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Jewish Journal

Back-to-School Roundup

by Beverly Gray

August 24, 2000 | 8:00 pm

Among students, this is the time of year for new shoes, new backpacks and new haircuts. And schools approach September with fresh paint and revamped goals.

Within the Jewish community, this September will see the start of one preschool program and the revitalization of another.

The brand-new Palisades Jewish Early Childhood Center will open its doors to 45 children between the ages of 2 and 6. There will also be a transitional "Stay and Play" program, as well as a full range of "Mommy and Me" offerings for parents and very young children.

The Palisades Jewish Early Childhood Center, operated by Chabad on the site of the former Presbyterian Conference Center, is located in Temescal Canyon's beautiful Gateway Park. Director Barbara Leibovic, who has spent 20 years as an early childhood educator, looks forward to tapping the park's resources for nature walks and a planting garden. Leibovic emphasizes that her school welcomes all Jewish children, regardless of their families' religious affiliations. She admits to being "challenged by people's thoughts on Chabad," but is dedicated to integrating quality Jewish education with quality secular education. Says Leibovic, "It's going to take a little time to build and to get people to trust in us."For information on the new Palisades Jewish Early Childhood Center, call (310) 454-7781.

Adat Shalom's preschool has been in existence for decades. The school has had many admir-ers, but recent years have been tough ones. For September 2000, Rabbi Michael Resnick set about to rectify the situation. His coup was landing Bea Prentice as his new director of early childhood education. Prentice, who had spent 20 years running Kehillat Israel's Early Childhood Center and had received the Bureau of Jewish Education's (BJE) prestigious Lainer Award, had moved into the area of consult-ing. But when Resnick literally begged her to sign on at Adat Shalom, she couldn't say no.

Given a free hand and the money to back up her dreams, she has added new equipment, new paint, new staff, and new parenting programs. Adat Shalom now offers, in addition to a preschool that serves 100 chil-dren, a full-day kindergarten and a gesher class that bridges pre-K and kindergarten. Families can take advantage of childcare ser-vices between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. An extra bonus is an optional children's Hebrew class in the afternoon. Says Pren-tice, "It's very, very Jewish here. There's a very deep commitment to the children's heritage. This place has heart and soul."

To find out about Adat Shalom's Early Childhood Center, call (310) 470-1969.Meanwhile, the Bureau of Jewish Education's department of community youth programs is excited about the new Jewish Civics Initiative (JCI), co-sponsored by the BJE and the Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership. This program gives 40 teenagers (grades 10 through 12) at six sites the opportunity to attend a series of classes on Jewish thought and American politics. In February 2001, the teens will travel to Washington, D.C., and meet students from other cities for a leadership seminar that pinpoints how to blend Jewish tradition with social activism.

Participating sites include Temple Menorah, Temple Beth Haverim, Sinai Temple, Kehillat Ma'arav, Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Los Angeles Hebrew High School. JCI program coordinator Lori Strauss can be reached at (818) 464-3377 for applications and further information.

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