Seeking a Jewish Preschool

Parent Q&A

Jewish preschools with openings for fall 2018? May 26, 2018 (3 responses below)
Recent JCC threats Jan 20, 2017 (4 responses below)
Newbie to Oakland looking for Jewish preschool Jul 19, 2016 (4 responses below)
  • Hello,

    We are looking for a preschool for our son, who is currently 2 years and 4 months old.  We are an interfaith family, but it is important to us that our son has exposure to both sides of his heritage (Jewish and Chinese), so we are hoping to send him to a Jewish preschool.  We toured JCC East Bay's program and really liked it, but they just told us that they currently do not have a spot for us.  I know we are late to the game for applying to preschools, but is anyone aware of Jewish preschools with openings for 2 year olds for this fall?  We are also reaching out to other synagogue-affiliated preschools that have been mentioned on this site, but assume that they likely also do not have spots available, so we are trying to focus our efforts on schools that might still have openings.

    Thanks so much for any leads.  I know this is just preschool -- I never went to preschool or kindergarten so I know it's really not the end of the world if we can't get my son into a program in the fall -- but I hate feeling like we are failing him already by procrastinating on applying to preschools for him, particularly because he is so excited about the idea of going to school.  When we ask him whether he would like to go to school, his answer is always an enthusiastic "Yeahhh!"  And when we ask him what he thinks he will be doing at school, his first answer is "play!", followed by "hua hua!" (Chinese for drawing), and "read!"  :)  So we are really hoping to find him a school where he won't be disappointed!

    I know for a fact that Netivot Shalom Preschool has openings in the 2 year old room for the fall. It is a lovely program and will have an awesome new director in the fall. She is a former teacher. Both of my kids went to the preschool and we really loved it. The teachers that will be in the 2 year old room next year are really great. 

    I honestly don't know if they have openings, but I have heard the most wonderful things about the Beth El preschool in Berkeley. I go to services there and the parents with kids in the school love it, love it, love it. (I was the MOST procrastinating mommy when my kids were tiny and I almost always found fantastic schools for them at the very last minute so I believe in you!) 

    Not that you asked, but I think the Chinese/Jewish pairing is so great. The cultures really match up in so many ways. I say this as a Jewish Armenian, which is also a fantastic pairing. I mean, aside from all the genocide, but whatever. I love the intersectionality. 

    My half Chinese half Jewish white daughter attends Temple sinai preschool and loves it. The director, Ellen, could let you know if they have spots pretty promptly, I’m sure. 

  • Recent JCC threats

    (4 replies)

    Hello. With the recent threats to JCCs around the country I'm wondering how current JCC families or those with any perspective on the matter think about it. We were thinking about enrolling our son in the JCC preschool next year but are honestly a little shook up by the recent threats. Just wondering if anyone else is feeling the same and how they are dealing with it. Thanks. 

    RE: Recent JCC threats ()

    Hi!

    My child attends the JCC preschool. There has been no threats made to the centre. The director emails us with updates. My child loves it there.

    Amy

    RE: Recent JCC threats ()

    My kid is in a JCC preschool. We are doing our best to not be terrorized by terrorist anti-Semites. The threats haven't been toward our JCC also, not that it matters. I wouldn't let an anti-Semite determine the best preschool for my kid.

    RE: Recent JCC threats ()

    To be honest, it was one of the three to four reasons that we've decided not to enroll our son in a Jewish preschool. The JCC in the North Bay did receive one of the threats. My child has his entire life to deal with anti-Semitism. I want to protect him from it as long as I can.

  • We are considering Beth Sholom Pre-school in San Leandro for our son. Does anyone have any experience with this pre-school, past or present? (The reviews on BPN are very outdated). Also, what do you think about commuting there from Montclair? Prohibitive? Any advice to this newbie to the Bay much appreciated!

    Have you considered Temple Sinai's preschool? I belong there but haven't used it (kids were too old) but I hear really good things about it. Lots of Montclair families go--you'd develop a community of people close to you...

    HI -- I don't know anything about Beth Sholom Pre-school, but if you are looking for a Jewish preschool -- Beth El Berkeley has a lovely program that is worth checking out.  It's north of the Cal campus on Oxford Street if that is any easier for you commute wise. http://www.bethelberkeley.org/ece

    I don't have experience with the Beth Sholom preschool but if you are looking for a wonderful Jewish preschool for your son, I highly recommend Tree of Life in Danville. (You should yelp them... the reviews speak for themselves.) My daughter was so unhappy at her previous Montessori preschool so we switched her to Tree of Life. She was so happy there. The teachers are all native speakers and all very caring. Every Friday, the kids go to the onsite temple and they sing Jewish songs, eat challah bread and drink grape juice. I am not Jewish but regardless, I felt like part of the community. =) My daughter (now going to grade 1) still remembers all the fond memories she had there.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions

 

2 yr old at BENS vs JCC vs Netivot

Jan 2015

We are looking at Beth El, the JCC, and Netivot Shalom for next year for our very outgoing,
social, verbal daughter who will be two in the fall. 

As far as I can tell, they have similar philosophies. Does anyone have experience with
these schools who can offer a comparative review, especially of their 2 yr old program? 

Also, does anyone have experience starting your fall birthday child at 22 months, or
starting late in the year? It seems like all the schools have different policies about
this.

Thanks!
new preschool mama


My experience is that the Jewish preschool decision is two fold: you're choosing a
school for your child, and you're also choosing a community for your family. I think
you're right that the classroom experience will have many similarities across the three
schools, so you might also consider which community of the three you mention feels the
most like ''home'' for your family. Do you imagine yourself going to shabbat services
at Netivot or Beth El? Would you like your daughter to see her preschool friends, when
she goes to those Saturday services? Do you want to be able to chat with her friends'
parents during kiddush? Do you imagine she'll have a bat mitzvah? If so, do you want
her to be learning the torah trope with the kids she's known since she was 2? Netivot
and Beth El are both communities which offer you the chance to have lots of new, Jewish
family friends and for your daughter to grow up with a cohort of Jewish friends. The
JCC is the least religious of the three, and it has more families who are not
affiliated with a synagogue, more interfaith families, and less Hebrew. If your family
is more interested in having your daughter develop a Jewish identity without having a
long term relationship with a Jewish community, the JCC might suit you better.
3 kids who went to Jewish Preschools in Berkeley


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. 
joshua


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


Jewish Preschools Non Synagogue Affiliated

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


Hi, I Know that walnut creek Jcc used to have a good day are, but since they closed, I'm not aware of anything similar. The closest thing I found is daycare through Chabad of contra costa in wc, the director is an amazing lady, the're very good with kids, but are not a full time prog, as far as I know. Another Jewish mom


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


Looking for a fun, easy-going Jewish preschool

Dec 2008

Seeking Alternative Jewish school for young child 
My son is still pretty young but I am starting to wonder about his education. I'd really like to find a fun, easy-going, quality Jewish preschool or day school kind of thing to give him a good start in this kind of thing. Any suggestions for the Berkeley area? Laura


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


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


I'm not sure what you mean by 'alternative' but I have been very happy with the new preschool at Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. The school is now in it's second year (my son has been there since the opening last year). The community of parents is warm, welcoming and caring, the staff attentive and nurturing, and the Judaism vibrant, Hebrew-infused, and non-judgmental. Every morning the children sing their way into the sanctuary with the rabbi and his guitar to say 'boker tov' (good morning) to the Torah; on Fridays the children bake challah and we have a 'pretend shabbat' at the end of the school day; holidays are celebrated with joy; and Jewish values are woven throughout the curriculum. Come visit and see for yourself the wonderful preschool we have created! Netivot Shalom is a conservative, egalitarian congregation on University avenue with a diverse membership. To schedule a visit you can call Lauren Kindorf, CNS Preschool Director, at 510-549-9447 x110. Abby


My kids go to a wonderful, warm and nurturing Jewish preschool in Oakland called Gan Mah Tov. Kids must be 2 to start, do not have to be potty-trained, and are loved and cared for from the minute they walk in the door. I strongly encourage you to check it out - 510-530-2146! Delighted Gan Mah Tov Mom


Do I need to join a temple to get into preschool?

Sept 2008

I have just begun the task of looking into preschools for my son for next year when he is 2. I was raised fairly religious by west coast standards (went to jewish day school till 8th grade, whole family kept kosher-2 sets of dishes and everything, had a bat mitzvah, etc etc). Then I married a man who converted under a reconstructionist rabbi for his own reasons (#1 probably being to make my mother fully accept him).

Anyway we've lived in the bay area for a number of years-hardly celebrate anything with the exception of going to Saul's for Passover and Hannukah. Last year we had a baby and had our first Sedar at our home which went well and was fun. We always said that if we were going to have children we'd raise them Jewish. Now that we have a child I just don't know what exactly that means and where I should go from here.

I really think I want to send my child to a Jewish preschool next year to at least begin the exposure to the culture. I am torn b/c I wonder if I have to join a temple in order for him to be accepted into the preschool. So far it seems for nonmembers the price is higher and yet no website says exactly how much it costs to join a temple. I don't think I would attend very much if I actually joined a temple but you never know (I know my husband probably wouldn't attend unless I asked him to go with me). The other thing I have considered is sending him to the Berkeley JCC as I live about 2.5 miles away from there.

The other part of this is that my husband would prefer a preschool in our neighborhood (Albany/El Cerrito) for convenience purposes and b/c the kids may end up going to elementary school together. He would be dropping off and picking him up 2-3/week. Although ultimately I know my husband would go along with what I want and feel is best if the cost isn't too much more than the local places. Thanks Confused


I love Jewish preschool for the community it creates and for the opportunity it gives the children to develop their Jewish knowledge and identities. There are three Jewish preschools in Berkeley that have 2-year-old classes, plus a fourth, Gan Shalom, that accepts children starting at 2 years 9 months. I have experience at two of them -- Beth El and Netivot Shalom. We sent our two older children to Beth El and have just started the youngest at Netivot Shalom.

On the financial front, it is often cheaper to become a member of a synagogue and pay the member preschool rates than it is to pay the non-member rates. If you call the synagogues they should be able to tell you what annual dues cost. Most synagogues in the area are willing to negotiate reduced dues if your financial situation warrants it.

As far as admissions goes, I would recommend that you call each school's director and ask about admissions policy and history of admitting non-members. I would also ask for an information packet and set up a time to come and observe the classrooms. It is important to observe at all age levels since your child will most likely stay at the school until Kindergarten.

Joining a synagogue can be a great thing for the family, but I recommend that you choose your school independently from your spiritual home. There may be many logistic and pedagogical issues that affect preschool choice. That said, this is a common time of year for ''Shul shopping'', and you do have the opportunity to experience many congregations if you decide to go that route.

I feel compelled to put in a plug for the early childhood Shabbat morning programming at Netivot Shalom. Their Shabbat B'Yachad services are very sweet and do a great job of promoting community and teaching values and liturgy to the children. Did I mention that my husband often leads services for Shabbat B'Yachad? OK, end of shameless plug. I would be happy to discuss my experiences at either school offline. Good luck to you in your search. Elisabeth


What a hard decision! You have several factors to take into account as you choose your son's preschool, so I don't want to make a specific suggestion. However, I'd be glad to talk this through with you on the phone or in person, considering your priorities and hopes and those of your husband. If you like I can also introduce you to parents with children in any Jewish preschools you're considering. I run a nonprofit organization that helps people who are seeking the right Jewish connections for themselves and their families, and/or are exploring Jewish identity. I'm also a mom. Feel free to be in touch if you'd like. You can email me at rabbibridget [at] jewishgateways.org or call me at 510-559-8140. Warmly, Bridget Wynne


My kids went to the preschool at temple Beth-El. It is located on Oxford st. so it's as close to Albany as the JCC is. We did join the temple precisely because it turned out to be cheaper and really didn't attend any of the temple's events. My kids liked the preschool a lot, there seemed to be many families there who were dealing with the same issues that you raised, as i can recall there was much openness and discussion among parents and staff around those issues. I liked the way they celebrated most of the holidays too. orit


You know why it's confusing? Because it's complicated. There's so much involved - it's not just teaching your son about Jewish culture, it's about belonging... and family - your parents, the two of you. Do you have siblings? What about aunts, uncles and cousins? Of course there's the cost - and Lord knows, the economy isn't getting better anytime soon.

The Berkeley JCC is a great idea. But from your post I don't hear you really knowing what that choice means versus deciding on a synagogue.

I'd be happy to talk or email with you. I do this for lots of people. It doesn't cost anything. You can look at my website to see if that helps. (www.buildingjewishbridges.org) (510) 663- 8350 or dawn [at] buildingjewishbridges.org. It's good that you're thinking ahead, but don't worry, there's no rush. Dawn


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 think you should go and check out (visit) several preschools, Jewish and otherwise, and then make your decision. I am a non-observant Jew and I send my son to a Jewish preschool. I love that he is learning about Jewish holidays, and comes home singing the same Hebrew songs I sang as a kid. But even more important, I think his preschool is excellent. Also, you don't necessarily have to join a synagogue to get a spot at a Jewish preschool. Most preschools do give preference to temple members, but we never joined a synagogue and got spots at two different Jewish preschools. The only place we did join - the JCC - did not offer us a spot. Go figure. One thing I do recommend is getting on the waiting lists quickly - these schools do fill up fast. Good luck with your decision


Check out Congregation Netivot Shalom on University Ave. It's Conservative, some members are close to orthodox in practice (but need the egalitarian aspect of CNS), some are pretty secular. Lots of people in the community have converted to Judaism, which I find unusual and refreshing in a congregation that is traditional on the prayer front. Participatory, i.e., Rabbi doesn't run services, members do. VERY concentrated on adult education, lots of programs at all levels - it's one of the defining characteristics of the community. So it could be a place that your husband may feel more comfortable in than others. (We were an intermarried couple of 15 years b/4 I converted, so I've had my experiences in being welcomed or not in various communities and this is the best.)

Check out their ''Shabbat b'Yachad'' program (preschool & younger) - it meets twice a month Saturday mornings, and is a really beautiful thing. You can drop in, and it's free although I think they like you to donate if you go regularly. You can get a sense if this seems the right community for you. It's great to join when your kids are small - best way to bond with the community. Their other family programs have varied over the years, but we loved the ones we did when our kids were younger. Families who come in when their kids are older have a bit of a tougher time integrating, I think.

As kids get older, Hebrew School is twice a week (Tuesday/Thursday). Most families seem to choose a Hebrew School that meets only once a week - but with my husbands Conservative background (kosher etc) he was never comfortable either with Beth El (reform) or Kehila in Piedmont (I find it too groovy for my taste and anyway, it's really far away). Feel free to contact me if you want more info. As you can tell, I love CNS. Meghan


You have a lot of decisions to make! A few years ago, I met a wonderful rabbi named Bridget Wynne who helped my family with similar questions. She runs an organization named Jewish Gateways, where she helps people to connect, Jewishly (whatever that may mean to you). She holds Shabbat dinners, holiday events, and discussions. She also runs groups for searchers; by the end of my group, all 6 of us had joined synagogues. Since she is not affiliated with any particular synagogue, there's no pressure for you to go in any particular direction. She is also available for one-on-one counseling. Plus, all of her events are kid-friendly, with free childcare. My daughter started accompanying me when she was 2.5, and she loves Rabbi Bridget! In October and November, she'll be hosting 2 events for young children and their families. Please check out her website at www.jewishgateways.org. You can reach her at 510-559-8140 or rabbibridget [at] jewishgateways.org. Happy With My Decisions


We have been extremely happy with Beth El Nursery School. The community is fabulous and the kids love celebrating Jewish holidays, making challah on Fridays, and celebrating Shabbat. Yes, it costs less if you are a member - but joining the temple has a lot of benefits - community, summer camp, High Holidays, and it is not as expensive as you might think. Definitely give the Nursery School director, Barbara Kanter, a call - her number is 848-9428. The Web site is www.bethelberkeley.org/nurseryschool. happy BENS parent


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


Certainly the selection of a preschool is an important decision for any parent. There are some wonderful Jewish preschools in the area, but there are also, of course, many other wonderful options. I think that the ultimate questions, is where is your son going to be in the best situation for him, based on his needs. I have my doctorate in child development (and attended a Jewish preschool myself!) and conduct assessments for parents in order to place children in the best childcare or preschool situation for them, based on the needs of the family and the individual characteristics of the child. I would be happy to talk more about this with you. You can contact me directly, or look at my website for more information: www.sfbaycare.com. Melissa


Looking for a Jewish Preschool in Oakland

Nov 2006

We are looking for a Jewish preschool in Oakland for our 2 year old daughter next fall. We like Temple Sinai but have been told that it is almost impossible to get in next fall. Are there others that are highly recommended? I have heard that the JCC and Temple Beth El in Berkeley are really good, but that is quite a schlep for us, especially during rush hour traffic. Any other Oakland recommendations? We are Reform, by the way. -anon


Hi. I could have written your post 3 years ago. I moved to Oakland when my son was 1 1/2 and I wanted a Jewish preschool but could not get a space at Temple Sinai or Temple Beth Abraham (conservative synagogue with another great preschool). With some trepidation, I visited Gan Mah Tov, the preschool at modern Orthodox Congregation Beth Jacob. I say ''trepidation'' because I was raised reform (and now consider myself East-Bay - egalitarian conservative) and was afraid that Orthodox would be ''too religious'' or ''sexist'' or who knows what. Well, I did visit and I really liked what I saw and heard. Gan Mah Tov is a small, warm, nurturing preschool with first-rate teachers and a wonderful play-based program enriched with music, Hebrew, cooking, woodwork and more. My son has flourished there and is now in pre-K, an exceptional program in which he seems to be effortlessly and joyfully exploring numbers and letters and what they all mean. He will graduate this spring as a happy, well-adjusted, well-prepared student who loves learning and cares about others. He also has a strong, positive Jewish identity and it is a joy to experience the holidays through his eyes. As you can tell, I could go on and on. I have two main points: CHECK OUT GAN MAH TOV (www.thegan.net for Director Cheryl Schwarz) and FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME DIRECTLY WITH ANY QUESTIONS. Good luck to you! Eden


I was a member at Temple Sinai and was, I believe, the first member to be declined at the preschool -- 2 years in a row. It's a great school and worth the application if you are a member. We ended up going to Gan Mah Tov Preschool in Oakland and have been very happy with it. The school is affiliated with Beth Jacob, which is modern orthodox. The community there has been welcoming and not everyone at the school is a member of the temple. It is a warm, nurturing environment with a Jewish curriculum. The teachers are lovely. The ratios are great. E-mail me if you want more personal details about our experience there.
Suzanne


We have our kids at Gan Mah Tov (Beth Jacob in Oakland). Although the congregation is Orthodox, it is an incredibly warm and open environment for all affiliations . Gan Mah Tov has exceeded all my expectations regarding a Jewish preschool and as a family who is not orthodox, we are extremly comfortable there. You should definitely contact Cheryl Schwartz, the director, who could put you in touch with families who are not orthodox to hear their experience. Good luck. 
Happy at GMT


Getting in to Jewish Preschools

April 2004

We would like to send our son (who is now 1) to a Jewish preschool, but the synagogue that we belong to does not have one. How hard is it to get into a Jewish preschool without being a member? Any suggestions on how to do this? We are in Oakland. Thanks!


We send our son to Gan Avraham, the preschool at Temple Beth Abraham. We got in at the last moment but joined the Temple once we did. You get a break on tuition and its a great Congregation, with wonderful programs for small children, so you might consider joining. We were told originally that we would not get in, unless we were Temple members as members have priority. I also looked at Temple Beth Jacob's preschool. They did not require membership and it also seemed like a very sweet program, but the hours didn't fit my schedule. I suspect that for most preschools you have to be a member to get priority admission. Why don't you just call them and find out. Temple Sinai has a preschool and so does Temple Beth El in Berkeley. Good luck anon


I highly recommend Beth Sholom Preschool in San Leandro, right off the 580 freeway. You don't have to be a member of the temple, or even Jewish, which makes for a very nice diversity of families. But, if you do become a temple member, you get $129/month discount on tuition. Since temple membership IS $129 per month, it makes sense to join because the $129 counts as a tax write off to a charitable donation and you get the benefits of temple membership with out a net increase in costs. My kids have been going for 2 1/2 years now and we love it. Edna is the director and her number is 510/357-7920. Helena


At Temple Sinai I think it varies from year to year. For many years, there were kids in the preschool whose families were not members. This last year we add a second 2 yr old class and I believe there are families who are not members. Best to check it out next fall when the application process begins again and the new Director will have a handle on the amount of interest from current member families. 2 kids at TS preschool


We live in Oakland and didn't get into our first choice preschool. We're going to send our son to Gan Mah Tov, located at Beth Jacob. This is the Orthodox synagogue on Park Blvd. We are not orthodox. I asked many questions about the education and how I, or my son, would feel being from a different affiliation. It seems that they love the kids and are open to all different kinds of families. I didn't see a lot of difference educationally between the other Jewish pre-schools I visited. I now feel really good about the placement. Definately give them a chance before ruling them out due to their Orthodoxy. anon


First of all, good job! You are right to be working on this early. I am not an expert but I can share my experience getting my son into a Jewish preschool for fall 2004. We did NOT GET A SPOT at Gan Avraham (Temple Beth Abraham's preschool) even though WE ARE MEMBERS!! (We joined very recently, so we had the lowest priority of all the member applicants.) I heard that Temple Sinai also TURNED AWAY MEMBERS. On the other hand, we were able to secure a spot at Gan Mah Tov, the preschool at Congregation Beth Jacob. As you may know, Beth Jacob is a modern Orthodox shul. BUT, approx. half the preschool kids are NOT temple members and many are not Orthodox. Fortunately for us, we fell in love with Gan Mah Tov. Good luck and Happy Passover. Eden


We send our son to Gan Avraham, the preschool at Temple Beth Abraham. We got in at the last moment but joined the Temple once we did. You get a break on tuition and its a great Congregation, with wonderful programs for small children, so you might consider joining. We were told originally that we would not get in, unless we were Temple members as members have priority. I also looked at Temple Beth Jacob's preschool. They did not require membership and it also seemed like a very sweet program, but the hours didn't fit my schedule. I suspect that for most preschools you have to be a member to get priority admission. Why don't you just call them and find out. Temple Sinai has a preschool and so does Temple Beth El in Berkeley. Good luck anon


I highly recommend Beth Sholom Preschool in San Leandro, right off the 580 freeway. You don't have to be a member of the temple, or even Jewish, which makes for a very nice diversity of families. But, if you do become a temple member, you get $129/month discount on tuition. Since temple membership IS $129 per month, it makes sense to join because the $129 counts as a tax write off to a charitable donation and you get the benefits of temple membership with out a net increase in costs. My kids have been going for 2 1/2 years now and we love it. Edna is the director and her number is 510/357-7920. Helena


At Temple Sinai I think it varies from year to year. For many years, there were kids in the preschool whose families were not members. This last year we add a second 2 yr old class and I believe there are families who are not members. Best to check it out next fall when the application process begins again and the new Director will have a handle on the amount of interest from current member families. 2 kids at TS preschool


We live in Oakland and didn't get into our first choice preschool. We're going to send our son to Gan Mah Tov, located at Beth Jacob. This is the Orthodox synagogue on Park Blvd. We are not orthodox. I asked many questions about the education and how I, or my son, would feel being from a different affiliation. It seems that they love the kids and are open to all different kinds of families. I didn't see a lot of difference educationally between the other Jewish pre-schools I visited. I now feel really good about the placement. Definately give them a chance before ruling them out due to their Orthodoxy. anon


First of all, good job! You are right to be working on this early. I am not an expert but I can share my experience getting my son into a Jewish preschool for fall 2004. We did NOT GET A SPOT at Gan Avraham (Temple Beth Abraham's preschool) even though WE ARE MEMBERS!! (We joined very recently, so we had the lowest priority of all the member applicants.) I heard that Temple Sinai also TURNED AWAY MEMBERS. On the other hand, we were able to secure a spot at Gan Mah Tov, the preschool at Congregation Beth Jacob. As you may know, Beth Jacob is a modern Orthodox shul. BUT, approx. half the preschool kids are NOT temple members and many are not Orthodox. Fortunately for us, we fell in love with Gan Mah Tov. Good luck and Happy Passover. Eden


Rather than trying to get into a Jewish preschool without being a member and free-riding on the contributions of others, why don't you just join the synagogue instead? (The bigger question is why Judiasm is so important to you that you want a Jewish preschool yet not important enough to want a synagogue?) If money is an issue, most synagogues will arrange reduced dues based on ability to pay. Proud to be a synagogue member


I just wanted to point out that the post that stated that the bigger question was why they were freeriding and refused to join a synogogue, was inappropriate because a) I thought it was not answering the question and berating the poster but also b) because the poster already stated that they were members of a synogogue that didn't have their own preschool. I personally think synogogue membership is a great thing but a lot of people become involved after their kids do and not before and if this were the case (which in this case it appears not to be) there is no reason to make people feel bad about it. ilfeld


I take exception to the person who replied with the phrase ''riding on the contributions of others'' or whatever it was. I thought that was a harsh email and didn't adhere to your policy. Non-members are charged more than members for their children to attend because they're not members. Also, there may be many valid reasons why someone is not yet ready to commit to joining a temple but still values Jewish education. They may be in an interfaith marriage, they may want to get a feel for the congregation before making that big commitment, they may just not be joiners by nature. Its a very personal decision, and the poster didn't deserve the ''lecture'' that they got. An anonymous congregant


Reasons for choosing a Jewish preschool

RE: Beth El versus Berkeley Hills 
I don't think the fact that one is Jewish and the other is not is irrelevant. I am sending my child to another Jewish preschool and really love the way she is learning Jewish culture and traditions. I also enjoy the community, and it feels very comfortable to me. However, if this isn't important to you, a Jewish preschool may not be the right place -- it will be following a religious calendar (i.e. different days off than most workplaces), the holidays the kids learn about will be Jewish, and the art projects will often connect to Jewish holidays. In terms of diversity, there probably won't be that much difference in class or racial diversity, though obviously Berkeley Hills has more religious diversity. Good luck making a decision -- it might be a good idea to do a quick visit to both again to test out how you'd feel having your child at each one.