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“They were not pushy, but they were clear about their outreach,” Sandler said about the teachers and director at the school. Over the years, she has been invited to weddings in Crown Heights and to a number of Sabbath meals. Sandler still isn’t a member of a synagogue, but she attends services at a Chabad House on holidays.
Mostly she just found the school to be warm and inviting (a feeling echoed by a number of parents I interviewed). She eventually sent all three of her children to Chabad preschools. Her youngest son attends a school in Maplewood, N.J., where the family now lives.
Even five years later, her children still recall the Jewish education they received.
“When my kids see somebody doing something nice even today, they say ‘Now the mashiach [Messiah] is taking one step closer,’ which I think is cute. I never correct them, because I think more good in the world is good.”
Some parents, on the other hand, might be freaked out if their child suddenly referred to the Messiah’s imminent arrival. The schools, it should be said, for all their egalitarian warmth, are religious schools. The children do learn prayers, study the holidays and pass around a stuffed Torah. One parent said he was surprised to hear his 3-year-old walking around talking about “Hashem.”
Sherry Shameer Cohen pulled her son out of the local Chabad preschool in her Connecticut town because she wasn’t happy with the non-Jewish education. She said the teachers seemed very young and inexperienced.
Because Chabad preschools are religious-based institutions, in some states they do not have to meet the same licensing mandates as other preschools, including education requirements for teachers. In fact, some states don’t require faith-based day care to be licensed at all.
“The warmth, beauty and vitality of Judaism is celebrated and interwoven into every aspect of the children’s daily activities,” Batya Lisker, project administrator of The Machne Israel David and Lara Slager Early Childhood Initiative said about the preschools in an email to the Forward.