The Early Childhood Conference sponsored by the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life presented the opportunity for executive director Robert Lichtman to make a major announcement.
He told the educators gathered Oct. 30 in South Orange that the agency’s early childhood initiative would from then on be known as the Department of Early Childhood and Family Engagement and that its newly appointed director is longtime Partnership professional Joan Bronspiegel Dickman.
Stressing the message conveyed by the new name, Lichtman said that while the Partnership “has always been working with the early childhood centers throughout MetroWest, our ultimate goal has always been to engage families. That’s what our strategy is: Teach the child, reach the family.”
Talking to NJJN at the conference, Lichtman pointed out that the center’s initiatives now reach beyond preschools to the entire community regardless of whether or where children go to preschool. He cited such programs as the PJ Library, a Harold Grinspoon Foundation project cosponsored by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ that sends free Jewish-themed books and music to families. “We want to call the center what it is,” Lichtman said. “Our goal is using early childhood as a gateway to Jewish life.”
Dickman has been with the Partnership and its predecessor organization, the Jewish Education Association of MetroWest, for a total of 29 years, serving since 2006, when the Partnership was established, as director of early childhood initiatives and before that as founding director of the JEA Merkaz, the Community Resource Center.
In describing her vision for the Department of Early Childhood and Family Engagement, Dickman said, “We want to reach families and change their Jewish journey while their children are still young because then it changes the whole family’s journey for the future
“Early childhood is a very critical time in life. It’s a fork in the road. If we can give them positive, enjoyable, and meaningful experiences, we will plant the seeds for the future.”
Her ultimate goal, said Dickman, is “to get every child and to get every family to feel great about being Jewish, and to take the next step and the next step and the next step — whatever the right step is for them.”