~Janet Harris, Director of the Early Childhood Education Initiative

On May 7th 2009, Janet Harris, Director of the Early Childhood Education Initiative, was presented with the “Guardian of Tradition” award,  given annually by the Center for Jewish Living and Learning to honor an outstanding East Bay Jewish educator. Rabbi James Brandt, Cheif Executive Officer of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, presented Janet with this distinguished award in recognition of Janet’s dedication and leadership in Jewish education for over the past 35 years. In Janet’s acceptance speech, she highlighted the critical need to improve early childhood education in the Bay Area which she is currently focusing on through the Early Childhood Education Initiative (ECEI).  The ECEI was launched in 2007 by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin & Sonoma Counties in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay and the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley to advocate for and support Early Childhood Jewish Education in the Bay Area. The Early Childhood Education Initiative has already accomplished a tremendous amount under Janet’s leadership.   Since ECEI’s inception in the summer of 2007, a strategic plan has been created that emphasized consensus-building with over 150 stake-holders involved in the planning process and a business plan is being developed.  The ECEI has made great strides in four key focus areas:

  • Professional Development:  Thanks to the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, the ECEI has partnered with Gratz College to customize an Online Program in Early Childhood Jewish Education for the first cohort of educators in the Bay Area to receive their Certificate in Early Childhood Jewish Education.
  • Connecting with Families: Thanks to the Jim Joseph Foundation, all three Bay Area Federations have received funding to expand The PJ Library®, a program that provides free Jewish books and music to families with young children.  The Jewish Community Endowment Fund has given additional support for PJ Library family programming called Beyond the Books.  In addition, the Endowment Fund has provided support for Parenting Matters: Jewish Wisdom for Mindful Parenting, a parenting class for families that explores Jewish text while focusing on parenting skills.
  • Standards of Excellence: With a generous grant from the Jewish Community Endowment Fund to the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE),  the ECEI has helped to guide in the development of Standards of Excellence for our Early Childhood Jewish Education sites in the San Francisco Federation Service Area.  The Focus on Excellence Project is led by Ellen Brosbe, Early Childhood Education Specialist at the BJE.
  • Compensation & Finance: With enormous strides in the professional development arena, the ECEI is hoping to improve compensation and finance for early childhood Jewish educators through a focus on professional development and raising standards of excellence within Early Childhood Jewish Education (ECJE) sites.

Janet has also played an important role in the distribution of emergency scholarship funds given generously by the Jim Joseph Foundation to ECJE sites in all three Bay Area regions in response to the tough economic climate that we are all currently facing. The ECEI continues to move forward under the leadership and vision of Janet. She is an inspiration to all she works with and to the families she advocates for. It is a fitting honor that the Center for Jewish Living and Learning selected her as the recipient of the prestigious "Guardian of Tradition" award this year.

Mazel Tov, Janet!


May 28, 2009


The Federation