To deepen the connection between educational professionals in North America and the land of Israel, 23 early childhood educators from 23 JCCs attended JCC Association’s Early Childhood Education Leadership Seminar in Israel from March 9-20. The program was designed to enhance one of the essential core elements of Sheva: JCCs of North America Early Learning Framework : “Israel as the Story of the Jewish People.”
The trip was designed to be a leadership study seminar, giving participants a hands-on opportunity to study with scholars in Israel in early childhood education and development, crisis management, children’s literature, spiritual development of children and more.
Participants spent time at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, where they learned about the “junkyard playground,” an outdoor play area was invented at this kibbutz in the 1940s that allows children to construct knowledge and invent with every-day, castoff objects.
Throughout the leadership seminar, participants visited matnas (community centers) and preschool programs, getting ideas about the similarities and differences between their own JCC programs and Israeli ones. Visits included the YMCA Peace preschool for Jewish, Christian and Arab children, an Orthodox Jewish early childhood program and a Reform movement preschool.
They focused on the spiritual life of the child, visited an interactive Bible museum, and visited Beit Issie Shapiro, a center for children with special needs, to see Israel’s first accessible and inclusive playground. The trip spanned 11 days over the festive holiday of Purim, and included Shabbat, allowing the group to experience the day of rest in the Jewish homeland. And, of course, no trip would be complete without some sightseeing through the Old City of Jerusalem.