A preschool that began at Congregation B’nai Israel in Rumson as the dream of one local couple is now celebrating 25 years of growth and teaching children in a warm Jewish environment.
Gloria and Eugene Landy of Rumson hatched the idea for the Gan Yeladim Early Childhood Center when Gloria was serving as congregation president — the first woman to hold that office.
When they suggested establishment of the center, they were told: “If you find the money we will support you,” said center director Pearl Charatz. The Landys, she said, “backed that up.”
On Saturday, Dec. 11, a cocktail reception will be held to celebrate the school’s 25th anniversary and honor the Landys for their contributions.
Gloria Landy said she is “honored and happy” to be feted.
“The parents who exhibited a great deal of confidence to send their children to a new nursery school and who stuck with us while we put the school together was one of the first highlights,” said Landy. “All through the years, walking by and watching children coloring and sharing stories on Jewish topics and playing and singing have all been highlights for me.”
The school has also been lucky to have an unusually dedicated staff, she said.
“Our principals from the beginning until now have all been wonderful and caring,” she said. “Everyone connected with Gan Yeladim from the beginning has been marvelous.”
Charatz, who is chairing the Dec. 11 tribute, said the school started with about seven youngsters and has now expanded to 53 children ages two to five. It hopes to start a kindergarten next year.
Gan Yeladim also runs a weekly “Ima and Me” program for toddlers 16 to 30 months and pre-kindergarten and kindergarten enrichment programs offering readiness skills training and Jewish studies.
In its effort to “move children along to the 21st century,” said Charatz, three touch-sensitive “SMART tables,” accommodating up to eight students, were purchased this year through grants and parental fund-raising. Children’s computer units are next.
Gan Yeladim uses the state-approved “HighScope” early childhood curriculum, which is based on children being actively involved in their own learning.
In the summers, the school runs Camp Keshet three days a week for youngsters two-five years old.
“We have been going for 25 years, and it says a lot that the community has embraced us for all this time,” said Charatz. “There’s not been a lot of turnover in staff because it is such a wonderful, haimische place. What makes this place so special is that this is Rumson and Little Silver. It’s not Livingston or Highland Park where you just walk outside and everyone is Jewish. This synagogue and school help the Jewish community connect.”