What’s so Special about Jewish Preschool?

As I was finishing up shopping at a department store recently, I heard a squeaky voice belting out “Shabbat Shalom.” No, it was not Friday – it was midweek, and I was curious as to who was serenading me and the other customers. As it turns out, it was a preschooler who attends our local Jewish preschool. Her mom said she sings it now and then, sometimes quietly as she’s playing with her toys, and other times, like this time, with gusto. I chatted with her mom, who told me that “Jewish preschool has been great for Sadie. She has experienced Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, learned how to explore art and building materials and has made friends. But the REAL reason we love it is because it’s also for me. Since enrolling Sadie last fall, I have made fast friends and now have a community that I belong to. They’re my west coast Jewish family.”

This is a familiar story. We know that early childhood is a critical time for children to develop their identity. Excellent Early Childhood Education programs stimulate curiosity, as well as intellectual, emotional, and social growth. And Jewish early childhood programs offer Jewish a curriculum that is gentle, multi-dimensional, and joyous. Yes, joy. It’s the secret sauce of a Jewish early childhood program that sticks with each child long after their earliest years. It punctuates a world that is increasingly digital and less personal, and balances educational settings that have become more about testing than expressing. And joy is contagious. Parents experience this joy as they meet other parents and form their own communities of families – places where they belong, with people they are connected to and, for many, will be connected to for many years.

When we sing “Shabbat shalom” at my house, I often recall Sadie and how this song has become the soundtrack of her preschool years. Jewish preschool is a gift – a gift of education, community, and belonging.

Check out your local Jewish preschool this fall for enrollment in 2018-2019. You will be welcomed with open arms.

Janet Harris is the Federation’s director of Early Child Education.

The Federation's Early Childhood Education Initiative (ECEI) focuses on engaging Bay Area Jewish families with young children in meaningful Jewish life and community. The ECEI was launched in 2007 in response to the 2006 JESNA study that highlighted the importance of early childhood Jewish education as a gateway for family engagement. Learn More


July 27, 2017