In 2004 a group of leading philanthropists joined forces to launch JECEI, the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative. Their vision: to increase the number of families sending their children to high quality Jewish early childhood centers and to inspire them to become involved in Jewish life both during and long after the school experience has ended.
JECEI's founders and practitioners understood that educational excellence is the deciding variable for parents in determining where to send their children to school. Similarly, they understood that new parents are in transition, examining their relationships to culture and community, and open to new pathways. As such, parents of young Jewish children represent a largely untapped, unmatched asset. Too often, families with young Jewish children miss the opportunity to participate in a Jewish early childhood program. Even when they do enroll, the program often fails to engage them in a significant way.
JECEI was formed to change that dynamic. The idea was to work directly with Jewish Early Childhood Centers (ECE) to create an educational and social environment that would be welcoming to all Jewish families, including unaffiliated and interfaith families, and transform existing early childhood centers into high quality educational centers with active family participation. With an educational approach distinguished by a unique blending of the founding principles of the Reggio Emilia schools and Jewish content, JECEI would advance educational excellence at each center. By infusing classroom activities with Jewish ideas, the centers would reach children at an age when they are most receptive to learning.
We take great pride in what we have accomplished. JECEI has inspired families to integrate Jewish ideals into their daily lives by leveraging excellent secular and Jewish education with intelligent, carefully- designed outreach to parents, acting as a gateway to lifelong Jewish engagement. Specifically JECEI has:
- Created a model for excellent Jewish early childhood education, which has been validated in peer-reviewed academic articles and by independent research
- Engaged about 6,000 families, 8,000 children, 1,000 teachers and 32 Jewish early childhood schools
- Constructed a data-driven system allowing the impact of the Jewish early childhood program to be measured with tools to be utilized by outside evaluators or through self-assessment.
- Created a rigorous accreditation process that resulted in seven accredited Jewish ECE schools that are models of excellence for their geographic areas.
Although the program will not be maintained with the full model intact, our rigorous research, learning, and ideas are being made available through our Web site.
We are deeply grateful to our national funders: The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life; Jim Joseph Foundation; Harold Grinspoon Foundation; The Edgar Bronfman/ Samuel Bronfman Foundation; Abraham S. Daniel Foundation; Helen Bader Foundation; UJA-FJP of New York; Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of San Francisco; UJA-FJP of New York; Schafer Family Foundation, Covenant Foundation; Marcus and Anne Rosenberg Foundation; Holly and Sam Merrin Foundation; Rosenbloom Foundation; Schultz Family Foundation; Estate of Leonard Pearson; Lizzy Grief , Temma Kingsley and Guela Charitable Trust for their generosity and leadership and for their partnership in advancing our common cause a more vibrant Jewish future.