Beth El Nursery School (Berkeley, CA)
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Beth El Nursery School (Berkeley, CA)
I was wondering whether any current or former parents at Beth El Nursery could
comment on their experience with the school. I've heard so many things and am
unsure which to believe. I'd particularly love to hear from the perspective of
anyone who chose to leave the school.
My son was at Beth El Nursery School only for one year, the year before Kindergarten.
Note that this was 4 years ago, under a different director. He had a hard time, as
he was the only NEW boy in the class. The other boys never really accepted him, and
several actively bullied and excluded him, even though he was kind, outgoing, and
eager to make friends. We wrote our letter to withdraw from the school 3 months in,
but were strongly advised by the director and by other childcare and teaching
professionals not to do so, as starting over elsewhere would be even more difficult.
He ended up having 3 very close friends (one boy who joined after him, and 2 girls),
but had a very tough year. I felt not enough was done by the staff to integrate him
into the very tight social network. HOWEVER, the kids who started there at age 2 or
3 seemed very happy, and the director and several teachers have moved on...JMHO.
Our child was at BENS during the transition of directorship. While we were perfectly
content with the previous director, the new one did bring in some very nice additions
to the curriculum and structure of the preschool. I was not thrilled with her
communication style but otherwise I felt it was an improvement. I do think the new
director puts a strong emphasis on the social-emotional component.
At BENS, our child thrived and developed a strong Jewish identity, and I highly
recommend it! I'm not sure what you're hearing that makes you not sure what to
believe, but realize that complaints from parents who were there a few years ago may
no longer be relevant. If your child has special needs (autism, ADD,
social-behavioral issues), BENS might be better prepared, but I can't comment from
personal experience. If your child is typically developing then I can say from our
experience that we were very happy there.
Happy at BENS
Re: Jewish Preschools Non Synagogue Affiliated
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.
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
Hi, we'll be moving to Berkeley this coming summer and we
are thinking about enrolling our 3-year old daughter in the
Bet-El nursery school. We spoke in the phone with the
director, and we got a very good impression of the daycare,
but we didn't have a chance to see the place in person. Do
you have any comments/impressions/things to say? Any
comments will be greatly appreciated!!!! Thanks very much!
We LOVE Beth El! Our son has been at BENS for three years now and we
couldn't be happier. It is a structured play-based preschool with
developmentally appropriate incorporation of Jewish traditions and themes
into the everyday curriculum. The new director has brought in a few nice
improvements, adding a strong emphasis of Reggio Emilia into the
preschool. There is plenty of spontaneous opportunities for intellectual
growth woven into the play and a strong emphasis on sociodevelopmental
growth as well. The Jewish content is great and feels very inclusive for
the diverse mix of families. Actually I feel as if we have ''relearned''
so much about our heritage through our son! The facility is very nice
with a great outdoor space. You won't be disappointed if you send your
daughter to BENS.
Happy BENS Family
Feel free to contact me for a more personalized answer to your questions. K.
A last minute opening for a 3+ year-old child is available
at my children's nursery school. Beth El Nursery School,
http://www.bethelberkeley.org/nurseryschool.html, has been
my daughter's school since she was 2.5. My son will start in
At this Jewish play-based school, my daughter has learned
about the holidays and enjoyed a weekly shabbat musical
celebration. There is a large outdoor playground and three
separate classrooms for the three age groups. We have a
close-knit community of families with patient, thoughtful,
and creative teachers taking care of our children.
For more information about this unique opportunity, contact
Barbara Kanter, nursery school director.
Re: Do I need to join a temple to get into preschool?
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.
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
We are considering sending our child to Beth El Nursery School. There are no
reviews since the move. Anyone have experiences to share?
We have 2 children at Beth El Preschool (age 2 and 4) and we
absolutely love it. It is a wonderful play based preschool
with great teachers and an excellent director who really cares
about all of the children and families. It has been an amazing
community. The new building is wonderful - it's great to be in
a new place with brand new play equipment, lots of light etc.
I recommend contacting the director Barbara Kanter to check it
We have 2 children at Beth El -- one about to graduate and one
in the 2-year-old classroom. We intend to send our baby there
when the time comes. That alone should tell you that we've been
extremely pleased with Beth El Nursery School. The teachers
there have done an excellent job of understanding and nurturing
our children, allowing them to follow their interests and also
guiding them in their social develpoment.
Our almost 5-year-old has been reading since age 3 1/2; his
teachers have found a way to incorporate his skills and
interests, allowing him to become a leader but not a freak
amongst his peers. When he was younger, and had less interest
in making friends, they made it possible for him to develop his
talents and explore the social realm at his own pace.
Our 2 1/2 year old has also blossomed there, bonding with
several of her teachers and delving into the world of messy art
projects and new friends. She comes home happy and exhausted
Each classroom has its own tenor -- the 2 year-old room has a no-
nonsense head teacher who works teriffically for some (my 2 kids
have responded very well) but whom others find alienating. The
co-teachers there complement her well, adding softness. The 3-
year-old room has a great head teacher whose enthusiasm seems
endless and who manages to find a niche for each child. All
three teachers work well together. This year the head teacher
was out for a time recuperating from a serious illness, and the
staff pulled together very well and ran the classroom happily in
The 4-year-old room is flat out fabulous. Marlene, the head
teacher, has been teaching for 25 years and knows all the
tricks. She deftly weaves the children's interests into her
time-tested curriculum, introducing elementary-school readiness
(working at centers, following multi-part directions, dictating
stories) to eager, receptive students. She takes her job
seriously, and goes the extra mile to reach out to parents and
to make the children feel welcome and special.
All the teachers incorporate Jewish curriculum in the classroom,
which has been a huge plus for us. Our children come home
singing holiday and Shabbat songs, and help us remember when to
prepare for upcoming holidays.
Beth El now has a preschool admissions policy which heavily
favors membership there, and recommends joining the synagogue
before your child is admitted. We found this burdensome. It
has the effect of encouraging families to be more involved at
the synagogue, so you should consider if this is something that
suits your family.
The new building is great -- big windows in the classrooms, easy
access to bathrooms for the children, and a kitchen in the
hallway. It has a few kinks, some of which will be worked out:
the ventilation needs to be improved, the storage is limited,
the entrance to the 2-year-old room is narrow, especially with
the inevitable baby strollers that accompany the parents. The
parking lot is difficult to navigate, and the building's
security makes enterring cumbersome.
My name is Julie Parker and I am co-chair of the parent
organization at Beth El Nursery School. I have spent much of
the past year working with Barbara Kanter, the school's
director to transition to the new site. All of the issues we
had moving in have been resolved or will be by the end of the
school year. There was definately some adjustment. As a
parent who was at the old site as well as the new I am very
pleased with the new site. The bathrooms and layout of the
classrooms are so much better. The children love the play
yard. Parking is not a problem like we had anticipated and
drop off and pick up are better after some adjustments. The
best thing about the school in my opinion is the active parent
community. We are also synagogue members and are very happy
with the Beth El community. The executive director of the
synagogue is very responsive to the nursery school parent's
concerns and has done a fantastic job addressing and solving
As far as play time and art I am very satisfied. My daughter
is extremely active and social and gets lots of stimulation at
school. The teaching teams are wonderful. My daughter is in
the Alef class and is learning so much this year. I like that
there are native Hebrew speakers in two of the classes. I love
the afternoon teacher Wendy and my daughter enjoys the
activites throughout the day.
We feel very forutnate to have joined the synagogue when our
daughter was 6 months old and spent the time to get to know the
teachers and staff. Beth El is a second home to us so we are
very comfortable leaving our daughter there each day.
Our daughter is currently in her third year at Beth El Nursery
School. To address your questions, we feel that the only
changes the school has gone through as a result of the move to
the new site are the beautiful, new facility (with new furniture
and new toys) and the enthusiasm that goes along with being in a
brand new environment. There are three teachers in every
classroom. Each teacher has her unique strengths, bringing a
great deal of diverse activities into each classroom. The head
teacher in the 2-year-old classroom plays guitar and sings daily
with the children. Another teacher has an extensive background
in gardening and does a lot of planting with the children.
These are just two examples, but there are many others. In
addition to the regular classroom teachers, there are also two
specialists: a music teacher and a movement teacher. They are
both very popular with the children and the parents! The school
is play based, so at any given time the children can choose from
a wide variety of activities that the teachers have set-up.
Every day is slightly different, but there are always art
activities, puzzles, dramatic play, floor activities (such as
blocks and cars), books being read and much more. Naturally,
each class has different activities based on the age of the
children. Currently the 4-year-old classroom has a science table
set-up with signs of spring that the children can add to,
explore, discuss and observe. We have been so incredibly pleased
with the school and feel very lucky that our daughter has had
such a positive, first experience. We are also in awe of how
much she learns; socially, emotionally and academically. Most
importantly, she is enthusiastic about being at school and can't
wait for the next school day. If you have any additional
questions, please feel free to email us.
Hi, I'm looking for a more current recommendation than what's in
the archives for Beth El preshcool. Specifically, I want to
know about the 3 year old class. How did you like the teachers,
the community, the playard (and amount of outdoor time the kids
get), and what about teacher turn over. Thank you.
I can only answer some of your questions. The play yard at Beth
El is one of the best I've seen, fully enclosed and safe, with
a good lawn and a play structure. And the teachers use it well
and about as often as possible. We loved the school, and my son
made great friends there.
One year removed
My daughter will be entering the 3 year old (Alef) class at
Beth El Preschool this coming Fall. She's currently in the 2
year old room. Our older daughter also went to Beth El Nursery
School for three years. Obviously, we've been happy there.
Regarding your specific questions: The teaching staff is quite
stable throughout the school and also quite wonderful. The
yard area is fine-- not great -- though when they move to the
new synagogue (hopefully early in '05) it should be much
nicer. The level of community you'll find will depend to some
extent on how much you reach out. Overall, we've found it to
I highly recommend Beth El Nursery School. My daughter is in
the 3 year old class this year, and my older daughter went to
Beth El for 2 years (4 yrs ago- when Jill Shugart was the
director). The teachers in the ''Aleph'' class (3yr olds) are
great. Alex just went on maternity leave, but is coming back in
the fall (if not before). The three teachers work wonderfully
as a team, and they are all nurtering, creative, wonderful
people. I think the 3 of them have been working together for
several years, and so ''turnover'' isn't really a problem. In
addition to the usual fun stuff - art projects, circle time,
dress up, outdoor play, etc - they have a music class and and a
movement class once a week with different teachers. My daughter
loves these classes. They also make Challah and have a Shabbat
circle (parents welcome) on Fridays. Also, the afternoon
program is really nice and my daughter is crazy about the
cooking they do some afternoons. It is a nice, warm community
and we have been really happy there.
Feel free to contact me if you want more information or with
any questions. Good luck with your decision!
My son is in Alef class (ages 3-4) at Beth El this year, and our whole family loves it!
Here are some answers for your specific questions. The Alef class teachers are
great as individuals and they work together so very well. I have heard from parents
with older kids that the teachers for Bet class (ages 4-5) are also fantastic. One Alef
teacher recently left for maternity leave, but the word is that she will be back. Most
of the teachers there have been there for a long time, or have had experience with
other preschools. They are remarkably warm, kind, good humored, intelligent and
knowledgeable about early childhood education.
The play yard at the current beth El does not look like much and I was put off
by it at first. But every time I have been there when the kids were playing in the
yard, they seem to be having a blast. There is standard stuff--sand box, play
structure, trikes etc.,--and the teachers put out a variety of different things every
day. Most days, you can follow a glitter trail through the yard and into the
classrooms and that to me is like the residue of magic that the kids create for
themselves in that yard. Each class gets about an hour of ourdoor time each day, I
think. And Beth El is constructing a new temple and school that should have newer
play yard stuff.
The commmunity is wonderful. Perhaps it has something to do with being a
part of a community where religion and spirit are important, perhaps it has to do
with being a community of parents of young children, maybe it's singing the
dinosaur song at Shabbat every Friday that keeps people in a good mood, but there
seems to be a prevailing kindness among the families at Beth El that you don't find
everywhere. I think the warmth that the families bring is evident in the kids as well.
Feels like our whole family is thriving at Beth El.
My son is now in kindergarten and was at Beth El from age 2 to
4. He had a wonderful experience in the Alef (3 year old)
room. The teachers were wonderful and there is relatively
little turn over. It was a lovely group of kids and parents
and we still keep in touch with many of them. All in all a
lovely experience. Feel free to email if you have other
We love Beth El Nursery School. There is a strong,
supportive community of families. The teachers are
energetic, loving and fun. Though based on play, our
daughter comes home with tons of new knowledge. She is
also given social tools that we value at home. Most
importantly, she is eager to go to school every morning and
comes home with a smile on her face at the end of the day.
I'd be more than happy to answer any specific questions if
you'd like to email me.
If you're looking for a nice Jewish
pre-school, I recommend Congregation Beth El Nursery School. They
had a hard patch transitioning to a new director in 2001 but are
now back on track. Good diversity (Asian, Black, non-Jewish,
Lesbian moms, etc) and wonderful caring teachers. My daughter's
been there for 2 years and comes home speaking Hebrew and Spanish
Re: Preschools with good playgrounds
Beth El in Berkeley has everything except the open access. Their playground has a large grassy area, a large sand box, and a structure. Because there are
different age groups they are given seperate times to be outside. As it fits so many of your other criteria it may be worth looking at.
Our daughter is in her 2nd year at Beth El there and we've been very happy! We're
very happy with the quality of the teachers and the programming. We have
a new daughter (born in November) who we plan to send there in a few years
We sent our daughter to Beth El Nursery School and really loved it. The teachers
were just wonderful - warm and nurturing, as well as engaging and encouraging to her creativity. It is a very friendly place and my daughter made many close friends there,
as did we. It seemed to have a nice balance of structured activities, lots of singing
and many nice art projects, and free play. I was very impressed with their "conflict resolution" - it was all done very calmly and quietly, facilitating a resolution
between the children involved, and never humiliating or punishing. Also, I did love
having her come home from school singing hebrew songs and talking about Jewish holidays.
My daughter entered in the "Aleph" class, and so was not there for Gan Katan, the 2
year old program, so I can't really speak to that, but I think people really liked it.
We had such a positive experience that I definitely plan to send my baby to Beth El (in fall of 2002).
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.
I have checked the website but wondered if anyone had
any updated feedback on Beth El Nursery School or
Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center preschool. I
know Beth El has a new director & had a lot of turnover
in the past few years. I am interested in the two year
old programs for both schools for next fall. Thanks for
I just joined this group but I was told that a few
people have had questions about Beth El Nursery school,
where my son has gone for the last two years. As those
of you who have looked at Beth El know, we have a new
director this year. The transistion has been a bit bumpy
one but it has not effected the program. It's a great
program - the kids are thriving - nice parent community,
great teachers. My daughter, now 8, went to Step One,
which was also great.. Both schools have similiar
philosophies - they are play based programs that let
the children take the lead and have lots of activities
available for the kids - art, dress-up, outside play,
etc. Of course one difference is the religious content
at Beth El. The kids celebrate Shabbot, which my son
really enjoys, and they celebrate the Jewish holidays
throughout the year. Amy
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