Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism: A WRJ YES Fund Grantee

December 27, 2022Julia Weinstein

In early November, I drove from Los Angeles to San Diego to attend the 2022 Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ) Conference. Women of Reform Judaism had awarded ECE-RJ a YES Fund grant, and I was excited to engage with this impressive network of professionals. I joined as a presenter during their lunch to share more about WRJ’s YES Fund.

Luckily, I arrived early enough to attend a morning workshop called “Harnessing the Power of Virtues and Character Strengths,” led by Brandi Cartwright from Shirlee Green Preschool in St. Louis, Missouri. Brandi described a values-based curriculum with concrete examples and tips on incorporating Jewish values into all aspects of the preschool experience. Her workshop was informative and inspiring - I wished my kids had gone to her school! I was equally impressed with the depth of the convention workshop lineup; I wish I could have attended them all.

As the WRJ lunch speaker, I shared the power of WRJ’s YES Fund with all the attendees- further connecting the grant-making with the grantees. I had fun describing WRJ’s earliest days using archival images and anecdotes. The audience was surprised (and a bit grossed out!) when I mentioned that in 1913, WRJ (then National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods) was founded by women who washed their hair once a week with egg yolks or borax! Fun historical fact! 

I went on to talk about WRJ’s outstanding accomplishments over the course of its 100+ year history, from promoting the role of women in synagogue life, to advocating for equality and justice, to developing new leaders, as well as supporting Jewish communities, and promoting Jewish values. Afterward, the room buzzed with excitement and energy as educators from across North America introduced themselves to each other, played Jewish geography, and compared workshop notes.

Lisa Samick, president of ECE-RJ, shared that “more than 225 early childhood educators joined the four-day, in-person immersive experience. It truly transformed every participant. Attendees had the opportunity to dive deeper into their own philosophy and practice and to expand their school’s capacity to grow creativity. The YES grant, provided by WRJ, allowed us to make this conference financially viable for ALL directors and educators who wanted to attend.” And Tricia Ginis, executive director of ECE-RJ added: “ECE-RJ was thrilled to have been selected to be a recipient of the WRJ YES Grant. The grant money was extremely helpful in making this year’s conference accessible for members of Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism. It is our goal to support the work of early childhood educators and provide them with a network of colleagues who they can rely on and who have a deep understanding of the work that they do. I can’t think of a better way to be part of a supportive community than coming together to reimagine, reconnect and rebound through intentional learning opportunities, spiritual growth, and connection.”

It was clear to me that WRJ’s grant to the ECE-RJ 2022 Conference was the best investment for the future of our children. Having spent those few hours with these awesome, enthusiastic, dedicated educators, I know that our youngest kids are in good hands. They are learning and growing Jewishly from nurturing, loving, committed teachers who are supported by their peers and by the professional resources offered by the ECE-RJ. These are the partnerships that the YES Fund makes possible and uphold the values of all of us at WRJ.

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