Skip links

Main navigation

JCC Association’s Family Engagement Initiative

Launching Lifelong Commitment to Jewish Identity and Community in a New Generation

One of the most effective ways JCC Association of North America fulfills its mission to advance and enrich Jewish life across the continent is by engaging families—particularly families with young children—which aligns with our beliefs that reaching and engaging Jewish families is critical to their lifelong connection and commitment to Jewish identity and community, and it is our responsibility to provide JCC professionals with tools, resources, and capacity to make families’ engagement with Jewish life and Jewish community a lifelong continuum.

As part of this work, JCC Association’s Engaging Families Working Group is adopting a new methodology of family engagement that seeks to reach the broadest swath of professionals, lay leaders, and members throughout the JCC Movement and effectively involve all of them in attracting and retaining Jewish families in the JCC Movement, a communal tent with Jewish life at its core.

Our approach grew out of a research study, “Exploring Associations Between Jewish Early Care, Education and Engagement, which was conducted by CASJE (Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education) at George Washington University and funded by Crown Family Philanthropies.

This infographic details the CASJE study’s main findings, which revealed that for families with young children, Jewish engagement is multi-dimensional and comprises seven primary factors:

  1. Behaviors related to religious and cultural practices
  2. Attitudes and Values about being Jewish
  3. Institutional Attachment to Jewish organizations, including JCCs
  4. Home Practice of Jewish rituals and traditions
  5. Connection and Interaction in building a personal Jewish community
  6. Jewish Education for children and the family
  7. Finding Meaning by putting a Jewish spin on ordinary, everyday events and activities

Most significantly, it is the study’s implications for practice, also detailed in the infographic, that are driving our newest family engagement endeavors in which we seek to:

  1. Think differently about what engagement in early childhood Jewish education is and is not in today’s world and ensure that our metrics keep pace.
  2. Think broadly and creatively about how to send early childhood Jewish education home with students.
  3. Find more ways to document what family engagement looks like in the realm of early childhood Jewish education and address challenges associated with measuring our success.

By adopting this new family engagement methodology, JCC Association and its Engaging Families Working Group will ensure that professionals throughout our movement have useful tools, resources, and expertise readily available to launch and sustain families on a joyful Jewish journey that not only ensures the evolution, growth, and vitality of the Jewish community but also plants seeds among a new generation of Jews for a lifelong connection and commitment to this community.


Mark Horowitz

Mark Horowitz, a senior vice president for program and talent at JCC Association of North America, supports the working groups for the Sheva Center, Inclusion, Engaging Families, Mandel Center for Jewish Engagement, and Discover CATCH+. He spent most of his career in early childhood Jewish education, and he was the founding executive director of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI). For many years, Horowitz thrived as a teacher for two-year-olds. He was ordained as a cantor by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate in sacred music, and he served synagogues in Connecticut and New York. Horowitz earned graduate degrees in sacred music, the philosophy of education, and early childhood education. He co-founded Yad B’Yad (Hand in Hand), a Buffalo, New York-based outreach and advocacy non-profit organization that promotes inclusion of people with disabilities. He received a special recognition award at the Van Cliburn Foundation’s 2002 International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in Fort Worth, Texas. Horowitz and his family are members of the JCC of Greater Buffalo.

Contact Mark

Sarah Koffler

Sarah Koffler is the director of family engagement/early childhood education specialist at JCC Association of North America. An experienced early childhood Jewish educator, her philosophical beliefs are deeply rooted in constructivist and child-centered learning. She is passionate about supporting educators and professionals in building reflective, meaningful, and intentional experiences for children and their families. Koffler holds a M.S.Ed. in early childhood education from Bank Street College and participated in the first cohort of JCC Association’s Sheva Covenant Directors Institute, a program for emerging early childhood Jewish education leaders. She lives with her husband, Mike, and children, Olivia and Max, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where they are active members at the JCC of Central New Jersey.

Contact Sarah