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“Anecdotal and statistical data indicates that children with Chabad-Lubavitch preschool experiences are inclined to become involved Jewish adults; they further their Jewish educations, support Jewish causes, join synagogues and assume leadership roles in their communities,” Lisker added.
The Chabad preschools — the first ones opened in the United States in the 1940s — are also expanding to smaller towns across the country. Shannon Eileen Duke Becker lives in North Carolina and says that she was drawn to the Chabad program because unlike the schools at the local Reform and Conservative synagogues, it didn’t require children to be potty trained and took them as young as 18 months.
While ultimately I didn’t choose to send my daughter to a Chabad preschool, I can see the draw. At that age, when children are transitioning from the home to their first school experience, parents are looking for a place with patient teachers where they know the children will be cared for. It’s a vulnerable time for parents, and it sounds like Chabad understands that this is the moment to greet parents with open arms. Is this calculated? Sure. But it still beats being laughed at by a preschool director or being told you’ve got no shot at all at finding a spot.
The struggling Reform and Conservative movements might take a lesson from Chabad. If they want to reach parents like my friends and me, for whom Jewish preschool could lead to more involvement and a greater connection to the Jewish community, they should offer more Jewish child care and preschool programs. It’s not rocket science.
In the end, of all the arguments I heard in favor of Chabad preschool, this sealed it for me: “Because the Chabad programs are so worried about being kosher,” Sandler said, “they are never bugging you to bring snack or lunch. They provide it all.”
Deborah Kolben is the editor of Kveller.com. She has written for The New York Times, the New York Daily News and the New York Post.