In this most political of political seasons, I am sure we will hear the old adage that “a budget should reflect the values and priorities of our nation and its people”. This holds true not only for governments but also for synagogues. I have been present at TBE budget discussions for the last ten years and there is one aspect of our budget priorities that continues to puzzle me.
We all understand that providing a strong Jewish education for our children is a high priority and so the entire congregation subsidizes the cost of our Religious School. Yet, when it comes to Keshet, our pre-school, we expect the tuition that our young parents pay to completely cover the costs of running the program.
Neuroscience has clearly demonstrated that the first few years of life are the most critical in terms of brain, language, emotional and cognitive development. Patterns of family life are formed early on after a child is born. This is THE MOST CRITICAL TIME PERIOD for a synagogue to have an impact on the Jewish lives of our young families to ensure the future of our synagogue and the future of the Jewish people. And if we truly believe that, then we should make Keshet and programming for our pre-school children one of our highest budgetary priorities.
Any congregant who would like to personally experience just how much a pre-schooler can absorb in just a few hours per week of Jewish Education should attend “Shabbat Services” on Friday mornings with Randi Fox-Tabb and her dedicated teachers, or our “Tot Shabbat” Services led by Silvana Bacman. I have attended both and I know that you will be amazed by what our children have learned and the ‘ruach” they have.
Our daily recitation of the Shema, implores us “to teach our children”. Our tradition teaches us that educating our children is our most important responsibility. Modern day science informs us that early childhood is where we get the highest return on our investment. It does take a village.