The JCP Early Childhood Center is a pluralistic Jewish learning community, dedicated to supporting the development of identity and fostering a spirit of inclusion from the earliest years. We believe in the inherent value of each individual. Every day our children learn to appreciate similarities, to embrace differences, and to protect and advocate for others, both within and beyond our walls.
Our mission at JCP revolves around the commitment to building an experience of community that is rooted in Jewish values. Central to this mission is the belief that every person has inherent worth, “made in the image of the Divine,” according to the Torah; that it is our Jewish obligation to welcome the stranger into our community; and that we are responsible for one another. Each day these values are brought to life in the classroom. As teachers support children in sharing their experiences, exploring and articulating their sense of personal identity, and building confidence in their ideas, we celebrate the uniqueness of each individual. As children get to know one another and learn to work and play together, we scaffold their ability to recognize commonalities and differences and to relish the opportunities embedded in that which is shared as well as that which is unfamiliar.
Each day of a young child’s life brings new experiences and new information. As children work to make sense of all that they are taking in, they become experts in sorting and classifying. Just as the young child learns to identify and categorize shapes, colors, and animals, so too does the mind begin to create categories and assumptions that organize experiences of people. The very trait that allows young children to learn more rapidly than at any other time in their lives also makes them vulnerable to the seeds of stereotype and bias. Research tells us that many of these seeds take root in a child’s consciousness by age five, if we do not actively work to expand their thinking. Therefore, we see it as our responsibility as early childhood educators to model openness in discussing diversity and to create classroom environments in which children are comfortable asking questions, challenging their own assumptions, and complicating their understandings. Learning at JCP is an experience of coming into complexity.
Just as we support children in learning to express and take pride in their individuality, we also actively foster a commitment, not only to appreciate, but to stand up for others. Young children are acutely attuned to issues of fairness. We encourage them to articulate their observations about justice, whether in the block corner or in the world outside the classroom, and to view themselves as allies and problem solvers. Through these early experiences we empower children at JCP to become active, responsible, caring citizens in a diverse world.