The Davidson School of JTS and HUC-JIR Awarded Major Grant to Launch Early Childhood Education

The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) have received a grant from The Crown Family to launch a Chicago based cohort of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI). This is the first regionally focused offering of the JECELI program, which has successfully engaged new and aspiring leaders in intensive Jewish study and early childhood education leadership development on a national level with a founding grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. Participants learn how to help children and families find meaning in texts and ritual, create strong professional relationships using concepts from Judaism, and gain tools to build community in their programs and institutions.

“Jewish early childhood education is the place where parents rediscover their Judaism, and where their children explore and create lifelong Jewish memories,” says Dr. Bill Robinson, dean of The Davidson School. “This happens when early childhood centers have creative and competent Jewish leadership. The Chicago community is pioneering a communal-wide approach that we believe will not only build leadership for Chicago, but also our collective Jewish future.” 

The two-year program will launch this fall and will work closely with the Chicago Early Engagement Leadership Initiative.

“Early Childhood Education programs can be a gateway into Jewish life when they are led by outstanding educational leaders,” states Dr. Michael Zeldin, professor of Jewish Education and senior national director of the Schools of Education at HUC-JIR. “JECELI is a proven program whose graduates become the outstanding early childhood education leaders of the future.  Thanks to the vision and generosity of The Crown Family, JECELI will now be able to help a cohort of Chicago-based early childhood educators develop the leadership capacities and Jewish knowledge to transform the programs they lead into powerful gateways.”

The Davidson School is the largest multidenominational school of Jewish education in North America, granting masters and doctoral degrees and providing professional development to educators currently in the field. Drawing upon cutting-edge thinking in both Jewish and general education, its pedagogy emphasizes experiential education, is informed by best practices and new developments in teaching, and engenders leadership in a variety of educational settings from day schools to summer camps, Jewish community centers to congregational schools, Israel experiences to environmental education, and early childhood to adult Jewish learning.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America’s first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths at its campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York.