A growing multi-denominational effort dubbed “BUILDing Jewish ECE,” led by the Denver-based Rose Community Foundation, is seeking to help synagogue and Jewish Community Center (JCC) early childhood education centers increase enrollment as well as improve their engagement with Jewish families and communities.
The initiative—whose current partners, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the JCC Association of North America, will be joined by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) this summer—provides participating synagogues and JCCs with a “toolbox of resources” for long-term growth.
The “toolbox,” which the initiative says amounts to a $92,000 value per institution, consists of website, social media, and search engine optimization audits; new software and database support; and a “mystery shopper program” to test a center’s effectiveness when a parent inquires about or visits a school, among other items. Participating Jewish institutions also receive ongoing coaching, training, and guidance from URJ, JCC Association, and USCJ experts as well as others.
“We must bring families into Jewish communities at formative stages of their lives and their children’s development,” said Lisa Farber Miller, senior program officer at the Rose Community Foundation. “The JCC Association, URJ, and USCJ recognize the importance of early childhood education and family engagement and that is why—for the first time ever—they are working so closely together.”
Two URJ synagogues and two JCCs comprise the initiative’s current cohort, which was launched in July of 2014. Five other synagogues, including two Conservative congregations, will be part of the second cohort.
According to a 2012 economic study supported by the Colorado Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative Steering Committee, if Jewish early childhood education centers in the Denver/Boulder area were operating at best-practice standards, the revenue of their congregations and JCCs could increase $720,000 annually—an average of 11 percent.
“The research is as clear as can be—everyone benefits when ECE (early childhood education) centers and directors are resourced, supported and offered training and coaching that addresses all aspects of their operations,” said Cathy Rolland, director of engaging families with young children at the URJ. “BUILDing Jewish ECE takes the best practices from the secular business world, particularly marketing, enrollment conversion, and customer service, and helps apply them to ECE and family engagement.”