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Gan Shalom Preschool (Berkeley, CA)
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Our family is visiting Berkeley just for a year while my husband is on sabbatical and visiting the university. We enrolled our youngest daughter in Gan Shalom preschool and couldn't be happier. This is the third preschool our family has experienced -- the first two were in Seattle, WA and in Pasadena, CA -- and we love it by far the most. It's a magical place, full of music and dramatic storytelling. The school is unusual in that it is quite small (20-25 students) and kids ages 3-5 are all together in one space most of the time. Having a range of ages works well for my four-year-old. She looks up to the older kids and finds the younger ones ''cute'' and enjoys playing with both. For part of the day, the kids are also divided into smaller groups for age-appropriate activities.
There are four teachers, all with different strengths. One plays the guitar and sings beautifully, one is Israeli and speaks and sings with the kids in Hebrew, another is wonderful at telling stories with puppets. All are kind and loving and help facilitate positive play, and teach basic skills like good hand washing and using the potty. Our only regret is that we have to leave this wonderful school at the end of the year. Happy mother
Re: Looking for a fun, easy-going Jewish preschool
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
Re: Do I need to join a temple to get into preschool?
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'd be interested in hearing from anyone who as experience with Gan Shalom preschool. I've heard some good things from acquaintances but have found no postings here and I'd like to learn more. Thanks. berkeley mom
The Jewish content at the school is nice, but also low key. The kids celebrate the sabbath every Friday, learn stories (Noah's Ark, etc.), and do crafts and activities around the holidays. I believe they also say a blessing before and after meals, and I know they send prayers for healing to friends and family who are sick (this is very cute- the kids throw out their hands and say ''Whoosh! A full healing!''). We enjoyed hearing our kids come home singing the blessing after eating in Hebrew, and other Hebrew songs. As you may know, Gan Shalom has two openings at the moment. I would really encourage you to check it out- it's a great place. happy parents
We sent our (now kindergartner!) son to Gan Shalom for 2 years and he loved it!! When he entered, he had a hard time with strangers, with affection, with loose play, with friendships---he blossomed incredibly in the first year and was able to be relaxed, affectionate, playful and loving. He had strong attachments to the teachers and the other kids there. There is a strong atmosphere of kindness and love, as well as playfulness. He looked forward to going every day and we felt that the teachers really appreciated his individual strengths as well as gently helping him to grow in areas that he needed help. The art projects were amazing--we still enjoy looking at them. The community of parents is supportive and friendly and welcoming to a broad range of different Jewish religious practice. happy mama
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