Hebrew College Hosts the First Jewish Early Engagement Forum (JEEF)


Newton Centre, MA —July 25, 2016.  On July 13, over 140 Jewish clergy, education directors, funders, lay leaders, and early childhood engagement professionals converged upon Hebrew College’s Newton Centre campus to discuss the importance and long-range benefits of building Jewish identity from a very early age at JEEF’s first symposium, From Building Blocks to Building Communities: Securing a Strong Foundation Together.

JEEF was founded by Rachel Raz, director of the Early Childhood Institute at the Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education at Hebrew College, and made possible by generous funding from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. The forum’s mission is to address the challenges faced today by young Jewish families and to provide leaders with a way to help families build a stronger Jewish identity, thus securing a stronger foundation for the future of the Jewish community.

 “My work is a reaction to the reality that I see. During the last ten years that I have been working in the Early Childhood Institute, I have witnessed changes: the rising number of dual income families; young parents raising their children far away from immediate family; increasing numbers of intermarried families; decreasing Jewish practice, affiliation and knowledge; a decline in the status of educators; the changing role of the school from child-centered to family-centered education; and shifting values in our society,” commented Raz, when explaining the rationale for the creation of JEEF. “Today, more than ever, change happens quickly. We cannot wait five or ten years to act – we need to understand and address the current challenges and act now while we still have Jewishly identifying young families.” 

The symposium included a panel discussion, The Landscape of Early Engagement: Challenges and Opportunities, featuring expert representatives from Jewish communities and organizations from across the country. Attendees participated in lively discussion and learned from thought leaders about the significance of early engagement.

Hebrew College was uniquely positioned to create and host JEEF because of its mission to strengthen Jewish identity by providing education to the entire Jewish community regardless of faith, Jewish affiliation, or geographic location. Furthermore, both JEEF and the Early Childhood Institute (ECI) share the same goal, of ensuring a stronger future for the Jewish community. 

The next meeting of JEEF will be held at National Israeli-American Conference (IAC), September 25-26 in Washington DC. For more information, visit www.iackenes.org. To learn more about the Early Childhood Institute at the Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education at Hebrew College, visit www.hebrewcollege.edu/early-childhood-institute.   


Hebrew College, founded in 1921, promotes excellence in Jewish learning and leadership within a pluralistic environment of open inquiry, intellectual rigor, personal engagement and spiritual creativity. Its programs include a Rabbinical School, a School of Jewish Music, a School of Jewish Education, and graduate degrees and courses in Jewish studies; community education for adult learners; and a supplemental Hebrew high school and middle school. For more information, visit www.hebrewcollege.edu.