The Davidson School at JTS and the HUC-JIR School of Education Awarded Major Grant to Renew Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Program in Chicago

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), in partnership with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion School of Education, will launch a second Chicago-based cohort of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI) with renewed support from The Crown Family. This model program recently graduated a cohort of 17 Jewish early childhood educators. The program develops leadership in programs for young children and their families, which in turn strengthens the Jewish community. The program offers intensive Jewish study and leadership development. Participants will 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 young adults, now 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 continuing to support a communal-wide approach that we believe not only builds leadership for Chicago and the immediate area, but also our collective Jewish future.” 

The two-year program will begin recruitment this summer and will work closely with other Jewish early childhood education initiatives in the greater Chicago area. The program will also be launched in other cities in coming years.

“Having children is a life-altering experience that prompts so many adults to seek guidance, purpose, and community,” states Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, National Director, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion School of Education. “Early childhood educators are positioned to be the gatekeepers for meaningful Jewish living, community-weaving, and belonging for young children and their parents. JECELI instills the skill set, Jewish knowledge, and confidence that early childhood Jewish educators need to become leaders. The vision and generosity of The Crown Family will enable JECELI to continue to work with Chicago-based early childhood educators to transform the programs they lead into truly powerful experiences.”

The Davidson School of JTS 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. The Davidson School’s Leadership Commons is a new center driven by a mission to cultivate talented thinkers, doers, and visionaries in Jewish education through intensive leadership training, research, and networking.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of Jewish higher 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. The School of Education is committed to transforming Jewish life through the cultivation of talented, creative, adaptive leadership for the field of Jewish education and through the dissemination of thought leadership, research, and analysis.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading 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. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu