Early Childhood Jewish & Israel Cultural Ambassador Program Testimonials

The cohort stands with Sharona Israeli Roth, Founding President & Executive Director of EarlyJ and Zehava Dahan, Early Childhood Jewish & Israel Cultural Ambassador program facilitator

“What an honor it was to lead the incredible cohort of EarlyJ educators on their journey through the Ambassador Program in Israel. The care, kindness, and support they displayed, mixed with humor and love, were evident from day one. As we explored early childhood education in Israel, learning from expert and passionate instructors, as well as Israeli preschool educators and students, I witnessed the profound impact our Ambassador Program had on our cohort. EarlyJ and Oranim created a space for: deep exploration, personal and professional growth, inspiration and many “aha” moments, transformation and new understanding of educational methods, building communities within the cohort and with the many people we met along the way, and a new sense of belonging and connections that will deepen and last for years to come.

From our first meeting, Janusz Korczak, the educator and poet, was our inspiration:

הדואג לימים זורע חיטים, הדואג לשנים נוטע עצים, הדואג לדורות מחנך אנשים.

“He who cares for days, sows wheat. He who cares for years, plants trees. He who cares for generations, educates people.”

Zehava Dahan

Early Childhood Jewish & Israel Cultural Ambassador Program Facilitator

Melissa Bitton

Gan B’nai Shalom Preschool, Walnut Creek

“Being a Jewish Early Childhood educator, the profound impact of my experience in EarlyJ has been truly transformative. Through exploring history, new ideas, and deepening our understanding of education systems, we have the opportunity to enrich the lives of both Jewish and non-Jewish children, families, and the community. This serves as a valuable foundation for strengthening our connection to Jewish heritage and paving the way for their continued education. EarlyJ not only offers a new community but also valuable resources to enhance my teaching methods and infuse a piece of Israel into my practices.”

“Although I was born and raised in Israel, this journey has allowed me to develop an even deeper connection with the country and a greater understanding of its culture. We had the unique opportunity to meet community leaders and hear their perspectives on how we can foster deeper connections among different religions and minority groups. Visiting Israeli preschools gave us insight into the educational approach and the collaboration between families, teachers, and the community. I am eager to return to my community and implement many of these methods, continuing to work together with EarlyJ and our group of educators in partnership.”

Edna Shabetay–Vaknin

Brotherhood Way Preschool – JCCSF, San Francisco

Samantha Richardson

Gan Torah Preschool, Mountain View

“This trip has turned into something that has been more than I could have ever imagined, the connections that I had made with this group are so entirely natural. Not only have I built connections within this group, but it has touched the a part of me that I didn’t know I had, being able to travel to different areas in Israel has reconnected me to Judaism, and helped to reinforce my love and understanding of Judaism, both in my classroom and outside of it. This whole experience has reminded me why I love teaching and why I love the feeling of family and community within the Jewish life.”

“As an Israeli-born preschool teacher at Sinai Nursery School in San Jose, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to deepen my Jewish identity and build connections with other Jewish educators who, while working in diverse communities, share our common values. Learning to integrate Jewish teachings without the religious context has been a meaningful and enlightening experience for me. It has broadened my perspective on effectively transmitting Jewish culture and values, emphasizing the importance of nurturing a vibrant Jewish community that resonates with people of diverse beliefs.”

Sharon Konigstein

Sinai Nursery School, San Jose

Liza-Ana Monge Artavia

The Grove Preschool, Tiburon

“These experiences have significantly contributed to my personal development and enhanced my ability to facilitate children’s learning about Jewish culture and traditions. The program not only enriched our perspective on community partnerships and family involvement but also emphasized the value of diversity. The practical experiences provided during the trip were invaluable for our professional growth and comprehension. Equipped with this newfound knowledge, we are now better positioned to support the growth and prosperity of our communities.”

“Coming to Israel with Early J and Oranim has been amazing. The educators I’ve met, both from SF and in Israel have been so knowledgeable and wonderful. I know that we will continue to bond further when we get back and support each other with the changes we will implement based on our learning together. Specifically, I’m hoping to broaden the preschool’s community engagement with the seniors with a multigenerational initiative.”

Leslie Weinstein

Peninsula Temple Sholom Preschool, Burlingame

Gittel Goodman

Gan Outdoor Preschool, San Rafael

“EarlyJ took the traditional EC educators Israel trip and deepened it to reflect the professionalism and educational achievements that define today’s experienced JEC educators. The MA-level courses at Oranim College allowed me to grapple with  EC pedagogy from an embedded Jewish lens. I have made deep connections with the Oranim instructors, and the other educators on this trip, both of which will support my continued learning and growth as a Jewish community leader and in turn for all the families in my Gan and the broader Marin community that I serve. Thank you EarlyJ.”

“This summer’s seminar at Oranim College is adding more layers to my identity as a Jewish Early Childhood Educator. As Oranim presents us with different pedagogies specific to Jewish and Israeli early childhood education, I’m reflecting deeply on my own practices at Congregation Emanu-El Preschool and making robust connections with my colleagues from the Bay Area. The humanist philosophy embedded at Oranim creates a unique environment for our group to challenge, inspire, and learn together, all the while growing as individuals eager to share with our colleagues back home.”

Heather White

Congregation Emanu-El Preschool, San Francisco

Mirjam Cohen

South Peninsula Hebrew Day School, Sunnyvale

“Our visit to Israel has been a profoundly enriching professional development experience. We have had the privilege of delving into the cornerstone philosophies of Israeli Jewish Early Childhood education under the guidance of esteemed educators at Oranim College, Kibbutz Lavi, and Sde Eliyahu. This trip has fostered a strong sense of community among our group of dedicated educators from the San Francisco Bay Area, led by Zehava Dahan. We return home inspired to implement the knowledge gained and to strengthen our collaborative efforts in enhancing Jewish programming.”