Gan Shalom Preschool
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After searching high and low for the best preschool for our four year old, we found Gan
Shalom Preschool in Berkeley to be the right fit. The atmosphere is warm and nurturing and
my son instantly felt at ease. The director, Laura Lipman is professional, educated and
caring and is very good with school-parent communications. The teachers are wonderful with
the children and very hands-on. Laura sends us pictures of our son during the day (on
occasion) with captions describing the activity he's doing and his comments. It feels
wonderful to know our son is in such good hands.Our son comes home singing Jewish songs
and telling us all about the new things he learned. From sequoia trees to dipping the
apple into honey for Rosh Hashana! We are very happy with Gan Shalom and highly recommend
Our family is visiting Berkeley just for a year while my husband is on sabbatical and visiting the university. We enrolled our youngest daughter in Gan Shalom preschool and couldn't be happier. This is the third preschool our family has experienced -- the first two were in Seattle, WA and in Pasadena, CA -- and we love it by far the most. It's a magical place, full of music and dramatic storytelling. The school is unusual in that it is quite small (20-25 students) and kids ages 3-5 are all together in one space most of the time. Having a range of ages works well for my four-year-old. She looks up to the older kids and finds the younger ones ''cute'' and enjoys playing with both. For part of the day, the kids are also divided into smaller groups for age-appropriate activities.
There are four teachers, all with different strengths. One plays the guitar and sings beautifully, one is Israeli and speaks and sings with the kids in Hebrew, another is wonderful at telling stories with puppets. All are kind and loving and help facilitate positive play, and teach basic skills like good hand washing and using the potty. Our only regret is that we have to leave this wonderful school at the end of the year. Happy mother
Re: Looking for a fun, easy-going Jewish preschool
We sent both our children to Gan Shalom in Berkeley and love it there. A loving, kind, playful place that manages to create wonderful Jewish stories and songs and atmosphere on a level accessible for everyone from 3 year olds to grownups. We also have lots of friends with kids at Netivot Shalom who love it there too. Both places have a vibrant parent community. happy jewmamma
Try Gan Shalom Preschool on Jefferson St. in Berkeley. My first child went for two years and my second is in her first year there. I continue to feel excited by the curriculum and the very creative teachers. There is a place for all families interested in Judaism and a respect for the diverse meaning that has within the community. Happy Parent
Re: Do I need to join a temple to get into preschool?
We have been extremely happy with Gan Shalom in Berkeley, which is affiliated with Congregation Beth Israel (cbiberkeley.org). Although it is a nominally Orthodox preschool, many of the children come from intermarried families, some of whom have converted and many of whom have not. It is play-based, with several working artists on the faculty, so the art projects are impressively diverse, thoughtful, and well-conceived. It is a small (5 teachers, 25 kids), relaxed, loving environment, and kids learn a tremendous amount about the Jewish calendar, Jewish values, etc. I'd recommend a visit, at the least. Sara
I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who as experience with Gan Shalom preschool. I've heard some good things from acquaintances but have found no postings here and I'd like to learn more. Thanks. berkeley mom
Gan Shalom Preschool in Central Berkeley has a warm, homelike atmosphere combined with teachers who are professional, creative and very skilled. It is a Modern Orthodox Jewish setting that is open to families with any level of Jewish observance. We have found an incredibly strong sense of community and great learning that have taken place for our daughter in her individual friendships as well as for us as a family. Gan Shalom's focus on group identity as a Jewish community combined with attention to the uniqueness of each individual child make this school a very special place. A real celebration. If you have any questions feel free to email me. I am currently a parent there. joanna
My two children have gone to Gan Shalom preschool in the last few years and loved it. One child was very introverted, wanted everything ordered a particular way, socially a bit awkward, not affectionate, scared of new things and new people. He completely blossomed there in their open, play-based, loving atmosphere. They waited for him and encouraged him and loved him but never pressured him and he became open and loving and brave and friendly--an amazing transformation in the course of a year. My other child is and was socially a butterfly, confident, willful--and also loves it there. It is just a very loving, low key, accepting kind of place where kids have fun and are supported in who they are.
The Jewish content at the school is nice, but also low key. The kids celebrate the sabbath every Friday, learn stories (Noah's Ark, etc.), and do crafts and activities around the holidays. I believe they also say a blessing before and after meals, and I know they send prayers for healing to friends and family who are sick (this is very cute- the kids throw out their hands and say ''Whoosh! A full healing!''). We enjoyed hearing our kids come home singing the blessing after eating in Hebrew, and other Hebrew songs. As you may know, Gan Shalom has two openings at the moment. I would really encourage you to check it out- it's a great place. happy parents
Gan Shalom is a very creative, endearing and learning-oriented school. Having had preschoolers both there and at other schools (I currently have two at Gan Shalom), my sense is that art, music, and general 'how to be a good kid' skills are emphasized much more at Gan Shalom than at many places. In addition, kids get significant, age-appropriate exposure to the moral issues in many Bible stories, often through activities that include dance, drama and art. Also, don't be scared off by the ''Modern Orthodox'' commitment of the school--only about 10-20% of famililies in any given year identify as Modern Orthodox, and the rest span the gamut from unaffiliated to Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and even not Jewish. If you want to get more info on Gan Shalom feel free to email me. Sara
Our daughter is in her second year at Gan Shalom and she loves it - misses going during vacations and is happy to go every day. At Gan Shalom, teachers help children develop their hearts and spirits as well as their minds. My daughter is thriving at Gan - intellectually as well as emotionally and socially. The environment is stimulating and she comes home talking about what she is learning every day. I like that she is learning values that are important to me such as honoring all beings, gratitude, and taking care of others. The teachers do a wonderful job of helping chldren learn to negotiate conflict and respect each other. I found the community to be welcoming and generous. (We had our second child a few weeks after my daughter started preschool, and many people in the community brought us food even though they didn't know us yet.) We love Gan Shalom and highly recommend it. vc
Gan Shalom is a wonderful preschool. Our first child started there in 2001 and our third child is there now. Of all the teachers in that period, they have all been great. Somehow they always seem to be able to attract the most amazing, warm, enthusiastic, creative and down-to-earth teachers. The small school size makes the experience very unintimidating for both the kids and the parents. The kids and the parents all get to know each other quite quickly and really become a community. We love it! Jeff
We sent our (now kindergartner!) son to Gan Shalom for 2 years and he loved it!! When he entered, he had a hard time with strangers, with affection, with loose play, with friendships---he blossomed incredibly in the first year and was able to be relaxed, affectionate, playful and loving. He had strong attachments to the teachers and the other kids there. There is a strong atmosphere of kindness and love, as well as playfulness. He looked forward to going every day and we felt that the teachers really appreciated his individual strengths as well as gently helping him to grow in areas that he needed help. The art projects were amazing--we still enjoy looking at them. The community of parents is supportive and friendly and welcoming to a broad range of different Jewish religious practice. happy mama