By Rachel Raz and Linna Ettinger

Shel Silverstein’s famous children’s book, “The Giving Tree,” depicts the relationship between a boy and an apple tree in simple line drawings.  The apple tree continues to give and give to the boy until the boy is an old man, until at the end, all the apple tree can offer is its tree stump for the old man to sit upon for comfort.  While many people praise the book for depicting unconditional parental love in pictures, others criticize the book for the conspicuous absence of gratitude on the part of the boy.  The boy never says thanks to the tree.

In many ways our educators in the Jewish community are like the “Giving Tree” in Shel Silverstein’s book.  Our educators give their time, resources, and emotional energy to their students. While their herculean efforts may be acknowledged with a small gift at the holidays and at the end of the year by their students and their families, society continues to demand more and more from our educators while their salaries remain at a level that requires supplemental income in order to survive independently.

Hebrew College’s Early Childhood Institute kicked off a series of professional development seminars putting educators in the Jewish community at the center of attention.  The seminar, entitled, “A Person is a Tree of the Field,” (Deuteronomy 20:19) focuses on promoting participating educators’ self-awareness of their unique identities and how that impacts the development of the identities of their students and their families.  Issues that will be explored over six sessions include the social fabric of the American and Israeli Jewish Communities, concepts of Jewish Peoplehood, and the diversity and complexity of the backgrounds and Identities of today’s young families.

The seminar is funded by CJP Boston-Haifa Early Childhood Educator’s Connection. Haifa early childhood education partners are studying the same topics in parallel with faculty from Oranim College. In May, Boston educators and Haifa educators will convene in Israel while commemorating Yom HaZikaron and celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut together with both children and adults.  To learn more about the Boston-Haifa Early Childhood Educators’ Connection Boston Seminars and Israeli Education Seminars, contact Rachel Raz at rraz@hebrewcollege.edu.

Rachel Raz is the Director of the Early Childhood Institute at Hebrew College, MA. She is the Director of Boston-Haifa Early Childhood Educators’ Connection under Hebrew College and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP). She is an advocate for meaningful early childhood education and investment in educators to ensure successful engagement and development of Jewish identities of young children and their families. To learn more about the Boston-Haifa Early Childhood Educators’ Connection visit http://www.hebrewcollege.edu/childhood-institute .

Linna Ettinger is the Assistant Director of the Early Childhood Institute at Hebrew College.  More information about Hebrew College’s Early Childhood Institute can be found www.hebrewcollege.edu/early-childhood-institute .