The Jewish Community Board of Akron exists to sustain and enhance Jewish life. With the funds it raises from the Annual Campaign, it helps support Akron’s other Jewish agencies, programming and services. This article is first in a series of stories that illustrate the impact of these organizations—and therefore, the impact of your campaign contributions.
“The preschool years are some of the most fun times to explore being Jewish,” says Hanna Lemerman. As parents to three-year old Noah, she and husband Joshua enrolled their son in the Shaw JCC’s Early Childhood Education program last summer.
To the Lemermans, the reliability, nurturing environment, and opportunities for other activities at the Shaw JCC—like swimming, gymnastics and music—were important aspects about the ECE program. They also valued learning about Jewish life.
“One of the special features of the ECE program is its ability to be the locus of such activity,” says Kathy Klein, Director of the Shaw JCC ECE program. “We have teachers who are, in many cases, the first teachers of Judaism a child encounters after their parents. Most recently, we have focused on staff education, implementing a new Jewish curriculum, Fingerprints, throughout the school, so we present a consistent perspective which grows with the child, as they construct their own understanding of Jewish values and observances.”
Already, the Lemermans’ son Noah “has learned about Shabbat, can say some blessings, and is familiar with Hanukkah and other holiday traditions,” says Hanna. He “is excited to be involved and participate in Shabbat and Hanukkah–which is really nice.”
The Shaw JCC’s ECE program stresses more than Jewish holidays and traditions. “Enduring Jewish values and traditions are integrated throughout the curriculum,” notes Klein. “Whether we are discussing a holiday observance or Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), we want our students to play an active part, to believe that every member of our school community has an important part to play.”
“Each child in our classroom not only learns about values, but every month has had the opportunity to put those values into action as part of our ongoing Mitzvot project,” says Klein. “We see our students mediating lessons about values through active participation in both the Jewish and secular communities.”
“We liked the community and values a Jewish preschool fosters,” says Hanna. They “are excited that Noah will have an appreciation of being Jewish from an early age.”
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