Yale Researchers Tout Jewish Nursery Program


An effort to transform Jewish early childhood education has gotten a stamp of approval of sorts from the Yale Child Study Center.

The Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative, which helps Jewish nursery schools strengthen their Judaic content and better engage parents while embracing the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, was highlighted in a study by Yale professors J. P. Comer and Michael Ben-Avie. The results have been published in the latest issue of the Early Childhood Education Journal.

Created in 2005 with funding from the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, JECEI is working with 22 schools around the country, including those at the JCC in Manhattan and Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on the Upper West Side. Its leaders are eager to expand into new communities.

The Yale researchers surveyed 1,159 parents in JECEI schools and schools participating in a similar Jewish early childhood program called Project Kavod, asking them to rate the impact that the schools had on their families.

In comparison to Project Kavod parents, JECEI families, according to the study, “had statistically significant higher scores on a scale of items that addressed the extent to which the early childhood program influenced the connections of families to Jewish life: provided them with assistance in enhancing their parenting skills, encouraged them to be good people, encouraged them to promote social justice, encouraged them to respect the potential of each person, helped them feel better about being Jewish and led them to experience joy in Jewish life.”

JECEI parents also participated in adult Jewish learning at a higher rate, the study reported.

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