Early Childhood Program
One’s path in life, especially in education, begins with preschool. These Jewish preschools offer more than just playing, crafts and napping (which are all great). They also allow little ones to get an early start on their connection with Judaism.
The JCC of San Francisco’s Claude and Louise Rosenberg Early Childhood Education Program operates preschools at three campuses. “We’re especially proud of a preschool program that is guided by Jewish values and culture,” says Nathaniel Bergson-Michelson, director of strategic marketing and communications. “We create a supportive and inspiring environment.” Holiday celebrations and weekly Shabbat services help build a connective tie with Judaism.
Gan Mah Tov at Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland prides itself on incorporating Jewish values into its program. “The Jewish holidays and weekly Shabbat are a big part of the learning,” says director Cheryl Schwarz, “and are celebrated through art and songs taught at the daily music time.” Those in Gan Bet, the class for 3- and 4-year-olds, even get to choose some of the topics they learn about based on their interests.
T’enna Preschool at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto also teaches its children the basic tenets of Judaism. The preschool uses the JCC facility for fun and educational activities. T’enna, which is adding a location in Los Altos Hills, encourages children to discover what interests them as individuals while working together as a group and learning about an array of subjects, from gardening to Jewish traditions.
In the North Bay, Gan Israel Preschool considers Jewish values to be everyday values: “kindness, caring and respect,” says director Gittel Rice. She says the school blends Jewish and mainstream pre-K programs to help give each child a sense of community and self-worth. “They’re an important player in this world,” Rice says of the children, “and we help them hold onto their identity.”
Claude and Louise Rosenberg
JCC of San Francisco
(415) 292-1282 • www.jccsf.org/ece
Gan Mah Tov Preschool
(510) 530-2146 • www.bethjacoboakland.org
Oshman Family JCC
Gan Israel Preschool
Jewish Day School
Jewish day schools, traditionally serving grades K-8, focus on combining strong academics with Jewish and Israeli language, culture, history and traditions. Our readers have chosen their favorites.
Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco has been serving students since 1963. The school emphasizes what director of communications Sonia Daccarett calls “radical kindness. We have a warm and intense community life.” Brandeis Hillel is the largest Jewish day school west of the Mississippi, and more than 90 percent of graduates go to their first- or second-choice high school.
Oakland Hebrew Day School has been teaching Hebrew and Israeli studies for 25 years. The school prides itself on being a modern school and facility. “It’s a 21st-century Jewish day school,” says admissions director Melanie Marcus, who notes that the parents are extremely dedicated. “Some parents drive an hour to get their children to school. That’s how dedicated they are.”
Tehiyah Day School was founded in 1979 in El Cerrito, and one of its main priorities has always been to connect their students with Israel. “We have a very [strong] academic and Judaica program here,” says head of school Bathea James. “We look at what unites Jews, and we see what we all have in common.”
Founded in 1989, Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto promotes a strong academic program that incorporates community and Jewish living. “We’re thrilled to be named a Reader’s Choice winner,” says head of school Julie Smith. “This is a testament to our dedicated and talented faculty and staff who time and time again create moments of wonder for our students.”
The Marin campus of Brandeis Hillel Day School, founded in 1978 in San Rafael, is our North Bay winner. The curriculum and values, including kindness, care and respect, are shared with its San Francisco branch. “We have an outstanding academic program in both campuses,” director of communications Sonia Daccarett says, citing both general studies and Jewish teachings. Creative thinking is also highly encouraged, as are connections with the community.
Brandeis Hillel Day School
(415) 406-1035 • www.bhds.org
Oakland Hebrew Day School
(510) 531-8600 • www.ohds.org
Tehiyah Day School
(510) 233-3013 • www.tehiyah.org
Gideon Hausner Jewish
(650) 494-8200 • www.hausner.com
Brandeis Hillel Day School
(415) 472-1833 • www.bhds.org/marin