Israel for Beth El’s Littlest Learners

December 19, 2023 in Israel

By Beth El Preschool Director Lauren Hirt. 

Within the walls of Beth El Preschool (BEPS), we have shielded our littlest learners from the news. They are too young to understand war, too innocent to conceive of hostages being taken. We have kept discussions of the conflict in Israel out of our classrooms. Behind the scenes, we have talked as a staff, attended a variety of workshops and online sessions, and shared resources with parents. We have prepared ourselves to talk to our preschoolers about what has been going on, should they bring it up.

As a Jewish early childhood education program, Jewish learning and Jewish values are at the heart of what we do. We aim to instill in our preschoolers a love of learning, a sense of curiosity about the world around them, respect for others, and a strong sense of Jewish pride. This last theme – a strong sense of Jewish pride – is incorporated throughout all aspects of our preschool program, from class meetings to art projects to storytimes and beyond. It has always been an integral part of our preschool curriculum; now more than ever, our teachers and specialists are aware of its incredible significance.

Judaism is woven into the culture of our school throughout the year and is a part of the culture of our school each and every day. Our children are learning, making connections to their Jewish identity, and building a love of Judaism through meaningful experiences with their teachers and peers. The war in Israel hasn’t changed any of this. The children recite a blessing before eating their snack and at lunch time each day. On Fridays we celebrate Shabbat– candles are lit, challah and grape juice are enjoyed for snack, tzedakah is collected, and prayers are sung at our preschool service. Our Pre-K students learn with Parsha Lady weekly, discovering stories from the Torah and learning about the weekly parsha. As the school year progresses, we celebrate the annual cycle of Jewish holidays through art, food, stories, music, and more. 

BEPS encourages families to build their child’s sense of Jewish pride outside our school walls. Each family is assigned two Fridays during the school year to participate as their child’s class “Shabbat Family.” Additionally, families are invited to attend Young Family Shabbats twice monthly, coming together to say prayers and sing songs with other families with young children at Beth El. 

It is my hope that as the crisis in Israel evolves, we will continue to be able to shield our preschoolers from the news. It is my hope that they will remain unaware of war, unaware of hostages, and unaware of the politics. It is my hope that we will continue to teach Beth El’s youngest community members about Jewish holidays and values in a way that fills them with joy and awe – and a true sense of pride in their own Jewish identity.