JCC East Bay Preschool

Berkeley, CA

To see Department of Social Services records on this facility, click on its DSS Facility License # below.

DSS Facility License #: 
JCC of the East Bay
510-848-0237, ext. 155
info [at] jcceastbay.org
N. Berkeley on Walnut St.
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
24 months - 60 months
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
9:00am - 5:30pm
Additional Services & Features: 
Pre-K program
About Our Program: 

The JCC East Bay’s award winning preschool is a play-based, nurturing place for early childhood education. Each day includes group activities, music, art, and team projects as well as individual, creative exploration. The preschool, located in North Berkeley, is culturally Jewish, celebrating Jewish values, traditions, weekly Shabbat, and holidays throughout the year. We proudly welcome families and children from all backgrounds and from throughout the East Bay. Our philosophy is to teach and model caring for each other, ourselves, and the world (tikkun olam). Through active listening and positive encouragement, we help each child on their unique path of social-emotional development and life-long learning.

Parent Q&A

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  • JCC Preschool

    (1 reply)

    Hello. Considering JCC preschool in the fall for my to be 2 year old. Any current attending families with reviews? Feel free to private message me if you prefer. Many thanks in advance.

    Hi! I am a current JCC parent, my older son in his last year after 3 awesome years, and will be sending our younger son in the fall. Needless to say, we love it! The teachers are fantastic! Kind, caring and thoughtful about the projects and experiences that they create for the kids. They get lots of outdoor time, playing in yard and in the garden. Have out of the classroom activities, go for walks, movement/dance, music, etc. The parent community is awesome, it really feels like a group of people who truly care about each other. I'm happy to connect and answer any specific questions you have, pm me.

  • Feedback on JCC preschool?

    (2 replies)

    Hello, does anyone here have recent experiences with the JCC preschool? I am considering their toddler program for my almost 2 year old and all of the reviews here are more than a few years old. I would welcome any information about experiences, positive or negative, and either shared here or in a private message. Thank you! 

    We have two children in the JCC preschool, and have been quite happy there. It is a kind, supportive environment, and the teachers are excellent. It also has a very convenient structure and schedule for working parents. No complaints!

    I can't say enough good things about the JCC program. Monika, who facilitates Perachim (the toddler program) is amazing! She has fantastic energy and is always excited to engage with little folks and their big energy. It's a lot of play time, mixed activities, and then an age appropriate circle time for Shabbat. I'm on my second child attending this program (my older is now at the JCC preschool) and an happy to answer any specific questions via PM. Also they do a free trial if you want to come and check it out before committing to the whole session. Just email and ask!

Parent Reviews

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Hi, we have been with the JCC for 5 years (2 lids) and love it. Its a few blocks from you. Its not religious at all, diverse community, play based but really cares about ECE. Kids thrive there and do great when they go on to K

JCC Preschool in Berkeley! Wonderful preschool for both age ranges. Our son went there, loved it and thrived there. Good luck on deciding! 

berkeley JCC has opening for 4s and 2s. We absolutely love it there, it's an amazing community and not religious at all, just culturally jewish but many non jewish kids go there

For the past year, JCC East Bay has been a creative and happy place for my son to develop his language and social skills. He is autistic and attended with an aide. The teachers were wonderful about working with our aide and helping our son integrate into the program. I can't say enough about what a warm, nurturing and creative environment it is. I also loved the bright, airy classrooms and lovely play courtyard. We are not Jewish, and appreciated the inclusive feeling of the JCC. Our son just was offered a last minute spot at a public preschool that specializes in his special needs, so his departure opens up a spot in the 3-year-old class at the JCC. You can contact the Preschool Director -- Ruth Petersen Shorer -- at 510-848-0237 x122 or [email protected]. We found this preschool to be more affordable than many in the area.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Seeking feedback on JCC East Bay Preschool

April 2016

We are considering enrolling our son in the 2yr olds class at JCC East Bay Fall 2016. He has been offered a spot and we need to submit contract by this Friday! We live in N. Oakland so it'll be a bit of a schlep however are willing to do the drive for the right fit. We'd like a Jewish environment, play based with nurturing attentive teachers. We also like the Temple Sinai program however they don't have room for Fall 2016. Would love to hear feedback from any current parents in that we don't know anyone personally who has sent a child to this preschool! Thanks! Sarah K

Dear potential JCC parents--
Our kid is in zayit (2 year olds), and we are completely thrilled with the program. The teachers are AMAZING. The leadership is superb, and wise. The other families are just lovely. It's a great community, and we feel very much at home. We get useful feedback from the staff, and they work hard to make sure that each individual child is getting what they need to thrive. Our kids are all clearly loved when they are there. Beyond my clearly biased perspective, I would offer that there is a reason they always have a wait list! More importantly, as a mama, I would say to trust your instincts. If you think your kid will be happy there, then yes; if not, then listen to that. For us, JCC is one constant that we can count on to be high quality, dependable, and full of love.
kvelling mama

Jan 2015

Re: 2 yr old at BENS vs JCC vs Netivot

My now 12 and 10 year old daughters both went to the JCC preschool from age 2 both with summer/early fall birthdays.  There was no problem then and now the JCC has older 2s and younger 2s classes that do some things apart and some
things together to address the different levels of development in the 2 y.o. classroom because of the difference even a few months can make.  There may be a need for parental volunteering until the child is 2 for licensing reasons, but it can be accommodated (it was for us many years ago)

And in regard to Jewish content/community, the JCC was core to the formation of their Jewish identity and the strengthening of our family's Jewish community.  In fact, we chose the JCC in particular because of how we wanted our children and our family to have an inclusive Jewish experience based on a communitarian ethos.  And, down the years, we have continued to maintain these friendships and have begun to attend the Bar and Bat Mitzvah's of our friends' chidren at all of the local congregations as well as some in non-congregational settings as we prepare for our own through Beth El.  I personally have been very active as a volunteer in the local Jewish community, which started through Board service at the JCC. 

I am a parent of JCC preschool graduate and current JCC preschool student. We have had an absolutely fantastic experience.

My older daughter was a fall birthday, too, and we loved the special care given to the younger 2s (their own space, own little bathroom, small class size initially and over the year play and engage more and more with the older 2s).

I'm not sure how the JCC compares to the other Jewish programs, but we have definitely found Jewish (and non-Jewish) community there. I very much anticipate these are the kids my kids will go to Jewish summer camp with, do bar and bat mitzvah prep with, etc. It is an incredibly welcoming, open community. My older kid will be attending their Camp Tzofim all summer - it's very much a continuation of the high quality programming and community we found in the preschool.
JCC parent

May 2014

Re: PT Half Day Preschool Fall 2014 for 2.5 yo

I've sent 2 kids to half-day 2 year old programs 2-3 days per week in Berkeley: The JCC in North Berkeley about 5 years ago and Wee Two Toddler House last year. You can find reviews of both on BPN and call ahead to see if there is still room for the fall and to schedule a visit. The JCC is a larger school and enrolling is a nice way to meet lots of other local families (there are plenty of non-Jewish and/or non-religious families). Wee Two is a lovely lady running a very small and sweet two-year-old program out of her home. Welcome to Berkeley and good luck! Berkeley mom

June 2013

For the past year, JCC East Bay has been a safe and nurturing environment for our daughter. The teachers have supported her and her classmates' emerging interests, while still providing the structure that they need to feel secure. We recommend the school and its program to everyone. Sadly, a new job in a different town requires us to leave Berkeley this summer, and our daughter must leave the JCC. Her departure will open up a spot in the 3-year-old class. Our daughter has asked us to make sure that another child takes her place, so her classmates won't be lonely. We would be happy to talk to anyone about our experience at the JCC East Bay. It is a wonderful place. We can be contacted at the attached email address. Or, you can contact the Preschool Director -- Ruth Petersen Shorer -- at 510-848-0237 x122 or ruths [at] jcceastbay.org. Bryan & Juliet

May 2013

I am looking for a Jewish preschool for my 7 month old. I know I am early, but finding one that is not synagogue affiliated seems impossible. Even a Jewish daycare would be acceptable as long as she is learning the holidays and possibly some Hebrew (numbers, alphabet). Does anything of this sort exist? I have been asking around and no one seems to know. Thanks for any help. Jewish mom

You didn't say where you live, but the East Bay JCC in north Berkeley has a preschool. My daughter was there for 2 years but they also have a smaller toddler program. Staff has changed a lot since my daughter left (after years of long time staff) but at least two of the current JCC executives were preschool parents while my daughter was there, and one of the teachers is still there. I recommend that you check it out. We had a great experience. Francesca

the JCC East Bay has a very nice preschool in Berkeley, not Synagogue affiliated. Also, Tehiyah Day School has an excellent Bridge-K program for older preschoolers and kids not-quite-ready for Kindergarten. That said, why not a Synagogue affiliated preschool? You gave no indication in your post as to why not, so I can only make inferences. The Synagogues in the East Bay are welcoming and pluralistic places. Check them out, you might find exactly what you're looking for. Best wishes. Joan

Check out the JCC East Bay Preschool in Berkeley. Also they have a toddler program in Oakland. Call Ruth Shorer at 848-0237, she is the director. Sally

I believe the daycare in the Jewish community center is quite good. I visited it and I liked it. I think they start with older kids though. I also visited the daycare in the Temple Beth-El and liked it a lot, but that's synagogue-affiliated. If I were you, I would check it out. I almost send my daughter there, and other moms have told me great things about this daycare. Hope that helps! Carolina. Carolina

JCC is the only one that comes to mind. Though not sure what the reasons are for wanting a nonaffiliated preschool... Is it level of religious instruction that is of concern? My daughters went to Beth El Nursery School, and although we are atheist we were very happy there. Happy with BENS

Jan 2012

Re: Mid year openings for a 4 1/2 yr old in Berkeley?
The Jewish Community Center in Berkeley has a wonderful Pre-K program that our son was in last year. Our class had a couple of children join mid-year and it seemed to work OK, perhaps they would do it again. The preschool director is Ruth and the Pre-K teacher is Sarah, they are both great to work with. You don't have to be Jewish to join. We love JCC Preschool

Nov 2011

Re: Good preschool for my active 3.5 years old boy?
My son was very active at that age. Our daughter went to the Berkeley JCC Preschool (jcceb.org) and we thought it would have been a good fit for our son. There were lots of very active boys in her class. I would look for a developmental preschool that doesn't expect kids to sit quietly if they don't want to. Male teachers may also be a plus--on the whole, they seem to understand that boy energy better than female teachers. -Been there, unfortunately didn't do that.

Oct 2011

Re: Recommendations for Bridge-K programs Oakland
While it's not in Oakland, I and another Oakland family that we know chose the Berkeley JCC Bridge K program last year. While it's not a fancy facility, it was a small class (only 8 boys) with a wonderful teacher. The class did fun outdoor stuff, like walks around Berkeley, picnics, a visit to the Oakland museum and to a shoreline park in alameda, as well as artwork, singing, dancing, cooking, and gardening. They also did kindergarten readiness things like letter and number recognition, sorting, writing etc. You don't have to be Jewish to send your child there but they will learn songs and some holiday info. It was a great year. Gwen

June 2011

Re: Bridge K/Transitional K Programs?
My son is finishing up at the JCC East Bay's Bridge-K program. He has had an amazing year in a very intimate class led by an incredible teacher. I think all of the parents in the class would agree with me! Sally

Nov 2010

Re: Transitional kindergarten for almost-5 yo
We have a 'young' 5 year old at the JCC East Bay's new Bridge-K program and couldn't be happier. He is making great friendships and feeling so positive about learning, I highly recommend it. The teacher is great and the community wonderful! Sally

May 2010

Re: Albany parents, which preschool did you pick?
Our kids went to the JCC of the East Bay preschool in North Berkeley. This is an outstanding school, and well-established. It's terrific even if you're not Jewish - they are very welcoming to families of all backgrounds, and there's quite a bit of diversity amongst the kids and families. For more info: http://prod.jcceastbay.org/childhood/preschool.html Best of luck! ### Happy JCCEB Family

Jan 2010

Re: Program for 4 yr-old not quite ready for K?
The JCC in North Berkeley is starting a Bridge-K next year for kids like yours. The current ECE director will be directing it--she's great, and currently directing the preschool (where my daughter is--she loves it), and they'll be providing everything you mention. Although it is a Jewish Community Center, and has some Jewish content, it is open to all, and there are lots of kids in their afterschool programs who are not Jewish. You can call Ruth Shorer at 510 848 0237 x122 for more info. JCC parent

Jan 2010

Re: Feed back on Temple Sinai Preschool & Gan Mah Tov
I don't know personally about Temple Sinai or Gan Mah Tov (although I have friends with kids at the latter who love it). However, we have our daughter at the JCC Preschool in Berkeley. It's fabulous--the teachers are super loving and patient and smart about kids, the new director is really approachable and helpful, and my daughter has formed lots of important friendships--with other kids as well as with teachers (we're planning a playdate with her teacher from last year, in fact). The JCC provides a Jewish context, celebrates the holidays, has shabbat every week, etc, but most of the families are also 'not very religious' and often not affiliated with synagogues. Lots of interfaith families and ''secular Jews.'' It's been a great place for all of us. call Ruth Shorer about the Preschool--510 848 0237 x122; or email at ruths [at] jcceastbay.org JCC mom

June 2009

Re: Year-round all day preschool in Berkeley/Albany
The JCC of the East Bay in North Berkeley provides care 8am - 5:30pm year-round. Our daughter went there for several years and just ''graduated''. We were extremely happy with the school and the community.

Our daughter was thrilled to go to school practically every day, and she and the other kids were lucky to have the wonderful and caring teachers who are at the JCC. The activities are fun and age-appropriate developmentally, with room for adjustments based on the needs of the individual kid. She made several friends with whom she's had all kinds of play dates as well.

I believe they still have a few spaces open for the Fall, so you may want to get in touch right away. Very satisfied JCC family

June 2009

Re: Preschool suggestions near El Cerrito or Albany
The JCC of the East Bay in North Berkeley is just a few minutes away from Albany and El Cerrito. Our daughter went there for several years and just ''graduated''. We were extremely happy with the school and the community.

Our daughter was thrilled to go to school practically every day, and she and the other kids were lucky to have the wonderful and caring teachers who are at the JCC. The activities are fun and age-appropriate developmentally, with room for adjustments based on the needs of the individual kid. She made several friends with whom she's had all kinds of play dates as well.

I believe they still have a few spaces open for the Fall, so you may want to get in touch right away. Very satisfied JCC family

May 2009

Re: Seeking full time preschool for my 2 year old
The JCC of the East Bay in Berkeley has a really great preschool which accepts 2-year-olds. Our daughter is just finishing up there (she's 5), and has a wonderful experience. Details at: http://prod.jcceastbay.org/childhood/preschool.html - Happy JCC East Bay familiy

March 2009

Does anyone have any recent experience with the Berkeley JCC preschool program? I know they have a new Director this year and there were some changes, but I'd love to hear experiences from parents whose kids have been there over the past few years or are currently enrolled. Pros/cons, general experiences, earthquake safety of the building, and are there a lot of fees and donation requests above the base expenses? I really loved my visit, but would appreciate current feedback. Thanks! Figuring out preschool

Hello! Our daughter is in her second year at the JCC preschool, and both she and we are loving it. We've been very happy with the teachers, who are fun, kind, and respectful of each child as an individual. She's made several friends, as have we since the community is close-knit and welcoming. Our main impressions come from the fact that our daughter is happy to go to school every day, comes home happy every afternoon, and chatters about the days events.

There has been a change in director, and we've been there for the transition. In our opinion, the new director is terrific. Note that she's no novice - among other things she was director of all the JCC schools in San Francisco previously and had a great reputation there.

The building, though historic and perhaps in need of some touch-ups, seems adequate for a preschool. In fact, we found the classrooms to be larger and with better sunlight than other local schools. Fundraising does happen, but it doesn't seem to be too overbearing. As far as the fees are concerned, since they have options for various length days, it seems that families can simply sign up for what they're most interested in and avoid any undue haggling. Good luck! Current JCC preschool parent

My child will be graduating from the JCC this year and I have nothing but high praise for this school. My daughter has loved every day and has really thrived here. The teachers all put a lot of thought into each day, which keeps the children thinking, creating, and enjoying their school day. My daughter has learned to develop and maintain friendships, bake, garden, write, and so much more.

As for the additional fees/donation requests, there are not many. During the winter holidays we are asked for a monetary donation for teachers but it is always what you feel comfortable with and it's very low pressure.

I have really enjoyed being a part of the JCC community and have met many wonderful families here. I am most happy though with how much my daughter has enjoyed her time here and how she has been exposed to the Jewish culture without it being overbearing. Happy with the JCC

I want to endorse the JCC of the East Bay Preschool,in Berkeley. It has 3 separate classes, 2-3 year olds, 3-4 year olds, 4-5 year olds. Kids do not have to be potty trained. My experience has been that the teachers and over all philosophy, are dedicated to making an enriching experience for the children. It is a very nurturing, stimulating program overall, with innovative activities. The teachers seem to truly love the kids and their work. The JCC is also community oriented, with family Shabbats (which the kids love) and many opportunities for involvement. (Families do NOT need to be Jewish to attend, and while Jewish holdiays and traditions are part of the curriculum, it is not overwhelming.) The 3 classrooms are grouped in a horseshoe around a large play yard - logistically it feels like a school rather than a daycare(my feeling when visiting some other preschools). I feel the JCC has its heart in the right place -trying to bring the best program and community together in an affordable way. With my daughter graduating this year and about to attend a Kindergarten closer to us in Oakland, I considered finding a preschool closer to our home for our youngest, but just can't find anything that is as good or better than what I describe. I'm happy to speak directly to anyone considering the JCC. Deb

Sept 2008

Re: Do I need to join a temple to get into preschool?
The Berkeley JCC has a good nursery school & draws from a wider area than just Berkeley. My cousin's daughters both went there, and they live in El Cerrito. Temple dues vary from place to place, but can easily be close to $1,500 to $2,000 yearly, and that will not include full time nursery school. However, if you call the temples you are interested in, the office will give you the dues schedule, nursery school costs, etc. Happy Grandmother

Nov 2007

Re: Preschools with Male Teachers
At my son's preschool, the JCC of the East Bay preschool, we have two male teachers who have been here for multiple years and are both amazing, sensitive guys. One teaches in the 3-4 classroom (Kitah Bet) and another teaches in the 4-5 classroom (kitah gimel dalet). The 2-3 classroom has two wonderful female teachers. The school welcomes those of all faiths, but does celebrate the songs and culture of the Jewish people. It's a great, fun place for kids. Hope you consider us! You can contact the JCC at http://www.jcceastbay.org/, but if you want to apply or do a preschool tour, email and call the director, Karen Cagan, to make sure you get through. her info is on the site. happy parent

December 2006

Re: Preschool feedback
My daughter is in the oldest class (Kitah Gimmel Dalet) at the JCC Preschool. She started last year and my only regret is that she didn't have 3 years there. All of the children's programs at the JCC are of the highest quality and have been for years. (I started hearing about them 14 years ago.) To me, the main ''Jewish'' features are the teaching of social awareness from an early age, and celebrating the (uncommercialized!) Jewish holidays in an age-appropriate manner. The parents make a point of knowing each other, and the staff make a point of knowing all the parents, not just those of the kids in their class. The director, while new, is fantastic. Another poster asked about the teachers for the youngest class. Although my daughter wasn't in that class, one of those teachers also teaches in the after-school program. She and the other after-school teachers are just as professional and dedicated as the other teachers. Neither my husband nor I have ever had a complaint about the program. I'm only sorry that my work schedule has kept me from participating in the classroom as much as I would have liked--they do really interesting and unique things! Francesca

Dec 2006

I recently went on a tour of the EBJCC and thought it seemed like a great place. My child would be entering the 2 year old room next fall. One thing I noticed is that the two teachers in that room seemed pretty young -- and I could confirm it because the room had photos of all the kids plus teachers up on the bulletin board, and the teachers were born in the late 70s and mid-80s. As a late-1960s baby, I would love to hear from any parents of my age whose kids are, or have recently been, in that room. Are the teachers professional, mature, and loyal to the school? I know I'm gonna offend some younger parents with this post and I'm sure it's conveying some stereotypes on my part, so I apologize in advance. I think I still think of teachers as older and more mature than me so it was a surprise to see ones so much younger! One other question: I know the director is new. I thought she was great but would love to hear feedback about her because I think most archive postings are about the former director. Thanks!
I guess I'm an older parent

My first son graduated from the JCC and is now in second grade, and my second is currently in the 2yr old room, or Kitah Aleph. Brooke and Maia have exceeded all expectations (and I had good expectations!) The kids are happy and content, and they are guiding my guy thru his first social experiences like pros. Both have been here for several years (I have known brooke since my first was there) and both are integral parts of the JCC community. Yes, they are younger than the average parent here in berkeley, but as a former preschool teacher (helped pay for college and grad school) I know how much energy it takes to work with the little ones. My guy *loves* them--talks about them all the time. I've also had experience with most all of the rest of the teachers from when my first was there --I've never seen a preschool with such a fabulous retention record. There is a great mix of uber-experienced teachers and young, energetic and dedicated newer folks. As for the new director, I've only known her for the past few months but so far I'm really impressed. Pls email me w/ further questions and good luck in your preschool search!

Brooke and Maya are amazing. They are exactly what 2-year-olds need. They are loving, energetic, bright and work very well together. The children really bond with them. The new director is fabulous. She is attentive, warm and hands-on. We couldn't be happier.
Happy JCC parent

I've had kids in all three rooms at the JCC, with the current teachers. The two ''young'' teachers in the 2 year old room are so skilled and loving. I myself was a little put off by how in control and sure of themselves they seemed for being so young, but since my kid joined their class I appreciated their control and certainty. They plan each day in a detailed way, down to telling me what minute I should arrive and depart for my kid's b-day party, but the result is a calm and secure room that is very stimulating for the kids. Because they've planned so well in advance they can dedicate their class time to giving the individual children their full attention. Their planning is transparent to the kids and just demonstrates their commitment; they've been there for 2 and 5 years approx, and both say love their jobs there. They also can tell me many details about my kids day, it's amazing. The other teachers are different but have many strengths as well.
happy at the JCC

Just a quick note about the 2-year-old classroom at the JECCEB: Both of my sons had an absolutely wonderful experience in that classroom. It is warm, loving, safe, friendly -- I could go on and on. Brooke and Maia *are* young. And dynamic, energetic, and mature, as well. They are an amazing team. Please don't overlook the two older classrooms at the JCC either; you will find the most caring, incredible teachers throughout the JCC. We feel very lucky to have been a part of the JCCEB Preschool community.

This is stating the obvious, but people born in 1976 are 30 now. I don't know these teachers in particular but it seems like 20s-30s is a very common age range for preschool teachers, nannies and parents of 2 year olds.

August 2005

We're moving to Berkeley shortly and in my search for a preschool for my 4.5 yr old, the JCC has openings in their new Bridge K program. Does anyone have any input on the program, or since its new, the preschool in general. thanks. Nina

My now-9th grader attended the Bridge K at the BRJCC. He had a good experience there, but that was a long time ago and I don't feel qualified to comment on the current program. I think what matters most at that age is the quality of interaction with the individual teacher. I would say, however, that one of the things we considered was the fact that we lived nearby, our older child was already enrolled in the JCC after-school program, and we knew it was very likely that our son would be as well. It made me feel much better about the transition to elementary school to know that one place in his life-- the JCC--would be constant and familiar. This also worked out really well in terms of creating a community of children he knew well over a long period--many of them for six years at the J and on into middle school. The JCC is a very popular after- school care site for kids from Albany and North Berkeley public schools and many of the Bridge K kids continued on in after-school care after they graduated to elementary school. So our son met several kids who would end up being classmates in elementary school as well as several wh! o did not attend his school but continued to be close friends through their after-school connection. So I would recommend that you give some thought now as to where your child will go to after-school care and if you're inclined to send him to the JCC, think of the advantages in terms of creating a smooth transition and future community. (I would also say that while we are not Jewish we felt both our children were immensely enriched by their introduction to and participation in Jewish traditions and that this experience made them more open and tolerant people and strengthened their interactions with their Jewish friends.) Nina

Don't really have knowledge of the Bridge-K, but we were at the pre-school for the 3 and 4 year old classes and were thrilled with the teachers, children, parents, and activities. Anon

Oct 2005

For the person seeking a wonderful pre-school in the No. Berkeley/Albany area, I highly recommend the JCC (aka the Berkeley-Richmond Jewish Community Center). The JCC has very (!) gifted and enlightened teachers, and I cannot commend enough the dedication to coming up with varied, intelligent activities for the children, some of which are science activities. They certainly, with a great garden, have earth science and science units/topics that the children express interest in or curiosity about. ''Relaxed Montessori'' is a contradiction. Montessori is not about relaxedness--highly structured and dug in about its curriculum. The JCC is wonderful--great kids, teachers, parents, space, sensibility. Good luck!

April 2003

Re: How to find a good preschool
We (especially our just-turned 5 year old) love the JCC on the corner of Rose and Walnut in Berkeley. The teachers are fantastic, great at working with eachother and with parents, really warm, and terrific at fostering positive interactions between kids. Tons of interesting activities for the kids, dance class, cooking, art, gardening, music, dramatic play, you name it! You don't have to be Jewish to attend---it's very warm and welcoming to all types of families (though my daughter has enjoyed learning about Jewish history and tradition on the side, especially baking her own Challah bread every friday and singing shabbat songs). K

February 2003

We are considering sending my daughter who will be three next year to the JCC. My husband loves the school--could it be its convenient location next to the gourmet ghetto-- but I am less sure of it as a good choice for our daughter. I like the new director, the feeling in the building, the few parents I have met in the hallway, and that my daughter will be given a positive sense of herself as a jewish person. My concern is the teacher turnover rate and their ability to find high quality replacements. I would love to hear from parents with children currently enrolled in the three and four year old programs about this issue and any others you feel might be of interest. Thanks Deb

Teacher turnover has not been a huge deal or rampant at the JCC. What I can tell you about the school is that the rooms are great, the children joyful and animated, the teachers hugely honoring of the spectrum of behaviors, a lot! of creativity, and tremendous warmth. The director is a gem. That a lot of non-Jewish families choose the school should tell you something about the JCC. Try it; you'll like Picky Parent

As a current parent of a JCC'er who has been in the preschool for three years, and a future parent (my youngest who will be entering next year), I have nothing but good things to say about the preschool. I am not sure what turnover you are talking about (it does not seem more than a normal work environment (as opposed to high preschool rates)). The Kitah Alef teacher who had been there for over ten years left last year and I have heard only good things about her very qualified replacement. The three teachers in Kitah Bet where your daughter would be I imagine have been there for quite a while. Two out of the three teachers in the oldest classroom have been there for three years - the third, Susan, is the head teacher and very experienced. Tracy, the director, is also very qualified I believe and has really enhanced the preschool.

I would be happy to talk to you in person if you have any specific questions. I have found the JCC to be about as warm, loving, supportive, fun and interesting as I could hope for for my daughter. They have wonderful and progressively complex art projects, cooking, singing, a good mix of structured and unstructured time etc... our class parents have formed a tight knit bond and we meet often outside of the school If you are close by, and were accepted, I recommend you jump on it! Best of luck and please feel free to contact me. Helen

Our daughter is in the 4-year-old class at the JCC and all three of her teachers are *excellent*: warm, energetic, experienced, firm but positive with discipline, communicative with parents, creative.... I can't say enough good things. They also work really well together as a team, with complementary strengths. There are numerous other teacher-figures the students get to know: teachers from other classroom, the afternoon teacher who comes in earlier to help out on the playground, the librarian, the dance teacher who comes every other week, and the director. As far as I can tell, the JCC has ***much less*** turnover than other preschools we've tried.....the turnover rate since the academic year began in the fall is zero, I believe, and many teachers have been there for years. The teachers we've gotten to know seem to really love their jobs, the kids, and the school.

Our positive experience at the JCC is a stark contrast to the other three places we tried before finally finding the JCC, especially as regards turnover problems, and the experiencedness of the teachers. I can't recommend the JCC more highly!! Karen

We (especially our just-turned 5 year old) love the JCC on the corner of Rose and Walnut in Berkeley. The teachers are fantastic, great at working with eachother and with parents, really warm, and terrific at fostering positive interactions between kids. Tons of interesting activities for the kids, dance class, cooking, art, gardening, music, dramatic play, you name it! You don't have to be Jewish to attend---it's very warm and welcoming to all types of families (though my daughter has enjoyed learning about Jewish history and tradition on the side, especially baking her own Challah bread every friday and singing shabbat songs).

We tried several preschools before finally finding the JCC (sure wish we found it sooner!) including the one you mentioned, McGee's Farm. Although we liked the low-key atmosphere, physical space, and the other families we met at McGee's, our daughter did not do well with the lack of structure/activities or with the limited choice of playmates her own age: the 4-11 kids she was with there (it varied as people joined and/or quit), the age range was 2-5, and most of them at the time were much younger than she was. I thought the mixed age group sounded like a good idea, but she was bored and didn't find good friends, which at age 4 for her was very important. Of course, kids are different; some kids seemed to do fine there, especially the younger ones. At that time, there was also a lot of turnover of staff (and surrounding tension), making it hard on the kids, too. Feel free to email me about looking for preschools in Berkeley. kesmith

November 2002

Anyone care to venture an opinion about the BRJCC pre-school in Berkeley, particularly an opinion that is tied to recent exposure to the pre-school (in the last two years) and has knowledge of the new pre-school director? The postings about BRJCC are either older or not during the regime of the new director. Also of interest to me is whether there are non-Jewish children, there (I am interested in a religious mix), economic diversity, and if part of the child population goes on to Tehiyah Day school. Thanks so Interested Mom

My eldest daughter has been at the BRJCC for three years now and we have been so happy with it. The preschool director has been there for two years and has really helped the program thrive. They have a dedicated and loving group of teachers, many who have been there for over 3 years now, who have a great array of art projects, cooking projects, songs, games, gardening etc. that they are constantly changing to work with the seasons, holidays etc. They also have a less structured afterschool program for those that work and are flexible about days/times. Now that my daughter is in the pre-K class, the projects have gotten more advanced - learning about seeds in the garden, weighing items etc..everything appropriate and still in a fun, non-academic way. I am always amazed at the innovative projects the teachers think up (making faces with sprouts, tomatoes etc..on bagels, painting birds to put in a big tree). They involve the children at all stages and ask for help with clean-up and other tasks to help teach responsibility. Lastly, they have a wonderful Friday shabbat with singing and parents are invited to attend. We will be sending our second daughter in the spring. I would be happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more about the pre-school. Helen

My daughter has been preschool at the Richmond Berkeley JCC since September and we LOVE it! The new Director Tracy is very personable and helpful. Always cheery. The regular program starts at 9a but they also have an early bird program and after program care which is with a wonderful and loving mom Erica who has a son in the preschool. The Kita Alef teachers Brooke and Ruth Shorer are wonderful! Ruth is a professional artist and comes up with wonderful projects for the kids. They also make bread and do all sorts of other fun stuff. I am a teacher and I feel like it is great care and good value for the money. There are plenty of non Jewish kids but they do teach about the jewish holidays.  Kathryn

I thought I'd add my two cents... Our daughter is currently enrolled in the 2 year old classroom and we are super pleased. I, like the other mom who responded, am an educator having taught both preschool and early primary grades. I find the quality of care to be excellent, as well as the thoughtful, play based curriculum. So far this has been an incredibly positive experience for our daughter. She LOVES school, which says a lot. As for your question about the director, Tracy is a lovely person. Keep calling, she will call you back. She spends a lot of time in the classrooms, often substituting for teachers in their absence, thus she is not always by a phone. You might try sending her an email. tracyt [at] brjcc.org I would be happy to answer any additional questions. leorandshoshe

Nov 2001

Hello, I'm interested in enrolling my daughter to the JCC preschool in Berkeley. She will be 2 years old this summer. I'd like to know what parents thinks about this program. Especially parents to toddlers in the 2 year old class (Kita Alef). How religious is the program? Is the school close for both Jewish and Christian holidays? Any information will be greatly appreciated (good or bad). Thank you.

I have had both my kids go through the JCC preschool. I am christian. We never had any problem with the jewish nature of the JCC. The Jewish tradition is very welcoming. The school has a very nice physical environment and play yard for the kids. It is warm and safe and kind and caring for the children. There tends to be a good interaction and cooperation among the parents. They don't teach the kids much of anything. The program is socialization and learning by playing. The staff is generally good with the kids particularly Erica and Monica with the young ones and Chris with the older ones. The program could use more art and music in my opinion. Their main problem is constant lack of funding and higher than desirable turnover among the staff. Overall, however, I would recommend it to you. Chris

My children are at the JCC now in Kitah Alef. I am extremely happy with the program and their teachers, and my boys are very happy there as well. The class has Jewish and non-Jewish students. The children celebrate all major Jewish holidays and on Friday, have a wonderful Shabbat "service" - songs, grape juice, challah. What I especially like is that the children get love, warmth as well as routine from the teachers. They are gentle but also work kindly and calmly with boundary issues. I also love that the teacher plays the guitar and sings to the children. I am truly delighted with the JCC and plan to enroll my children again next year. Dayna

Prior to starting kindergarten this year, my son was at the JCC for three years. He really thrived there. In particular, Elaine, the long-time head teacher in Kitah Alef (the 2 year old class), is great. She is very caring and I credit her with making my son's transition into the preschool environment a success. She really created an environment where he felt safe and happy. There are other good teachers there, but in the three years we were there, there was substantial teacher turnover. In addition, there was no director for the past two years (the Director of Youth Services oversaw the preschool and the after school program for school age kids. Too big a job for one person, although we love her and she did a great job under the circumstances). There is now a preschool director, so hopefully the school will benefit from having someone on the job for who it is a primary responsibility.

The school celebrates all the jewish holidays (and yes, many of them are days the school is closed). There is a two week break at Christmas/New Year, a one week spring break and a two week break in late August. The kids learn about holidays from other cultures -- Cinco de Mayo, Chinese New Year, but not Christian religious holidays (no Christmas, no Easter and no Halloween or Valentine's day). There are lots of non-jewish kids there, and not all of the teachers are jewish, either.

Despite the teacher turnover issues, my son was very happy there and we were very happy with the program. My son did a lot of different kinds of art. The head teachers in the two and three year old class room both play the guitar and sing with the kids. They have Gerry Tenney in every other week (or maybe every week) for music with the kids (the 3 and 4 year olds; I am not sure about the two year olds) and the 3 and 4 year olds have a movement class with Jim Beatty every other week. It is a developmental play-based program. Although it is not at all academic, the teacher my son had in his four year old class (who has since left) did a stellar job of getting the kids ready for kindergarten. Most of the kids could write their names, if not more, and they all were up on colors, shapes, numbers, etc. She also was great at helping them deal with the idea of the changes that were coming when they left the JCC and what kindergarten would be like.

I have a younger son who will be going to preschool in September 2002 and although I am concerned about the staff turnover issues and plan to meet with the new director to see if she can address those concerns, I will probably send son #2 there when the time comes. Karen

May 1996

Hi. I think I responded last year to you and we may have spoken on the phone, but I'm not sure. Anyways, my son (3 in July) and a few of his good buddies will be going to JCC preschool next year. My daughter (now 7) went there for 3 years and we were extremely pleased. The Kitah Bet (3 yr olds) teachers are a great team and we are really looking forward to next year.

I believe that the Bet class may be full for next year, so unless you're already on a list, you might want to give the director a call (Betty Peterson, 848-0237) to make sure this is still an option for you.