On Aug. 30, a full-day Jewish child-care program in Center City will become a reality as the Buerger Early Learning Center officially opens its doors. The center, to be located at Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 619 N. Broad St., represents a partnership between the synagogue and Federation Early Learning Services.
Maddy Malis, FELS president and CEO, says that community response to the projects has been simply overwhelming.
"Our phones have been ringing off the hooks with inquiries from parents who have been enrolling their children at a rate that far exceeds our first-year projections," she says, stating her belief that families are "hungry for a high-quality, Jewish full-day educational experience for their infants, toddlers and preschoolers."
She adds that "FELS' reputation for high-quality programming and community confidence in Congregation Rodeph Shalom has fueled excitement for this new project."
Sharon Schwartz and her husband, Kenny, were among the first to enroll their daughter, 19-month-old Ava. The couple's confidence in FELS impacted their decision to place their daughter at the Buerger Center without touring the facility or meeting the staff. Sharon and her sister, Veronica, attended the Lassin Early Learning Center in Northeast Philadelphia, also administered by FELS.
The sisters were among the many families who immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union, settled in Northeast Philadelphia and attended one of the two FELS programs serving this community during the 1980s.
"FELS did so much to help our family during our resettlement. I am very appreciative of all the support that we received," says Schwartz. "I am looking forward to my daughter following in my footsteps."
Moreover, FELS board chair Marcia Wasserman proclaims her confidence in the "high caliber" of the Buerger Early Learning Center's director, Megan Nachod.
Nachod, who most recently served as director of the Jewish early-childhood program at Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel, N.J. and as an early-intervention specialist at the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, has a master's degree in early-childhood education, and is certified by the American Montessori Society.
"She has extensive teaching and administrative experience, and the ideal personality to make this a first rate center," Wasserman maintains, adding that "preschool teacher Suzy Curcio has comparable credentials and experience."
Tom Perloff, director of Finance and Development for Congregation Rodeph Shalom, shares Wasserman's enthusiasm: "Every step of the way, we are creating a space and program that is purpose-driven. The vibrant, fresh, custom-renovated space is almost complete: Construction is on schedule, classroom equipment and materials have been ordered, and a first-rate director and other key staff members have been hired."
Rabbi Jill Maderer, who has been involved in the project since its inception, notes the symbolism of opening the doors to the new facility just 10 days before Rosh Hashanah.
"We are excited that right before the Jewish New Year, children and parents will be filling the Buerger Center. Everyone's hard work and determination have paid off in such a meaningful way," she says.
"Our opening day will be a dream come true," adds the rabbi.
Federation Early Learning Services enrolls infants, toddlers, pre-school and school-age children from diverse economic, religious and racial backgrounds on a year-round basis in 11 center programs. FELS serves more than 1,000 each year throughout the Delaware Valley.
Meet the staff and learn more about the center at one of two scheduled open houses: Thursday, July 22, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. or Sunday, Aug. 1, 10 a.m. to noon. RSVP to director Megan Nachod at: 267-535-2643 (e-mail: [email protected] ). Parking is available; refreshments will be served.