Music, Israel Bring 950 Educators to BJEConference
Participants at the Bureau of Jewish Education of Los Angeles’s (BJE) 23rd annual Early Childhood Spring Institute had the opportunity to take a special journey to Israel through music. In a workshop called “A Musical Trip to Israel,” three music educators from the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem demonstrated an entertaining way to teach children about the Holy Land through song and movement.
“I think the exposure to meeting the people from Israel and talking to them is important [for Jewish educators],” said Esther Elfenbaum, director of BJE early childhood education services. “I think we have to focus on the positive to help kids deal with what’s going on in Israel.”
More than 950 nursery school and kindergarten educators from Southern California gathered at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills for the conference on Monday, March 10. Participants had the opportunity to attend more than 60 workshops led by educators, rabbis, child psychologists and children’s book authors, where topics included “Creating a Jewish Environment in Your Classroom,” “Bringing Music and Drama to Every Subject” and “Talking to God: Teaching Children to Speak From Their Souls.”
During the conference, the BJE presented select teachers and administrators with special awards. The BJE Lainer Distinguished Educator Awards went to Tara Farkash, teacher at Temple Adat Elohim Preschool in Thousand Oaks; Kimberly Shapiro, teacher at Westside Jewish Community Center Nursery School in Los Angeles; and Audrey Freedman-Habush, director at Valley Beth Shalom Nursery School in Encino. Several educators from various Southland schools received BJE Smotrich Family Foundation Early Childhood Educator awards. Highest distinction: Debra Cohen, Niki Egar, Susana Ezon, Laurie Healy, Wendy Smith, Miri Hever and Michelle Stein; excellence: Esther Posin and Kimberly Shapiro; and merit: Terri Sigal and Diana Pakdaman.
Sherry Fredman, principal of Temple Israel of Hollywood Nursery School, said she and her staff were inspired by the conference and look forward to enhancing the Judaic aspects of their program.
“My teachers came back [from the conference] motivated with excellent ideas,” she said.
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Camp Gets ‘Creative’ at WilshireBoulevard
While most camps boast activities like swimming, archery and arts and crafts, campers at Creative Space Summer Camp will learn break dancing, aromatherapy, yoga and fencing. Creative Space, the award-winning Hollywood enrichment school, has teamed up with Marcia Israel Day Camp of Wilshire Boulevard Temple to create a new summer camp, which will be housed at the shul’s Irmas Campus in West Los Angeles.
Creative Space, a unique children’s program, is owned by three Jewish women who believe that creativity fosters self-confidence. Building on this principle, they are taking their imaginative classes into a camp setting.
While the new camp prides itself on artsy activities like stunts, hip-hop dance, cheerleading and magic, the summer program will also offer sports. And rather than recruiting recent high school graduates or college students as counselors, Creative Space Summer Camp has hired many of the professionals who teach their classes during the school year. The creative arts camp will be open for 4- to 12-years-olds for a series of two-week sessions. A separate camp, with age-appropriate programs, is open for 3-year-olds.
When Rabbi Steven Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple approached Creative Space about coming together to create an arts-based camp, the owners knew he was onto something.
“For the temple and for us it’s an opportunity to expand community,” co-owner Gayle Baigelman said.
Baigelman said that the nondenominational environment will be a plus for campers and their parents.
“I think that is the beautiful thing about the Jewish tradition — it’s all-inclusive,” she said.
For more information about Creative Space Summer Camp,call (323) 462-4600 or visit
OU Offers Jewish Parenting 101
What do you do if your child refuses to listen to you? More than 125 parents attended the Positive Jewish Parenting Conference on Sunday, March 2 to address this common dilemma and others like it. The conference, which was put on by the Orthodox Union (OU) with the support of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, included a series of interactive workshops led by psychiatry, psychology and social work experts.
Attendees gathered at the Museum of Tolerance and the Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Nagel Campus with hopes of strengthening their parenting skills and incorporating Jewish values into child rearing. The keynote speaker was Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the OU’s executive vice president, a clinical psychologist who combined the worlds of Torah and psychology for parents.
Workshops included topics like “Bringing Spirituality Into Our Homes,” “Conflict Resolution in the Family” and “Overcoming Sibling Rivalry.”
“By participating, parents learn that a lot of what goes on in their house is normal,” said Frank Buchweitz, director of special projects for the Orthodox Union in New York.
“I got a few pieces of practical advice,” said Irwin Nachimson, a father of two who lives in the mid-Wilshire area. “But more importantly, I was impressed to see that there are people who focus on [parenting topics] on a daily basis. It’s not something readily offered in any other segment of the Jewish community that I’ve seen.”
Dr. Larry Eisenberg, president of the West Coast OU, feels that the religious slant of the program drew the community in.
“I think it’s the fact that it was done under an Orthodox program and people could ask questions that were religious,” he said. — SSR