Two years ago, JCC Association identified early childhood education and family engagement as a key priority in service to JCCs. Recent grants from The Crown Family and the Covenant Foundation will go toward creating the Sheva Center to address this.
The Sheva Center will be the first of its kind, and will focus on engaging families on Jewish journeys, which is essential to building a healthy school community. The Center will also nurture and train early childhood directors so that they can share their vision of Jewish life for children and families. A third area will be to create high quality early learning experiences based on the most current research in order to set the highest standards for all early child education centers in JCCs.
The Center will be under the direction and vision of Mark Horowitz, JCC Association vice president, early childhood education and family engagement. The Center’s continental advisory board, which is in formation includes JCC Association Board members: Chair Thomas A. Mandel, Akron; Maxine Freilich, Stamford, past board member and former chair, early childhood excellence task force; Paul Gillis, Denver; Ann P. Kaufman, Houston; Veronica Maravankin, early childhood director of the Greater Palm Beaches and Bobbi Samuels, president of the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC in Houston’s board of directors.
Specific outcomes of this three-year venture are to actively engage 75 percent of our ECE programs in Sheva learning communities, bringing the total of participating JCCs to 100. Additionally, more than 250 of our early childhood leaders, including directors, assistant directors and senior program staff, will be participating in The Center’s myriad professional development programs. In the next three years, JCC Association will focus efforts on training and developing current and new directors who will benefit from The Center’s intensive leadership training program.
JCC Association’s early childhood staff developed and implemented Sheva, its early learning framework exclusive to JCCs. Since 2013, this initiative has been highly successful in meeting our primary goals of raising the level of excellence in early childhood education programs offered by JCCs and serving as educational leaders in the field.
Sheva has served as an agent for change and growth in the 70-plus participating centers, creating a number of professional development opportunities for staff. Better trained professionals and well-run programs in turn, exponentially benefit our preschool students and enhance the reputation of our schools. This will significantly broaden the work already underway and will transform the field of Jewish early childhood education.