The Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center is renowned for its low teacher-to-child ratio and high staff retention rate — in an industry that’s too well known for exactly the opposite. Accordingly, its waitlist is very, very long.
But perhaps Cohn’s greatest asset is how it incorporates the Jewish value of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, into its daily curriculum. In fact, Cohn ECLC Director Barbara Traweek calls it the school’s overarching value.
“We are repairing the world with each child we serve,” she says. “They are the future, so if we teach them the right way now, they’ll be the ones to repair the world as they get older.” As part of this approach, Cohn’s curriculum takes a broad look at the world through courses about the environment, global diversity, music, and the visual arts.
Barbara also cites Rabbi Meir’s admonishment in the Pirkei Avot to not look at the flask itself, but instead see what is inside it. “Most would agree that what’s inside us is what counts the most,” she explains. “So first and foremost we celebrate what we find inside each of our children here at Cohn, and then also embrace unique elements on the outside” — stressing to the children that unique does not necessarily mean different.
Celebrating shabbat every Friday is one of the most visible of Jewish traditions. Cohn’s weekly kabbalat shabbat services reinforce the tradition for Jewish children while introducing non-Jewish children to the practice with music, stories, and delicious challah.
“Even though we don’t all believe the same things, we can still each find elements within shabbat that resonate while we celebrate together,” Barbara says. It all results in a mutual understanding and appreciation that only grows throughout the year.
“They love it.”