B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool is expanding its program in the foothills of Pasadena.
The non-denominational preschool strives to create a loving and experiential environment where children can explore, manipulate and create as they develop and reach their developmental milestones at their own individual pace, inflected by Jewish culture and identity.
B’nai Simcha believes that we are Jews in the world and in every facet of our beings. As such, we do not separate Judaic studies and experiences from the general curriculum, fully integrating our Jewish experiences and identities within our everyday learning and play. Our days are infused with Jewish life, traditions, culture and rituals, allowing children to explore and experiment while making sense of the world in which they live.
Research shows that the most effective way for children to learn, develop and reach their potential is through play, so our evidence-based curriculum utilizes a play-based approach to learning. We support each child’s journey and exploration with open-ended questions and scaffolding when appropriate.
We validate the children’s feelings and experiences by noticing, acknowledging and modeling. It is our goal to support the children in developing resilience, empathy, emotional intelligence, problem solving skills and the knowledge that they can make a difference in the community, both local and worldwide.
We offer preschool programs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, with a range of schedule options for children 2 to 6 years old. Pandemic pending, we are launching our infant/toddler and caregiver programs this winter.
These classes are engaging interactive experiences where parents and caregivers will have the opportunity to play and explore with other children and their grown-ups, as well as time for parents and caregivers to expand their parenting skills and learn about child development.
We will also be launching a parenting series towards the end of January. These classes are all in-person and attendees eligible for the vaccine will be required to show proof of full COVID vaccination.
B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool was founded 40 years ago. The school was started by 10 families and the founding director, but when Judy Callahan took over as director, the school began to grow. Callahan effectively built the thriving community B’nai has become today during her 28-year tenure, and Director Jennifer Leonard took over where Callahan left off.
As the Jewish community has grown in the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys, the need for early childhood education and care has grown as well. To meet the needs of the community, the vision for B’nai Simcha expanded to include both increased preschool capacity and adding an infant and toddler center.
I was hired by B’nai in August 2020 both to support Director Jennifer Leonard, of blessed memory, as she battled long term illness and to support her and our board in expanding both the program and community at B’nai. After a two-year hiatus, I was excited to be back in a Jewish school, adding to my 22 years in Jewish education.
At B’nai I found a supportive, inclusive community that embraced not only my vision for bringing progressive, science-based education to the Jewish community, but also me and my own children, giving us a place to renew and rediscover our Jewish life.
The support of our families, and especially of our generous, invested and actively involved alumni, has empowered my board, my staff, and me and enabled us to expand the school and programming, and the vision for our school. Without their unwavering commitment to building up the next generation of educated and uplifted Jewish children, we could not have thrived in this most challenging of years. And we have thrived!
When I joined B’nai, the school had 30 children ages 2 to 6. Even in the midst of the pandemic, we knew there was an increasing demand for quality Jewish education in our communities, so we expanded capacity to accommodate the growing interest and need.
Now at 79 students strong, we are delighted to be increasing capacity yet again to meet the continuing growth of our community.
Together, our staff, parents and broader community work to build our children up with the knowledge that they are valued members of the Jewish community and the world.
Chana Blugrind MA Ed, is the Director of B’nai Simcha Community Preschool
and a contributing writer to Kiddish Magazine.