Nurturing and spreading the best of the Chicago area's Jewish learning, and welcoming the families of students with special needs, are two of the major themes of the latest round of grants to congregational schools and early childhood centers by the Jewish United Fund's Community Foundation for Jewish Education.
More than $307,000 is being awarded to 25 synagogues, schools and programs to foster best practices, break down barriers to access, and broaden innovative efforts to connect with families with young children. That includes support from the Harvey L. Miller Supporting Foundation, which allows CFJE and its partner, JUF Right Start, to provide additional funds to help Jewish early childhood schools attract more families to Jewish early childhood education.
"With passion and ingenuity, this year's grantees demonstrated that grant funding would enable them to dream, plan and innovate their way toward the highest-quality experiences for children and families," said Anna Hartman, CFJE's director of early childhood excellence. "The grantees distinguish themselves, as well, in their determination to invest in educators and to throw open the doors to welcome new families."
"It's remarkable and inspiring to see that more than 30 percent of the congregation education grants this year will support disabilities inclusion," said Tracy More, JUF's associate vice president for community outreach and engagement. "Our continuing efforts to encourage synagogues and schools to proactively welcome individuals and families with disabilities clearly are drawing a strong, positive response."
This year's grants were awarded to the following congregational education programs:
- Beth Emet the Free Synagogue's B.E. Inclusive program, to expand inclusion training for staff and faculty (Evanston);
- Congregation Beth Judea, to implement a 21 st century Values-Based Judaic curriculum (Long Grove);
- Congregation BJBE's effort to expand the reach of its Inclusion Specialist (Deerfield);
- The Board of Jewish Education's KickStart North 5778 and KickStart Chicago 5778 professional development and networking programs for area educators;
- Congregation Beth Am's "Breaking Out: Using New Methodologies to Teach Traditional Subjects," to create new teaching resources for educators throughout the Chicago area (Buffalo Grove):
- Congregation Knesseth Israel's "Experiencing Jewish Education Fox Valley Style," to improve educator training and expand connections among Jewish families at five small Fox Valley area congregational schools;
- Congregation Etz Chaim, to broaden its Individualized Education Inclusion Program (Lombard);
- Jewish Enrichment Center of Hyde Park's JEC Professional Development Redesign;
- Jewish Family Experience, to enhance its Jewish Holiday Workshops for pre-teens (Deerfield);
- Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, to develop parent engagement efforts that reinforce students' classroom learning (Evanston);
- Keshet, for professional development that expands its religious programming for teens and adults with disabilities;
- Mishkan Chicago, for professional training that will enable staff and students to develop a new, responsive curriculum;
- North Shore Congregation Israel and Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism, to introduce the Dvash Hebrew reading program (Glencoe/Highland Park);
- Oak Park Temple Religious School, to professionalize its existing informal inclusion program;
- Congregation Or Shalom, to reframe its post-b'nai mitzvah education program for teens (Vernon Hills); and
- Temple Jeremiah, to expand its experiential learning experiences for families (Northfield).
Early childhood education grants were awarded to:
- Akiba-Schechter Day School, to designate a veteran teacher as a guide for the faculty to promote innovative visual arts practices as part of the Reggio approach (Hyde Park);
- Board of Jewish Education at Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah, to form a cohort of educators who will study together toward lead teacher certification (Wilmette);
- Board of Jewish Education at Bnai Tikvah, for a Shabbat Chavura program to encourage families to discover the joy of celebrating Shabbat in their homes and to strengthen relationships among families (Deerfield);
- Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim's Early Childhood Program at the Chava Center, for evaluating the feasibility of and identifying steps toward greater inclusion of children with special needs in its early childhood program (Deerfield);
- Dr. Chaim Cember Shaarei Chinuch Day School, to enhance its effort to double enrollment in a new facility by creating a welcoming environment for families (Skokie);
- Emanuel Congregation, to explore new options for serving families with young children (Edgewater);
- Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School, to expand its offerings to include a two-year-old class (Skokie);
- JCC Chicago, to develop a system for professional development that will serve educators across its early childhood programs; and
- Moriah Early Childhood Center, to plan and pilot an initiative to create a leadership pipeline in Jewish early childhood education (Deerfield)