Guarding the Sanctuary: New Initiative to Provide Protection for Israel's Synagogues

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By: Dave Gordon

Helping toddlers and young children learn, grow and thrive is the mission and passion of Shaare Torah Preschool and its staff. Run under the direction of Mrs. Goldie Golding, the school offers the highest level of early childhood education.

After successfully educating the community’s children for over 30 years, Shaare Torah took yet another step forward in enhancing its educational program by introducing its Mommy and Me program last year. Almost instantly, it proved to be a resounding success.

“Mommy and Me allows for mothers to spend quality time with their children, in a comfortable atmosphere that offers new friendships and support, and the exchange of parenting ideas and advice,” Mrs. Golding explains. “A child's foundation of language is reinforced through play, music, socialization and reading in Mommy and Me. The beautiful middot [character traits] of the children shine through as they learn to follow directions, share, take turns, clean up and become part of a classroom community.”

Karen Sasson works as a teacher, facilitator and coach in the program. With a Master’s degree in Education and Special Education, specializing in educating children from birth and second grade, Karen brings to the program nine years of teaching experience, including training in Music Together.

“When people ask me why I became a teacher, I reply that my goal is to be there for children as well as parents,” she says.

Karen finds that education is a team effort, combining her knowledge with that of the parents. “Parents often ask me advice about gross motor, fine motor and language milestones, and I try to guide them the best way that I can.”

The first 45 minutes of Mommy and Me is spent strengthening gross and fine motor skills. Children learn through play and exploration. Themes are developed across art projects, story time, music and movement. Through the theme, concepts are repeated and reinforced, thereby strengthening and expanding the child’s vocabulary. Parents are encouraged to use words from the program at home to continue vocabulary enhancement.

Art projects are used to help children learn the process of skill development, with the final product being secondary to this primary objective. Karen includes different mediums in the projects, to stimulate different senses.

Music and movement are a central part of the program, with blowing bubbles a guaranteed favorite. According to Karen, “Music is actually a precursor for learning reading. Rhythm, beat, prepositional phrases, opposites and directionality are learned through instruments, music and dancing. Through repetition of songs during circle time, the children develop a sense of familiarity and comfort.”

The children are offered colorful rhythm scarves, bean bags and a parachute to add to the fun while also stimulating the senses. Puppets and instruments are used during chants and story time to increase focus and attention.

The children eat lunch together, which offers opportunities for more communication, and for practicing skills like sitting at a table while eating and following proper rules of etiquette.

One parent in the program, Ms. Lisa Cohen, stated that she “really enjoyed the program. My son was so excited to come and play, do crafts and sing his favorite songs and pop bubbles!”

Ms. Sylvia Ben Dayan, another parent, expressed her and her daughter’s enthusiasm over the program. “Shaare Torah's Mommy and Me program has it all -- a clean, safe environment, fun, educational toys, a fabulous program and exceptional warmth! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend quality time with my daughter in this integral time of her development.”

Karen has also enjoyed her time leading the program. “This past year has been an uplifting, heartfelt experience. Mothers relate that their children are repeating words and phrases, singing songs and are waiting by the door saying, ‘School, school!’ What can be a better and more rewarding experience than that?”

The program has been as rewarding to Karen as it has been to those she teaches. “Teaching Mommy and Me is a way to fulfill the mitzvah of making people happy. I don’t know who benefits from this happiness more, the parents and children or myself. Watching the children’s development is as exciting as it was for my own children!”