The Bay Area is one of the largest, most vibrant, and most diverse Jewish communities in North America, home to over 15,000 households that include Jewish children ages 0-4. But despite these large numbers, only 16% of the children who reside in this region are enrolled in Jewish preschools (compared to the national average of 20-25%). Recognizing the need and potential for change, a small group of funders launched a pilot in the East Bay Area in 2019 to expand Jewish preschool capacity and to meaningfully engage Jewish families with young kids. After seeing positive results, they joined to help establish the Bay Area ECE Initiative for the larger Bay Area, which focuses on four key areas: 1) Expanding Jewish preschool capacity; 2) Improving the quality of Jewish early childhood education (ECE) by investing in educators; 3) Increasing preschool access and affordability for Jewish families, and 4) Increasing connections between Jewish families.
Ultimately, The Bay Area ECE Initiative’s focus is to build a thriving, high-quality Jewish ECE ecosystem throughout the Bay Area, significantly increasing the number of participating families. This effort is informed by the work of past studies and the most recent Jewish Federation Community Study (completed in 2017) that revealed that Jewish preschool education is a significant launching pad for introducing and continuing Jewish education; early experience with Jewish education largely influences families’ participation in other Jewish organizations (camps, day schools, organizations) thereby deepening their understanding of faith, tradition, and history. For example, families participating in Jewish preschool education are more likely to celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays and to expand their connection with the largest Jewish community. Therefore, this early connection to Jewish faith and principles is critically important to sustaining community vitality and presence.
Bay Area ECE Initiative’s Goal:
To establish a thriving, high-quality Jewish ECE ecosystem throughout the Bay Area, reaching 25% of Jewish families by 2027 (2,400 more enrollments per year, reaching 10,000 total children over 5 years)