CJE gears up for 2nd round of $40K grants
A Community of Practice learning session at IKEA is received by Lisa Gerstenfeld, Lisa Jackey, Heidi Kutchin, Kelli Cohen and Lindsey Silvis Retan. Photo: Alyse Eisenberg

By Ben Tinsley

DALLAS — Alyse Eisenberg once dreamed of creating a “support and collaboration” group from which she and other educators who work at Dallas Jewish early childhood centers could benefit.
With the hope of realizing that dream, she applied to the Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas for an Incubator Incentive Grant.
In August 2014, it was formally announced that she had received that grant. (She had been privately notified that spring.)
As a result, Eisenberg was able to start pursuing her goals with great vigor.
“My dream — which centered around bringing the Dallas Jewish early childhood community together to support and collaborate — came true.” Eisenberg said.
Eisenberg said since then, she and fellow professionals in her group have met regularly to discuss and collaborate many ideas and issues concerning their work in the field.
Over the past year, the group has conducted several meetings in person and on Facebook — supporting each other and raising the bar of excellence in Dallas’ Jewish early childhood education community.
“One year later, we have reached so many of our initial goals,” she said. “We have had meetings at IKEA, Dallas Makerspace, Educational First Steps, Barnes and Noble and many other inspiring spaces. … We have shared our personal struggles, celebrated our success and even traveled to The Inaugural Paradigm Project Conference at the Capital Camp Retreat Center in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.”
CJE is on the verge of launching the second cycle of this Incubator Incentive Grant program. It is available to anyone partnered with a 501(c)3 who wishes to impact Jewish education in Dallas, explained Nina Stenzler, director of the JFGD’s Tycher Library.
“The first year of the grant we awarded a total of $47,000 to three projects,” she said. “This year we have a total of $40,000 to give away and we are looking for some great ideas from our community that would impact Jewish education.”
The process begins with the electronic submission of executive project summaries no later than noon on Jan. 29. They can be sent to Stenzler at nstenzler@jfgd.org.
Meyer Denn, executive director of the Center for Jewish Education, encouraged people to apply for the grants sooner rather than later.
“The deadline for organizations to submit requests is fast approaching,” Denn said. “If they don’t find out about the availability of $40,000 fairly soon, the community will miss out on this great opportunity.”
The grants were made possible by proceeds raised that inaugural year at the CJE’s “Night to Celebrate Jewish Education,” honoring local stakeholders in Dallas’ Jewish education landscape.
Eisenberg ended up naming her group “Dallas Early Childhood Community of Practice.” Deb Polsky of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society’s “L’Dor VaDor, What’s your story?” effort, also received a grant.
Alyse Eisenberg said the grant has helped make her dream a very successful reality.
“We’ve strengthened ourselves, each other and even inspired others,” Eisenberg said.
Eisenberg said her work as an early childhood professional for over 28 years is what provided her with the actual opportunity to collaborate with many educators from around the country and Israel.
Eisenberg said she got the idea for her dream during a return flight from an early childhood conference in Washington, DC.
As outlined in CJE paperwork, Dallas Early Childhood Community of Practice organizes and implements collaborative meetings, offers mentoring programs, and expands technology.
The group also visits inspirational schools and communities to create innovative ways to engage children, their families and their institutions in new and meaningful experiences.
Polsky said the “L’Dor VaDor, What’s your story?” effort works in partnership with the Dallas Jewish Historical Society. This is as convener, in six area day and religious schools, to implement family history projects in one middle or high school class — incorporating genealogical research techniques, learning about Jewish history related to that research, and attending sessions on the history of the Dallas Jewish community.
Reaching out to a younger generation and showing them the big picture of the Greater Dallas Jewish community is a priority, Polsky said.
“The application process was simple,” she said. “It was a short process …We spent a lot of time thinking about what we wanted to accomplish with this.”
Polsky said the participating students have been encouraged to purchase memberships to Ancestry.com so they can explore their family history.
“There were 82 families represented the first year,” she said.

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