IN THE NEWS: Jewish Early Childhood Educators Gather for Conference

Randall P. Lieberman, Staff Writer

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Sep 3, 2014

Nancy Goldstein is in her 18th year as director of the Ruth and Edward Taubman Early Childhood Center at B'nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton.

As a seasoned early childhood administrator, Goldstein felt the 2014 South Palm Beach County Jewish Early Childhood Educators' Conference — held on Monday, Aug. 25 at Congregation B'nai Israel in Boca Raton — was a great success.

"The conference provided technological information as well as stressing personal involvement," Goldstein said. "Early childhood educators need both of these things to prepare today's children for the world we live in."

The conference included almost 200 Jewish early childhood educators from five of the seven preschools in the area served by the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County (two had conflicts with the first day of school). The conference title was: "The 'Growing' Years — Building Strong Foundations — Helping our Children Succeed."

The other participating Boca Raton pre-schools include: Betty & Marvin Zale Early Childhood Learning Center at the Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center; Early Childhood Center at Torah Academy of Boca Raton; Maurice A. Halperin Torah Tots Early Childhood Center at the Chabad of Boca Raton; and Nadel Center for Early Childhood Education at Congregation B'nai Israel.

Marilyn Nachman, director of school educational services for the Federation's Department of Jewish Education (the co-sponsor of the conference along with the Council of Early Childhood Directors of South Palm Beach County), said: "We are well aware of the importance of Jewish early childhood education in keeping our Jewish community strong in the future."

The first of two major sessions for the whole group in the temple's sanctuary was a Skype lesson by Emily Teck explaining the newly-revised website for Jewish educators, http://www.jewishlearningmatters.com. Teck is the director of development for JewishLearningMatters.com, a project sponsored by the Jack and Harriet Rosenfeld Foundation at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development.

Teck explained that JewishLearningMatters.com "supports educators to easily locate and access quality educational resources, provide professional development opportunities and deepen knowledge and expertise as educators interact with one another. JLM is your go-to site when searching for ideas, books, songs, videos, lesson plans, videos, projects, crafts and educators' resource pages."

The next major session was titled "Talking to Young Children About Israel: As Israel Shields its Citizens How Do We Shield Our Children?" The session was led by three social workers from Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services of South Palm Beach County: Shlomit Karasik, Esther Lupin and Dianne Matthew.

The JFS social workers role-played various scenes to stress that children are deeply affected by what the adults in their lives (parents and teachers) are focusing on. The social workers encouraged teachers to find out their school's policies about talking to children about what's going on in Israel, as well as to simply validate what the children are feeling without going into too much detail.

Nachman said: "With all the technology and social media, children of this generation are aware of what's going on in the outside world more than ever before. It's a very difficult time right now for Israel and our Jewish educators have to be able to talk to children in a developmentally appropriate way that calms them."

The remainder of the conference consisted of two break-out sessions each for teachers of 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and pre-K students.

Teachers of 2- and 3-year-olds were taught one session apiece by occupational therapist Mandy Hurwitz ("Red Flags — Time to Refer"), and speech and language pathologist Dr. Renai Jonas ("What's Next: Speech and Language Development").

Teachers of pre-K students worked two sessions with educator Debbie Brown titled: "Phonemic Awareness and the Connection to the Alphabetic Principle."

First-time participant Elana Sudai, a new teacher of 2-year-olds at the Zale Early Childhood Learning Center, really enjoyed the conference.

Sudai said: "I was really glad that everyone was so pro-Israel. I am very connected to Israel and thought it was important to have a pro-Israel message for a group of Jewish educators."

For more information about the conference, or to get in touch with any of the presenters, contact Nachman at marilynn@bocafed.org or 561-852-3218.

Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) provides help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, career & employment services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Funding is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year. For more information about JFS call 561-852-3333. Learn more at www.ralesjfs.org.

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