Gan Avraham Preschool
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Affiliated with Temple Beth Abraham
At Gan Avraham, a play-based preschool in Oakland, California, children ages two through five thrive in an environment that encourages social development and a love of learning, while nurturing a strong Jewish identity. The dynamic staff brings a combination of warmth and training in early childhood education to the students, encouraging independence while giving the children a secure, rich environment to explore. Gan Avraham enjoys low staff turnover, and several of our teachers have called Gan Avraham home for a decade or more. Teachers incorporate children’s interests into each classroom, and seamlessly weave Judaic learning into the daily activities of each class.
My 4-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter both attend Gan Avraham, and we have all have found it to be a warm, loving, and intellectually stimulating environment. It's a conservative, Jewish, and play-based preschool, and both of my children are learning important social skills as well as gaining the basis of a Jewish education. My children attend only half days (full days are available), and come home excited (and tired!) about what they've done that day, whether it was making challah, building with large blocks and sand in the fairly large yard, planting potatoes (and months later, cooking them in class), putting on plays, writing and drawing in journals, etc. The teachers are thoughtful, kind, and approachable, and seem to give the children the individual attention they need. Each class seems to strike the right balance between free play and more structured activities.
For parents, Gan Avraham provides a warm, diverse community--not everyone is conservative, and not all parents are Jewish, though I think at least one has to be. As a sidenote, some of my husband and my good friends are the parents we've met over the last few years. It's truly a wonderful community.
I believe there's space in the 2-year-old/3-year-old class for next year, starting September 2014. I know the director, Barbara Kanter, would welcome any questions; her contact information is Barbara [at] tbaoakland.org and 510-763-7528. (For reference, the license number is 010205169.) Very happy Gan parent
My 3-yr old son now attends Gan Avraham Preschool at Temple Beth Abraham and my 6 year old daughter spent three wonderful years thriving in this warm and welcoming preschool. We are a two parent working family and she was in school from 9 - 5:30 everyday and had such a positive experience. (Many kids attend just half a day.) The teachers are calm and caring and they help children navigate the world around them with projects in art, music, the environment, cooking, planting, on and on! The synagogue is conservative, however that means something completely different now than it did when I was young! There are lots of varying degrees of observance and the community is open and welcoming to everyone. I do love that the children make challah each friday and many projects follow the holidays and there's lot of singing. The rabbi also knows each preschooler by name and loves spending time with them. Overall it's been a great experience for our family! Rebecca
Both of our boys attend Gan Avraham and it has been so wonderful for our family. Nurturing, loving staff, imaginative play, beautiful Jewish ritual instruction. Frequent access --but not too much-- to the Rabbi and temple. Outstanding play space inside and out. Conveniently tucked away off 580 on MacArthur, makes work commuting simple. We have watched our sons blossom socially and developmentally here. And they are super Jews! In super way! And we found a nice community of parents and families. Highly recommended. Crocker Mom
Gan Avraham provides a nurturing, stimulating environment with warm, caring teachers. We recommend it highly. Our daughter has been at Gan Avraham preschool since she was just two years old. She loved it from day one! We have always felt that she is encouraged, taught and cared for, for who she is.
Now, in Kitah Gimmel (year three), Gan Avraham is like her second home. She can't wait to go to school in the morning and she doesn't want to leave! She is now 4 1/2 years old and we have seen the tremendous growth and development that has taken place in her, and we credit Gan Avraham in large part. She is a happy, confident child. We have been so happy with the nurturing, skilled teachers. At all three grade levels, they meet the children where they are, developmentally and personality-wise. The teachers create a safe place for the children to create, learn, grow and emote.
Gan Avraham is play-based with a good balance of free-play time and organized activities. Regular music time is a part of the curriculum. The children learn about the Jewish holidays and celebrate Shabbat each week in many different ways. They are exposed to Hebrew through songs and an Israeli teacher even labeled many things with their Hebrew word.
The strong community at Gan Avraham makes it special for the children and the families. Our daughter has made very good friends that she plays with regularly outside of preschool. The Gan has a very dedicated and close-knit parent community. Parent volunteers are involved in all events inside and outside of the classroom (including latke making, journal writing, fundraisers, policy committee, etc). Also, the community has as a strong ethic of helping families in need; if a medical problem arises, for instance, Gan Avraham families organize meals and childcare help. Gan Avraham is a wonderful place for children to learn and grow and a great caring community for families. We feel fortunate to be a part of Gan Avraham. Julie
I highly recommend Gan Avraham pre-school. Our son started at the Gan at age 2, and will be finishing up this year. He is completely kindergarten ready- and it is 100% because of the Gan, its supportive teachers and the wonderful community of friends we have met there. The teachers helped us tremendously our first year as our son adapted to a new ''outside the home'' environment. After his first month, he started to really grow socially, and we realized how much he had needed the social and intellectual stimulation: he would break into new songs he learned at school with the music teacher, talk about his friends and teachers, and projects they did (lots of baking!). At drop-off and pick-up I always noted how happy and excited the kids were, and how well-engaged the teachers were. The intellectual stimulation has increased for him each year and I marvel at how well-socialized all the Gan kids are, compared to other kids. The Jewish education component has been wonderful (challah baking and shabbat every Friday; purim plays, rock n' roll shabbat)- and has inspired me to maintain a Jewish upbringing for my son even after he leaves the GAN. Finally, the Gan community, has been so supportive, open and welcoming. My husband (who is not Jewish) and I have made phenomenal new friends through the GAN. GAN parents support each other through family illness, childbirth, everything. The GAN is an idyllic, warm, loving environment- an incredibly positive experience for the whole family. Coline-Happy Gan Parent
Gan Avraham Preschool at Temple Beth Abraham is the only preschool we looked at, and the only one we wanted to go to! We are so happy to be there, in our third year. It is such a pleasure to see the kids learn and play with teachers who love to be teaching what they are teaching, to the kids they are teaching, at this school which they are so lucky to be at. The kids learn about all of the Jewish holidays and make challah every week for Shabbat. They also learn to help the larger community by making dog bones for a dog shelter, and collecting food for the Alameda Food Bank. The family community is also so caring, and the events throughout the year are fun too! Happy Parent
My boy/girl twins are in their second year at Gan Avraham, and I couldn't be happier with our choice. We are an interfaith family, and I really wanted the kids to go to a Jewish preschool. We find Gan Avraham to be a rich, diverse community, and very welcoming. Besides that, the veteran staff has been top notch, and the program is the perfect mix of free play, some structured time, a great outdoors/indoors balance, projects daily, and integrated learning. I couldn't be happier with the way my children have blossomed at the school. The community of families that attend is also one of the very special aspects of the school. Parents are involved, and care for one another whenever there's a new baby or someone is sick or lost a loved one. This part of the school is what I really value above everything else. Oh, and did I mention it's quite affordable as compared to many others? We love Gan Avraham! Rebecca
I want to let other interfaith families know about the Gan Avraham Jewish Preschool, at Temple Beth Abraham near Lake Merritt. My husband was raised in the Reform tradition, and I am not Jewish. We never thought that a preschool at a conservative temple would be a fit for our family, let alone that we'd be welcome with open arms, but boy were we wrong. We had been regulars at Kindergym since my boys were infants, and got to know some folks from the temple community that way. I learned that our boys would be welcome at the preschool, even though they are not technically considered Jewish in the conservative temple, since I'm not Jewish. We learned that to go to religious school there (beyond preschool) and have Bar Mitzvahs there, they'd have to have a conversion ceremony, which we will consider when we get to that point. For now, my oldest son just finished his first year there, is going into his second year, and my youngest will start next year. It's a wonderfully warm and welcoming community, and we learn a lot about the culture. I love it because I get to learn at a preschooler's pace, which is right for me. We couldn't be happier with our choice. If you are exploring your options, and weren't sure if Gan Avraham was a good option for an interfaith family, I hope you'll consider it. The community is smaller than the local reform community, which allows for great connections and support. I love it and think you will, too. Please email me if you want to talk more about a non-Jewish mom's perspective. Jessica
My twin boys are finishing their last year of preschool at Temple Beth Abraham's Gan Avraham. We have had the best experience at Gan Avraham and couldn't recommend it more highly! We have loved the teachers, the curriculum, and other parents. This is a very welcoming community. The teachers are nurturing, creative, dedicated and just wonderful all around. My children have very different learning styles and personalities and have both thrived in every way at Gan Avraham. They settled into it quickly their first year and have loved it ever since and sometimes say they wish it were a school day on the weekend! Happy Mom
My experience at Gan Avraham has been quite different than that of the person who posted a few weeks ago.
That parent seemed frustrated that the Gan was not working for their 2-working-parent family. When we were considering enrolling our oldest in the school, Wendy, the director, made it very clear that this was not probably the best choice of schools for a family where both parents work and there is no other family/community support. This was not kept a secret! That said, my husband and I both work, now have a second child at the Gan, and have had a very positive experience getting the days and hours we wanted/needed and with the preschool welcoming whichever member of our extended family dropped off, picked up, or attended shabbat any particular week.
The review I read also misquoted the price of Gan Avraham as something like $11/hr. I believe it's actually somewhere between $7/hr-$8hr, certainly not more expensive than other preschools we've looked into.
Lastly, the writer was concerned with the ''mix of children'', seemingly worried that the kids with ''special needs'' were detracting from the attention the children without those needs were getting. To this I'll just say that the world is full of all kinds of people with all kinds of needs, and it's a wonderful thing for my child to learn that now.
Gan Avraham has nurtured my children and helped them grow into self-confident, compassionate, proud Jews. I highly recommend the school. Tosha
Gan Abraham used to be a small wonderful loving place for kids. Since its growth last summer, we noticed a number of changes:
-- Cost - hourly rates are up to $11 per hour
-- Mix of children -- There are more teachers now, which means more kids, some of whom have special needs. With more kids in the classroom (the ratio is all legal, no worries there), the kids without special needs are not getting as much attention and care
-- Hours: the hours are not consistent until 6pm everyday. While the school is open until 6pm Mon-Thursday, there is not always room for your children.
This is really a pre-school that is best for families where both people are not working. Part-time, 9-1 seems to be fine, although still a bit expensive. But trying to cover a full-time schedule under the current circumstances leaves a lot to be desired. Two working parents
I'd love to hear about recent experiences families have had at Gan Avraham (pre-school part of Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland) espcially the youngest class of 2-3 year olds. We are considering starting our son there next school year even though it will require some sacrifices in terms of time (commute to school and then commute to work) and money. We think it's worth it for the right community and school.My husband and I both have strong Jewish backgrounds and really like the idea of starting our son's Jewish ''education'' and experiences early.
We also both work outside of the home full time and need extended care. We plan to have our son at the Gan 8-5 M-Th and 8-noon on Friday.
Questions, Questions, Questions: Is the Gan community open and supportive of parents who work and need full time care? Think I can find any parents who want to carpool to the City after drop off? Does the school help nuture families and friendships? What are the teachers in the youngest classroom like? How is the Director, Wendy?
Thanks So much for your feedback, I really appreciate it! Nice Jewish Mom
I am the mother of a Gan Avraham graduate (1st grader) and a current student of Kitah Bet (2nd year class) and a member of the synagogue. I really like the school and definitely make sacrifices to attend, as there are lots of good preschools much closer to our Montclair home. Giving my children a strong Jewish foundation was part of the reason I selected Gan Avraham. I also enjoy being part of the community that goes beyond the school, and with a graduate, I can see those friendships still developing.
The school has many families where both parents work and it offers extended hours to accommodate those families, which was another factor in my school selection, since I work 4 days/week. The kids who stay for the afternoon play in the yard, nap/rest, have snacks, etc. My kids have always loved when they get to stay late. A lot of parents volunteer, but there are lots of opportunities outside of the classroom, so even working parents can find a way to contribute.
The school building was refurbished over the summer and classes expanded. The curriculum is play based.
The director, Wendy Siver, is great, and I recommend you talk to her about the curriculum and teachers (they can change from year to year) and your other questions. She will also be scheduling tours for prospective parents at some point in the next few months.
You are also welcome to contact me with further questions. Susan
Hi, I am a working mom and have been thrilled with our children's experience at Gan Avraham. I have two children, one who graduated from Gan Avraham last year and is now in kindergarten and one who is in her third year at Gan Avraham. We have found the Gan to be a wonderful nurturing environment for our children and for us as parents.
Our children have attended the Gan from 8:30-5:30 Wednesday and Thursday and 8:30-3:30 on Friday. I have always felt supported as a working mom; and the Gan works hard to offer hours that work for those of us who work. As the school is at a Conservative Synagogue, the school is closed for some of the Jewish Holidays. When we are in a pinch, we have found other families are always willing to help out, with playdates or childcare swaps. The teachers at the Gan are loving and wonderful with the kids and dedicated to teaching and to the school.
We love the community that the Gan provides for our children and for us. Our children have many friends at the synagogue from attending preschool there. Rabbi Bloom (who is wonderful with children and families) frequently comes to classes to celebrate holidays and sing with the children. And the Gan works hard to create a welcoming community for parents of children attending the Gan, with parent education events, evening events for families from the Gan, and evening social events for adults.
Wendy Siver, the director, is incredibly helpful with all kinds of parenting advice, both related to school and not related to school. She is always available for parents to drop into her office to chat before or after dropping off and picking up children.
In terms of carpooling, I don't know who works where, but I am sure Wendy would be happy to put you in touch with parents who work in the City and could talk to you about carpooling/commuting.
Hope that helps. Good luck with your decision. Laura
Two of my children have gone through Gan Avraham. It is a loving, sweet community. Many of the kids have one parent at home and there are times when it seems hard for the kids whose parents both work and are for example, unable to join the weekly Friday 12:30 shabbat circle. There are also many holidays and gaps (in the summer) that make it difficult for people who do not have much flexibility with their work schedule. Perhaps you could call the school and they could connect you with a working parent to share their experience. Good luck! anon
Any advise regarding choosing between Temple Sinai and Gan Avraham Preschool? Thank you for the help. jenny
My kids both went to Gan Avraham and I was very happy with it. When you choose the preschool, you are choosing a community, which you (hopefully) will want to be part of for some time. You may also want to look at the services at both synagogues, which are very different and at the religious schools, which again have somewhat different philosophies. anon
I'm happy to speak to our experience at Gan Avraham. My son is currently in his second year with the program and we have been extremely happy -- and so has he! The teachers are warm and loving, and have extensive knowledge in early childhood development. The teachers are very approachable and communicate well with parents. There is one class per age group (3 classes at the entire school) which makes it a very nice environment. The preschool makes a large effort to create a community among the families at the school. Although Temple Beth Abraham is a conservative synagogue, the children (families) that attend the school come from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds. The director of the preschool is great and a real asset to parents. There are still a few spaces available in both the 2 year old and 3 year old classrooms for Fall 2006. If you are interested in more information, please contact the director, Wendy Siver, at 763-7528.
I have been very happy with Gan Avraham. Both schools were highly recommended to me, and I considered both when my older son was starting preschool. Temple Sinai's shorter hours did not work for my family, so we never looked in-depth at that school. My older son is a graduate and I plan to send my younger son to Gan Avraham starting in the fall. Gan Avraham is play-based, and I think the kids develop good social skills that serve them well as they advance into elementary school. The teachers are loving toward the kids, and staff turnover is low.
My son developed a positive sense of being Jewish at Gan Avraham by celebrating holidays, including a special Friday Shabbat celebrations. The school has a number of kids from mixed religious backgrounds, and I think that their parents would agree that Gan Avraham is welcoming toward all kids.
I especially like the sense of community at the school. It is more than drop your child off or pick him/her up at the end of the day. Parents help out, as their schedules allow, both inside and outside the classroom, which allows them to get to know each other better. Parents provide meals and other support if there is a new baby, illness, or death in a family. The school has a good mix of stay-at-home Moms (or Dads), but is also very friendly toward working parents who need full-time child care. Many families belong to the synagogue and see each other at events outside of school.
A difference between the two schools is that Gan Avraham is affiliated with Temple Beth Abraham, a conservative synagogue, while Temple Sinai is reform. Having said that, I doubt the religious education at the two schools differs greatly, because 3-5 year olds are mostly celebrating holidays and learning basic Hebrew words, but not getting too in-depth into religious training. Gan Avraham is closed for major Jewish holidays (the number of days depends on the year and when the holidays fall), although childcare is available at an extra charge on most of these days.
The school also offers summer programs to current students. Feel free to email me if you have additional questions about Gan Avraham. Susan
(Reviews were also received for Temple Sinai Preschool
My daughter has just completed her first year at Gan Avraham, the preschool at Temple Beth Abraham, and we are very pleased with the school and the community that one joins when your child enrolls there. My husband and I have never been as courted as we were when we joined Temple Beth Abraham nearly 3 years ago and then started to consider preschools. Everyone we met raved about the school, and we found this enthusiasm to be accurate.
Gan Avraham is a play-based curriculum, which from our experience has allowed our child to develop as she wishes. The teachers are creative, caring, and very in-tune with what works with individual kids. One of the co-directors just celebrated her 20th anniversary, and many of the other staff have been there for many years. Additionally, there is a very active parents group that works on everything from meals to families with new babies or illnesses to teacher appreciation efforts to various holiday celebrations. We quite like everyone we've met through the nursery school.
You should know that Gan Avraham has a waiting list for this September, and likely will for the following year (we can count 10 babies already who are members and/or have siblings in the school). Priority is given to Temple members. It's also a great temple, as has been attested in other posts to this list. Good luck! Jody
Temple Beth Abraham has a great preschool and seems to be easier to get in if you are not a member. We were going to go there prior to getting into Temple Sinai school. I think their directors are terrific and I've only heard very positive things about their school. Hannah