Areas of Study


Jewish Learning

“One who studies Torah in order to teach is granted the ability to study and to teach. One who studies in order to ‘do’ is granted the ability to study, to teach, to observe, and to do.”   Pirkei Avot 4:6.

The fundamental processes in JECELI are drawn directly from perspectives on personhood, relationships, learning, intentionality, leadership, and community in Jewish tradition. It is the stance of JECELI that the culture of our schools for young children can and should reflect the values that are central to Judaism as understood in the context of each educational program. Program structure and content are based on these perspectives.

Reflective Practice in a Social Context

“Why is learning compared to a fire? Just as a fire burns stronger with many chips than with a single chip…. So too, the Torah grows stronger when studied by many students together than by one alone.”  Tractate Taanit, 7a

Individuals acquire knowledge by integrating it with prior concepts, applying it in recursive opportunities, and revisiting it through intense dialogue in a social context. These processes are imbedded in Jewish tradition and culture as well as in social constructivist learning theory. JECELI offers directors a uniquely intensive Jewish social context in which to acquire the leadership skills that they need to promote social meaning-making in their own programs and communities. This context involves learning with a mentor, implementing new learning with ongoing support, and regular dialogue with the group.

Leadership Development

“In the world to come they will not ask me, ‘Zusya, why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me, ‘Zusya, why were you not Zusya?'” Reb Zusya of Hanipoli

JECELI examines leadership development on three levels.  Participants assess themselves regarding capacities necessary to direct Jewish early childhood programs and determine specific areas in which they would like to move forward both during JECELI and afterward. Equally important are considerations of individual human growth and development across all ages and contexts.  In addition, the development of Jewish identity in both children and adults is particularly relevant to the work of JECELI participants.

Community Building

“All Israel is responsible, one for the other” Shavuos 39.

The members of each cohort, and of all of the cohorts combined, contribute to each others’ continued learning through leadership learning and experiences as well as through membership in the JECELI community. In fact, it is through the safety and support of these relationships that members will feel empowered to take risks and to share outcomes, resulting in tremendous learning for the entire group. Leadership will be understood in the context of Jewish tradition, as a responsibility to realizing the vision of the group. These processes provide a model for participants to use to translate the community-building qualities and processes of JECELI into their own program contexts. Part of the translation involves strong advocacy for Jewish early childhood education in their home institutions, communities, and the field at large.