Faculty & Staff

JECELI is run by established and world-renowned early childhood education professionals.

Lyndall Miller
“I have been in the field of early childhood education for over 40 years. I have directed several initiatives in Jewish early childhood education, including the Gratz College Certificate Program in Jewish Early Childhood Education and the Legacy Heritage Institute for Jewish Early Childhood Education. Just as I expect JECELI Fellows to be life long learners, I am continuing my own work toward an Ed.D. in Jewish Education. Early in my career, I moved from special education into Jewish education as I realized the potential for Judaism to optimize cultural and spiritual community development. We see this development—the sharing of deep connections—through the everyday interactions of children, educators, directors, and parents. I am honored to participate in the Chicago Jewish early childhood community through JECELI.”
Lyndall Miller JECELI Director
Hannah Bloom-Hirschberg
“I have worked in a wide variety of roles in the early childhood field. I taught in Chicago for over ten years in both the public and day schools, working with children across the early childhood range. During my teaching career I discovered a passion for working to improve the professional development opportunities in the field and went on to work with programs at the University of Chicago as well as with private foundations. I earned degrees from both Vanderbilt University and Erikson Institute.

Working to bring JECELI to the Chicago Jewish Early Childhood community has been a true pleasure and honor and I am inspired by the work of our Fellows every day.”

Hannah Bloom-Hirschberg JECELI Project Coordinator
Jennifer Ciceksky George
“Judaism is a central part of my life which lead me to making the transition to find work within the Jewish sector after a long professional theatre career. To be able work not only within the Jewish sector but with Jewish early childhood educators brings great joy and fulfillment to my life. I am looking forward to being part of JECELI Chicago to support the growth and learning with the fellows and mentors as our journey begins and continues over the months ahead.”
Jennifer Ciceksky George HUC-JIR JJF-EI JECELI Administrative Support Associate

Chicago Mentors

Karen Benson
“I’m drawn to Jewish Early Childhood because of its meaningful role in the lives of children and their parents. As young children develop through play, projects, art, music, motor activities, and learn the rules and norms of their school community, they also absorb the rituals and values of their Jewish tradition. Both the content and feeling tone of these experiences stay with them forever and set the stage for future learning and connection to their tradition. For parents, enrolling their children in Jewish pre-school is a gateway to the larger Jewish community. As Jewish educators, we have the responsibility and privilege to welcome parents, share our knowledge and love of our heritage and model Jewish values. Our work transmits Judaism “from generation to generation.” Through JECELI I look forward to connecting and working with a new generation of Jewish pre-school leaders. I hope to learn about the communities in which they work, the families and children they interact with, and their strengths, challenges and professional learning goals. I look forward to collaborating with my mentees to support their growth.”
Karen Benson JECELI Chicago Mentor
Joni Crounse
“I am the clinical director of the Virginia Frank Child Development Center. I specialize in early childhood mental health consultation, child therapy, group therapy and family therapy. I have worked at the Virginia Frank Center for 27 years and am the co-author of Connections: A Relationship-Based Phase Model, a manual for early childhood professionals promoting social and emotional health in young children. I look forward to continuing my explorations of these ideas in the Jewish early childhood education community as I have in the past, and now, including the JECELI Fellows.”
Joni Crounse JECELI Chicago Mentor
Jill Kantor
“I am the former Director of Moriah Early Childhood Center, a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool in Deerfield, Illinois. I served as the director for 12 years of my 24 year tenure working with the ECC’s leadership team to develop a nationally renowned early childhood learning environment. The school has served as host for many visits from and conferences for educators from schools across the country. I have spent my entire career working in Jewish early childhood education, as both a Educator and an administrator. I am eager to continue supporting the forward momentum of the field of Jewish early childhood education, using my experience and expertise, in any way that I can.”
Jill Kantor JECELI Chicago Mentor

Fran Zimmerman
“I have been working in the field of Jewish Early Childhood Education as an Educator for twenty-two years, including six years as a co-director of the Early Childhood Program at Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois. I am very excited to be part of the JECELI Community and be a mentor in this innovative and important program for Jewish early childhood educators.”
Fran Zimmerman JECELI Chicago Mentor

Cohort 3 Mentors

Ellen Dietrick
Ellen is the Director of Early Childhood Learning at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, MA and a co-founder of The Paradigm Project, which supports and multiplies excellence in Jewish early childhood education. Previously, Ellen directed the early childhood program at Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, Virginia. She holds a master’s in education from the University of Virginia and is on the board of the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism.

“The JECELI program is doing innovative and thoughtful work in improving the Jewish early childhood field as a whole in real and lasting ways. I am pleased to be JECELI mentor in order to pass on the mentoring and learning I received as JECEI fellow to future Jewish early childhood leaders. I am passionate about the power of adult learning, and after having a meaningful adult learning experience myself, know how critical it is to the professional development of these future leaders.”

Ellen Dietrick JECELI Cohort 3 Mentor
Elizabeth Hirsch
Liz received a B.S. degree in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from Bank Street College of Education. During the past thirty years working in Preschool, Lower Schools and at the College Level, she gained significant experience in the classroom and enjoyed administrative roles, including spending 10 years as the Associate Principal at the Little Red Schoolhouse in NYC. Currently, she is in her sixth year as Director of the 14th Street Y Preschool within the Sol Goldman Y, a Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.  The program has been on a journey to both integrate the Reggio approach into the Preschool curriculum and to engage children in exploring Jewish traditions and values.

“I had the great privilege to be in the first JECELI Cohort where I learned so much from others who have a range of experiences with teaching children. I am excited to be a mentor and challenged to grow as a leader and to further develop my capacity to share a strong sense of Jewish values with colleagues and families alike.”

Elizabeth Hirsch JECELI Mentor

Miriam Kalmar
Miriam has been the Assistant Director at Stephen Wise ECC since July 2007. She has a degree in psychology from Yeshiva University and a Master’s of Science in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College of Education. Before becoming an administrator, she worked as a classroom teacher of young children. She has participated in an educator trip to Israel and two study tours in Reggio Emilia. Miriam is also a Mentor for Cohort 1.

“I feel privileged to be working with so many gifted educators on the holy task of strengthening our community of Jewish Early Childhood Leaders.”

Miriam Kalmar JECELI Cohort 1 & 3 Mentor
Sari Luck-Schneider
Sari has been actively working in the field of early childhood for about thirty years. All but four of those years were in Jewish early childhood. She is deeply committed to being an advocate for children, and has taken on leadership positions in which she could further that goal. She has been a co-chair of the Independent School Admissions Association of Greater New York, a president of the Jewish Early Childhood Association of what was once called the BJE, and is currently the President of the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism. She has helped her school and teachers, together and individually, get grants to further their growth. Sari is also a Mentor for Cohort 1.

“I am very honored and excited to be part of this program. The leaders are role modeling the best way to be leaders amongst leaders or potential leaders. As we have been given opportunities to impact on the creation, we have come to feel committed to the process and the goals.”

Sari Luck-Schneider JECELI Cohort 1 & 3 Mentor

Cohort 2 Mentors

Tamar Andrews
Tamar Andrews currently works as a full time preschool director at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles. Tamar has been working as a preschool director and professor of early childhood education for over 20 years. She has an EdD in Early Education, and has presents workshops and trainings globally on educational leadership, administration, curriculum and staff training.

“The future of Jewish education begins in Jewish early childhood education and it is incumbent upon each of us to ensure that the next generation be as strong or stronger than this one in terms of its passion for Torah, Jewish education and Israel.”

Tamar Andrews JECELI Cohort 2 Mentor
Valerie Lustgarten
Valerie Lustgarten is co-founder and director of the Paradigm Project, a consortium of practitioner-activists and consultants focused on multiplying and nurturing the seeds of excellence in Jewish Early Childhood Education. She has a lifelong commitment to Jewish education, indicated by years spent as a student, teacher, administrator, coach, mentor, and parent at Jewish day schools. Valerie specializes in strength-based leadership training. Valerie holds a master’s degree in early childhood education and another in educational leadership. She is a graduate of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI), and Co-President of the Jewish Council for Early Childhood Education of Miami-Dade.

“As I reflect on the positive changes in school settings that I have experienced, and the very hard work that goes into visions becoming a reality, I realized I wanted to be a multiplying agent for excellence in Jewish education. In place of working at one school, why not help several at the same time? This being my goal, I welcome the opportunity to support fellow Jewish leaders on their journey, and to learn and construct powerful meaning with them.”

Valerie Lustgarten JECELI Cohort 2 Mentor

Pam Ranta
Pam Ranta began her journey as a classroom teacher during her early college years.  Realizing her passion for Early Childhood, she became the Director of a Conservative Synagogue in Encino, California.  Today, with over 30 years of experience in the field, Pam has been a Director of ECE at Conservative, Reform and Jewish Community Center Programs, Past President of the Association for Early Childhood Educators in Los Angeles. She is currently the Director of Early Childhood Education at Temple Beth Sholom in Tustin, California.

“I look forward to building new relationships, expanding and sharing my experience and perspective, and learning together with other Early Childhood professionals.”

Pam Ranta JECELI Cohort 2 Mentor
Jordana Wolfson
Jordana entered her career in Jewish Communal Service in the Planning & Agency Relations Department of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. In 2001, she become the Director of the Early Childhood Center of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan and was a participant in the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative Fellowship (JECEI).  She was a teacher in the Florence Melton Adult Min-School Parent Education Program for several years as well.  Most recently, Jordana was the K-4 Division Head at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills, Michigan.  Jordana holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies from Baltimore Hebrew University and a Specialist of Arts Degree in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University.

“I am excited to be a part of the JECELI program because of its focus on combining Jewish text and study with cultivating leadership skills. In particular, I am thrilled to be a mentor to provide one-on-one support to teacher-leaders and directors in what can often be an isolating experience.  It will not be lonely at the ‘top’ with JECELI support!”

Jordana Wolfson JECELI Cohort 2 Mentor

Cohort 1 Mentors

Anna Hartman
Anna Hartman is a coach and consultant in Jewish early childhood education. She has served as Director of Early Childhood Education at Greenfield Hebrew Academy in Atlanta, a program emphasizing the richness of Jewish life, Reggio-inspired practice, and Hebrew language immersion. She is a board member of the National Jewish Early Childhood Network and a principal with the multi-city Paradigm Project working for changing perspectives and practices in Jewish early childhood education.

“The potential of JECELI to effect change cannot be overstated.  With its focus on relationships, ongoing mentoring, access to and command of essential texts, JECELI will identify, inspire, and push potential leaders to both achieve their potential and realize the potential of Jewish education in general.”

Anna Hartman JECELI Cohort 1 Mentor
Miriam Kalmar
Miriam has been the Assistant Director at Stephen Wise ECC since July 2007. She has a degree in psychology from Yeshiva University and a Master’s of Science in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College of Education. Before becoming an administrator, she worked as a classroom teacher of young children. She has participated in an educator trip to Israel and two study tours in Reggio Emilia. Miriam is also a Mentor for Cohort 3.

“I feel privileged to be working with so many gifted educators on the holy task of strengthening our community of Jewish Early Childhood Leaders.”

Miriam Kalmar JECELI Cohort 1 & 3 Mentor

Sari Luck-Schneider
Sari has been actively working in the field of early childhood for about thirty years. All but four of those years were in Jewish early childhood. She is deeply committed to being an advocate for children, and has taken on leadership positions in which she could further that goal. She has been a co-chair of the Independent School Admissions Association of Greater New York, a president of the Jewish Early Childhood Association of what was once called the BJE, and is currently the President of the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism. She has helped her school and teachers, together and individually, get grants to further their growth. Sari is also a Mentor for Cohort 3.

“I am very honored and excited to be part of this program. The leaders are role modeling the best way to be leaders amongst leaders or potential leaders. As we have been given opportunities to impact on the creation, we have come to feel committed to the process and the goals.”

Sari Luck-Schneider JECELI Cohort 1 & 3 Mentor
Denise Moyes Schnur
Denise has directed a variety of Jewish preschool and Family Education programs in both Jewish Community Centers and Synagogues in the San Francisco Bay area. She is also the coordinator for the Jewish Resource Specialist program in the San Francisco area and is a coach and consultant for the Marin County Office of Education. She holds a Master’s Degree from Mills College in Oakland, California, in Early Childhood Leadership. Denise became the Mentor Coordinator for JECELI after working as a Mentor for Cohort 1.

“I believe that this program will successfully build this new generation of leaders for the Jewish Early Childhood community, and it is something that I want to be involved in! I am honored to be a mentor in this program.” 

Denise Moyes Schnur JECELI Cohort 1 Mentor & Mentor Coordinator

Facilitators

Dr. Epstein is an assistant professor of Jewish Education in the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Epstein coordinates the day school track, supervising student field work and teaching the year-long practicum. Dr. Epstein’s research interests include gender and Jewish education as well as arts in Jewish education, primarily focusing on “drama as pedagogy.” She has served as educational consultant for LABA: The National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y and for Storahtelling, helping them to launch the StorahSteps program for Jewish early childhood settings.
Dr. Shira D. Epstein JTS Academic Advisor for JECELI
After teaching for many years in Jewish Early Childhood programs, Ann Hurwitz became the Director of Bronx House JCC’s Nursery School and Kindergarten for ten years, followed by seven years as Director of Park Avenue Synagogue Early Childhood Center. She was on the Bank Street Faculty for 14 years where she advised in a number of programs including the Early Childhood Leadership Program. She also taught Early Childhood courses at Borough of Manhattan and Kings Borough Community College.
Ann Hurwitz Bank Street Liaison for JECELI
Dr. Evie Levy Rotstein has recently been appointed the Director of the NY School of Education at HUC-JIR. Evie has been the director of the Leadership Institute for Congregational Educators since the beginning of the project in 2004. Prior to this position she was a congregational school educator and developed programs for faculty learning, teen mentoring and parent education. She holds an MA in Foreign Language education and a Doctorate in Jewish education from The Jewish Theological Seminary. Evie’s research interests include interfaith families, adolescent identity development, professional learning and mentoring.  
Dr. Evie Levy Rotstein JTS Academic Advisor for JECELI
Dr. Rima Shore has served as the Adelaide Weismann Chair in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College since 2003. At Bank Street, Rima has expanded the Educational Leadership Department and led school reform projects in New York City and Newark. She has served as a consultant to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, White House Conference on Children, United Nations Development Program, and many other organizations. In recent years, she has written about children and digital media for Sesame Street Workshop (The Power of Pow Wham: Children, Digital Media & Our Nation’s Future) and about PreK-3rdpolicy for the Foundation for Child Development (FCD Policy Briefs).
Ann Hurwitz Bank Street Consultant for JECELI

As a community-based program, JECELI Chicago enjoys the rich resources of the Chicagoland early childhood education community. First among our facilitators are our mentors, listed above, who lead sessions in their areas of expertise. We are also pleased that we are learning from Dr. Michael Branwein, Rabbi Sam Feinsmith of the Center for Jewish Mindfulness at Orot, Laurie Kabb, Rabbi Rebecca Milder of the Jewish Enrichment Center, Dr. Nick Wechsler of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and Safiyah Jackson of the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership. We are advised by faculty and staff at both The Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, as well as Dr. Rima Shore, recently retired from the Bank Street College of Education.