ElevatEd: A New Initiative to Transform Early Childhood Jewish Education
September 8th, 2023
Early childhood Jewish education (ECJE) is critical for developing minds, engaging young Jewish families, and ensuring the Jewish community’s health today and in the future. For ECJE to succeed, the field needs to urgently address the shortage of early childhood educators, while also resourcing and supporting them throughout their careers. ElevatEd, a groundbreaking collaborative initiative from JCC Association of North America, Jewish Federations of North America, and the Union for Reform Judaism, aims to transform ECJE with a far-reaching strategy to attract, train, and support more educators in the field. In the new initiative, known formerly as Project-412, these three prominent Jewish organizations will collaborate with funders, practitioners, educators, and community leaders to address the critical educator shortage and work to expand the field of early childhood Jewish education in North America.
In total, the JCC Movement and Reform Movement operate 475 early childhood centers serving more than 65,000 young children and their families across the country. Tens of thousands more remain on long waiting lists or simply choose not to even try due to the shortage of educators. The three-year ElevatEd pilot will focus on 14 pioneer communities across 14 states, with a goal of recruiting, training, and credentialing up to 30 educators in each community, amounting to more than 400 emerging early childhood educators in total. ElevatEd launched in the summer of 2023 with five initial communities: Boston, Massachusetts; Denver-Boulder, Colorado; East Bay, California; Houston, Texas; and Long Island, New York. With these new educators, ElevatEd hopes to leverage ECJE as a driver of deeper and longer-term family engagement in meaningful Jewish life. The educators will work in JCCs, synagogues across all denominations, and a diverse collection of other Jewish educational settings that reflect the unique demographic makeup of their area.
CJP is incredibly proud to join several other Federations in supporting ElevatEd on a local level. In Boston, we believe that a focus on families with young children has the potential to transform our communities and a critical component of this work is support for early childhood education and educators. Together with our early childhood education partners, we are working to identify and tackle challenges and make the most of important opportunities such as this one. We are tremendously excited about ElevatEd’s new approach to boosting early childhood Jewish education and look forward to all of the benefits it will bring young families and our community.
– Marc Baker, President and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), Boston’s Jewish Federation
With the new school year underway, participating emerging educators in cohort one will soon start their year of learning, 18 months of mentorship support, and will receive funds to support their work toward a credential in early childhood education. Equally important, mid-career educators in each ElevatEd school also receive a stipend and will participate in a research-based mentor training program in partnership with the Jewish New Teacher Project to support the emerging educators in their schools.
The second cohort of communities will launch in early 2024 and help cement the long-term model for improving ECJE and making it more widely available. Each pioneer community will pair their own funding alongside a substantial initial investment from philanthropic foundations, which will build a long-term financial model for improvement and growth. To provide the foundation for the year of learning, ElevatEd is partnering with nationally recognized educational experts, Teaching Beyond the Square and the K’ilu Company, for the general and Judaic studies framework for emerging educators, respectively.
We need a national strategy to address systemic challenges in the early childhood Jewish landscape, which is why we are excited to launch ElevatEd, a groundbreaking partnership to address these issues on a national scale in the Jewish community.
– Sasha Kopp, senior director of education and engagement, ElevatEd
The launch of ElevatED is an ambitious and timely development for ECJE that reflects the urgent, large-scale needs of the field. Early childhood Jewish educators are integral to thriving Jewish life–they nurture children, families, and their Jewish communities. With this expansive effort to recruit, train, credential, and mentor ECJE educators, more families will have opportunities to engage in Jewish communal life.
This collaborative approach among national partners, national and local funders, and key stakeholders in each local community also reflects a powerful, shared vision of meaningful ECJE accessible to all. To shed light on the program’s impact, Rosov Consulting will measure its outcomes. Through iteration and experimentation, ElevatEd plans to use this pilot phase to become a long-term model for the growth of ECJE and for powerful ECJE experiences led by talented educators.
ElevatEd is a pilot initiative funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, and the Samuels Family Foundation, as well as from local Federations, foundations, and local philanthropists in each pioneer community. Visit elevatedtogether.org for more information.
Top picture: Representatives from Houston’s JCC, Federation, and the URJ at ElevatEd’s first retreat Sept. 6 discussed how to leverage the time that families spend in ECJE to connect them deeply with the greater Houston Jewish community for lifelong engagement and learning.