Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI)

The Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI) cultivates talented leadership for the future of the Jewish world. The program brings together new and aspiring directors of Jewish early childhood centers—representing a range of denominations—to develop as organizational leaders and as purpose-driven, spiritual individuals.

Inspired by the beliefs that Jewish early-childhood programs can shape the future of the Jewish community and that for early childhood programs to be successful, they must be shaped by great leaders, this program focuses on intensive Jewish learning, reflective practice, leadership training, and community building. 

How JECELI Enhances Early Education Leaders

The program trains directors to explore Jewish texts and practices for their own learning, to understand and apply leadership techniques through a Jewish lens, to integrate Israel into early childhood programs, and to nurture spiritual development—their own, as well as that of young Jewish learners and families.

Through a combination of interactive seminars, ongoing online collaborative study, and intensive mentoring, participants learn to:

  • Use Jewish concepts to develop leadership styles and education practices, and collaborate effectively.
  • Model reflective practice through observation and dialogue.
  • Set frameworks for curriculum development, particularly in the area of Jewish studies.
  • Manage complex relationships at all organizational levels in order to create a collaborative program culture.
  • Contribute to the field of Jewish early childhood education through advocacy and through their own ongoing learning.

The program is a collaborative endeavor with Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion and designed in consultation with the Bank Street College of Education.

Who Can Participate

JECELI is designed for Jewish early childhood educators who are teacher leaders, aspiring directors, assistant directors, or early career directors (those with fewer than five years of experience).

Applicants should have a BA and have completed some course work in child development to give them an appropriate foundation for their work in JECELI.

Applying to JECELI

For more information about bringing JECELI to your community or region, please contact us at

JECELI Areas of Study

Jewish Learning

The culture of our education programs for young children can and should reflect the values that are central to Judaism. Jewish perspectives on personhood, learning, intentionality, relationships, leadership, and community are the foundation of the JECELI program.

Leadership Development

Developing the strong leadership skills needed to direct Jewish early childhood programs is an essential part of the JECELI program. These skills enable graduates to help children and adults grow and develop their Jewish identities in various contexts of Jewish learning.

Community Building

Graduates of every cohort, as well as those currently enrolled in the program, benefit from the support of the JECELI community. Many members of the community feel that the safety and support of their colleagues empower them to take risks and share outcomes, resulting in tremendous learning for the entire group. This practice encourages collaborative leadership learning and provides a model for participants to bring back to their own communities.

Reflective Practice in a Social Context

Individuals acquire knowledge by integrating it with prior concepts, applying it in recursive opportunities, and revisiting it through intense dialogue in a social context. JECELI offers directors a uniquely intensive Jewish social context that also involves learning with a mentor, implementing new learning with ongoing support, and regular dialogue with the group.