The BJE March teaches powerful lessons of Jewish history and personal Jewish identity with a profound impact on participants. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Los Angeles delegation, along with...
seeks to inspire Jewish youth to “Learn. Act. Reflect. IMPACT.” BJE's goal is for youth to engage in meaningful service opportunities.
BJE offers a wide range of support to day schools (accredited, full-time K-12 private schools), educators and families with the goal of helping ensure the highest levels of quality and accessibility across the religious spectrum and through the greater Los Angeles area.
Stay connected. Follow our Builders, BJE Highlights,
Education Trends, and Event Updates.
Engage in family friendly, hands-on community service activities for all ages. Featuring Joel Stern, Specialist in Jewish origami art and storytelling. Activities will end in a Tashlich service.
I’ve had a lifelong relationship with BJE.
I remember well, Havurat Noar and Dor Hadash, BJE programs that brought youth together from all over the city. I went through BJE-affiliated religious schools. And when I was a student at UCLA, I had the opportunity to serve as a college representative to the BJE board. I served on the High School Programs committee. That was one of my first experiences as a layperson. My first internship as a freshman in college was in the youth department of BJE/Federation under Phil Liff-Grieff. I ended up going to HUC and getting a double degree in Social Work and Nonprofit Management. BJE was one of the things that really set me on that path. I went into Jewish communal work thinking I wanted to strengthen the Jewish world.
My husband and I got married and were both very connected to community. It was important to both of us to transmit those values to our children. We hope we gave our kids a love and appreciation for Judaism and their heritage. One of our first big trips as a family was to Israel. My kids did religious school, but it was very important to share Jewish experiences and life with them, too. You can’t just expect the Hebrew or day school teachers to do it for you.
Later, we encouraged our kids to become involved in NFTY because we wanted them to connect to the bigger community, and not just be insulated in our synagogue. Today, one of my daughters is working at a Jewish Day School (an HUC DeLeT grad) and the other one is studying to be a rabbi. BJE and its programs had an impact on our family.
My parents were very connected to Jewish life and to Israel. When my dad passed away, it was natural for them to want to do something connected to Israel. My mom established the Lewis Edgers Scholarship Fund in my father’s name. I lost my parents at a pretty young age, but I know how important this was to them. My sister, Deborah Lieber, is also very involved in the community. She’s active in her temple life, and raised her two sons to be engaged in temple and community life. We both felt very happy about the idea of carrying on our parents’ legacy. I was so excited when I learned that I could continue to put money into this fund and help send kids on BJE’s March of the Living program.
I think being a builder of Jewish education means instilling the building blocks of Jewish life from a very young age. It means creating a lifelong learning experience. Jewish education instills continuity and will help with future generations. Just to call yourself Jewish is not enough. You need to understand your past, to feel comfortable in working towards a stronger Jewish future. We all have a responsibility to learn and grow as Jews – spiritually and culturally.
BJE’s March of the Living program is the perfect way to get this accomplished. You must touch it, feel it and taste it, not just read about it in a book. I’m hoping our family fund will help build and grow connections to Israel, and also make an impact for our Jewish future.
Judith Alban takes pride in her life-long commitment to Jewish life and her contributions as a Professional in the Jewish community. She currently serves as the B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator at Temple Beth Am. Lewis Edgers was a Los Angeles businessman who co-founded Crown Plastics Inc. in the 1970s. He was married to Ronna Edgers and raised two daughters in the San Fernando Valley. After a visit to Israel in 1975, Lewis became extremely passionate about his support of the Jewish state. He helped raise money for the LA Jewish Federation and other causes and upon his death, in 1984, the Lewis Edgers Israel Program Fund was seeded at the Bureau of Jewish Education by his wife, Ronna. And upon her death, in 2001, the fund was continued.
It is the hope of the family that the memory of their parents’ vision will encourage teens to participate in BJE’s March of the Living program and will ignite a passion in them for the importance of Jewish continuity and a deeper understanding and love for the State of Israel. These were important values to Lewis and Ronna Edgers.
BJE was fortunate to have four outstanding interns this summer – meet Abby, Noah, Sophie and Yonina!
Rising 12th graders Abby Shane, of Palos Verdes High School, Noah Weiss, of Calabasas High School, and Sophie Shorten, rising 11th grader at de Toledo High School, joined BJE through the Jewish Federation’s Community Internship Program, part of the LA Jewish Teen Initiative. Participants worked four days a week, and met as a group on Fridays for skill-building in areas such a communication and professional development.
Both Abby and Noah worked on a variety of BJE projects, including attending planning meetings for BJE’s Day of Service Learning, data management, assembling a donor thank-you gift, and improving email outreach lists by segmenting them based on specific interests. Both hope to continue their relationship with BJE, and in fact, volunteered even past the end of the internships to help complete their projects. Sophie worked with the BJE March of the Living team on several projects, including work on the next trip itinerary, evaluating survey feedback from participants to help improve programming, and helping to organize MOTL vendor information.
Abby called her experience “an enlightening look into the working world,” and Noah was equally positive, saying, "Everyone in the office was so warm and welcoming, and I formed lasting relationships with many. BJE does incredible work and I am so glad that I was able to contribute to its success.” Sophie said, “Imagine being 16 and being treated as a peer and not a child. I got to help organize a trip that has such an impact on teens and helps to carry our legacy. The leadership skills we have been taught have already begun to show up in how I handle myself and work with others. Thank you for this experience. I am forever grateful.”
Yonina Brenner is an art history major at Boston University. She is spending the summer working with BJE on an extensive photo archive project. “It’s really interesting to get a feel for what BJE used to look like and how it’s changed over the years, because I’m looking at pictures from the Gala in the 1990s and Ulpan, which ended in about 2000. So much of what I do in my classes is visual analysis, looking at details of visual material to create an understanding or interpretation of what’s happening. Here, I’m getting a sense of what it’s like to do archival work, to build a system that works and makes sense. Working with BJE has been an incredibly enriching way to spend my summer.”
BJE extends a huge thank you to Abby, Noah, Sophie and Yonina for all their work!
Not so long ago, Jewish preschools were thought of as “child care” and/or a way for their parent organizations (synagogues and day schools) to increase membership. In the past few decades, these programs have moved far beyond those limited roles, gaining in perceived importance. As the benefits and importance of early childhood education have become more widely acknowledged, parents have bought in - preschool has pretty much become a “given” among Jewish parents.
From our perspective at BJE, this change is good: for children, for families, and for the community. We see several exciting trends and initiatives in Los Angeles that are not only improving program quality, but are helping people appreciate the importance of early childhood education in entirely new ways.
The Landscape: Los Angeles is home to 54 BJE-affiliated Jewish preschools, 38 of which belong to synagogues, 10 belong to Jewish Day Schools, and 6 are independent. Over 6,000 children regularly attend classroom-based programs (at least 2 days a week). Countless others participate in weekly or occasional programming such as Parent (or Grandparent) & Me, or special Kabbalat Shabbat programs. The early childhood centers are spread out over 850 square miles. In some cases older siblings also attend a day school located in the same building as the preschool, while in some cases the preschool facility is one of several morning “drop-offs” that may be 30 minutes away from one another.
Social Connectors: While there has been a nationwide trend to see enrollment in specific preschools as a path to admission to elite private schools, parents in Los Angeles who choose Jewish preschools report having very different motivations for their choices. While Los Angeles gives the impression that social media is an all-encompassing presence, we know that people feel a greater distance from one another, even a sense of isolation. Preschools here have increasingly stepped into the role of social connectors, what sociologist Ray Oldenburg referred to as “third places.” It’s not surprising, then, that in a recent Los Angeles Jewish Federation study, parents’ “first choice” criterion in choosing a preschool was whether it had a “warm and nurturing environment” (69%). Contrary to what some would have predicted, “school philosophy and approach” and the “secular curriculum” were far behind. The study also found that 92% of the parents were grateful for being part of a community, and 58% of parents reported that being part of a Jewish early childhood program has led to increased Jewish practices and involvement in the Jewish community. This is a virtuous cycle.
Neurological Development: While many think of early childhood education as “pre-school” (a time for a child to learn basic school-related information), a lot more is developing inside a child’s brain. The Simms Mann Institute, and its The First 36 Project, in partnership with BJE and the Jewish Federation, trains parent educators to use lessons from cutting-edge neuroscience research to strengthen the bonds between parent and child. At one recent program for pulpit Rabbis and their ECE directors, researchers shared data about how building group connections for a child encourages brain development. At another workshop, educators learned how specific parenting practices can strengthen the neurological development that leads to psychologically successful and resilient children. Through these programs, we are able to support and further foster the notion that early childhood education is about vital neurological development, creating attachments, and building a foundation of self through learning and playing that only happens during the early years.
Educator Training: The last National Survey of Early Care and Education Research Brief indicated that 45% of preschool teachers had a Bachelor’s Degree. The L.A. Federation Study showed that in L.A.’s Jewish preschools, that number is 56%. To elevate the field even further, the American Jewish University now offers both a B.A. and an M.A. in Early Childhood Education, with a focus on integrating the latest in early childhood practices with Jewish learning, values and traditions, and how to successfully work with families. BJE, as well, continues to offer workshops, an annual Spring Institute, and an ECE Directors’ Community of Practice (CoP). At recent programs author Jonathan Mooney spoke about reframing learning disabilities, speakers from Open Classroom, Matan, and the Paradigm Project introduced new concepts to our educators, and local experts taught about self-regulation, teacher leaders, and the importance of play in developing leadership skills.
Challenges: While the virtues of early childhood programs are widely and assertively communicated, many of our preschools face financial challenges. Given the local real estate market, schools work hard to keep tuitions low, while trying to offer salaries and benefits that will successfully attract and retain the best teachers.
Summary: Through innovative learning opportunities like, The First 36 (parent education), JECELI (administrator training), the Early Childhood Directors’ Network community, BJE’s spring conference, Project Enable and MATAN (special needs) and more, the Jewish early childhood education community in LA is expanding the scope of how preschool can be envisioned and experienced. By educating the educators, and then the community, we are destroying that myth of Jewish preschool as simply child care and replacing it with the knowledge and research regarding the profound importance of these early years.
Early childhood education, more than simply a preparation for kindergarten, is expanding our understanding of childhood and child development. BJE is happy to be a part of the network of professionals that supports parents, families, and the growing field in these early years and beyond.
Rabbi Jim Rogozen is the Director of BJE’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood & Day School Education
BJE’s impact is felt throughout greater Los Angeles. These are just a few
ways we’re making a difference this year.
Across the Jewish spectrum, Jewish schools in Los Angeles receive a wide range of services and support from BJE.
From birth through young adulthood, young Jewish people in Los Angeles are engaged in Jewish life through BJE programs and accredited or affiliated schools.
BJE leverages the strength of our vibrant community to generate public and private funding that benefits Jewish educational programs and institutions throughout Greater Los Angeles in a wide range of ways.