Jewish Right Start Offers Big Incentive for Preschool Students
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Jewish Right Start Offers Big Incentive for Preschool Students

Starting to apply for a preschool program for your child?

The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has an offer for you.

The Jewish Federation is encouraging parents to send their children to Jewish preschool programs. And to do so, it is giving out $1,000 grants to help pay for the costs. It’s calling the program The Jewish Right Start.

There are some strings attached.

First of all, the grants are only being given to children who are the first in their family to go to a Jewish preschool — either because they’re the oldest child in the family, or their older sibling attended a non-Jewish preschool.

Second, they are only available for a select number of preschool programs. That’s 11 schools, ranging from Washington Township to Hoboken, affiliated with synagogues and Jewish community centers. (See box for the full list.)

“The school has to be a nonprofit or nestled inside a synagogue,” said Lisa Glass, chief planning officer for the Jewish Federation, explaining the criteria. “It has to be governed by a local board that meets and has authority.”

The grants aren’t available for programs affiliated with day schools. That’s because the federation wants to bring in families who might not otherwise choose a Jewish program. The day school families are already going to choose a Jewish environment for their children.

A Jewish preschool, Ms. Glass said, offers an experience a child won’t get in a non-Jewish setting.

“You get Jewish life,” she said. “You get Jewish holidays and culture and customs. You get a vibrant, living Judaism.

“In a non-Jewish preschool, you’re going to get apples in September but it’s going to be about going back to school, not Rosh Hashanah. You’ll have pumpkins and Halloween in October, but not Sukkot.  You’ll get Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot in a Jewish preschool.”

The federation’s grant goes directly to the school to pay for tuition. For part-time enrollment, the grant is $700.

The Jewish Right Start program is modeled after the federation’s Happy Camper Grants, which encourages parents to choose a Jewish camp for their children and has given out over a thousand grants.

The origins of the Jewish Right Start are a bit roundabout. “Two years ago our federation set out to figure out how we could improve numbers for teen engagement,” Ms. Glass said. “We did a lot of research.” 

The research found that among the “North American non-Orthodox” segment of the community, there was a 90 percent drop-off in Jewish involvement between bar or bat mitzvah and high school graduation. So while the federation is increasing its support for teen engagement, including helping the BBYO teen Jewish youth group, it decided to look earlier in the process.

“This is a continuum of Jewish engagement that has to start at babyhood,” Ms. Glass said. That also includes support for the PJ Library program, which sends Jewish books to children. Full details on the grant is at jfnnj.org/jewishrightstart.


Participating Eligible Preschools

Closter — Temple Beth El Nursery School — Reform

Fair Lawn — Temple Beth Sholom — Helen Troum Nursery School — Conservative

Franklin Lakes — Barnert Temple Preschool and Family Center — Reform

Glen Rock — Glen Rock Jewish Center Nursery School — Conservative

Hoboken — United Synagogue of Hoboken Kaplan Cooperative Preschool — Conservative

Tenafly — Kaplen JCC on the Palisades — Leonard and Syril Rubin Nursery School

Tenafly — Temple Sinai Early Childhood Center — Reform

Township of Washington — Jewish Community Center of Northern New Jersey Early Learning Center

Wayne — Metro YMCA — The ABC Early Childhood Learning Center

Woodcliff Lake — Temple Emanuel Early Childhood Center — Conservative

Wyckoff — Temple Beth Rishon — Andrew Friedland Preschool — Independent

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