Gan Shalom Berkeley has been a beacon of the best in early childhood education for the East Bay Jewish community for more than 30 years. An open and inclusive community, we are a Jewish preschool serving families who are affiliated with various Jewish denominations, are secular or are interfaith.
Gan Shalom is one of the oldest Jewish preschools in the Bay Area and serves children from ages two to five. Gan Shalom is a strong community where each child has the opportunity to flourish as they are, and to be supported in their unique development and in their interactions with others – peers and adults.
At Gan Shalom, we believe that all children are intelligent and curious. We work alongside them to help them create new ideas, learn about Jewish culture and identity, and to learn to be respectful citizens of the world to shape a better future.
Our curriculum unifies three main elements: the Reggio Emilia pedagogy, Jewish learning and socio-emotional development with a focus on teaching children about respect, consent and to be responsible members of our community and of the world.
The Reggio Emilia approach is based on the idea that children learn through playing with others and that children are curious, competent and have “one hundred languages” to express themselves. We also believe that it is the responsibility of educators to give children the opportunity to express who they are and to model respect, consent and how to be a good citizen of the world. Here, we celebrate all children and their uniqueness.
Our Jewish curriculum is lived everyday in the values that we teach to the children; values such as kavod (respect) and kehillah (community). Our calendar follows the Jewish calendar and children learn the stories of the Torah and celebrate Jewish holidays in a playful way that aligns with their curiosity and needs. The apex of Jewish learning in our school are our holiday celebrations where families are invited to join.
Gan Shalom focuses on teaching Jewish learning through joy and play to children; Hebrew is an important part of that process as a key to Jewish identity and culture. Hebrew is part of our curriculum and its study begins with the youngest children in our school. In the two year old program, we offer reading time and art activities in Hebrew. Hebrew is also interwoven in our teaching and learning of Jewish spirituality, culture and identity throughout the day. Hebrew is an important part of the identity of our community, and it is shown that children who have studied a second language score higher on standardized tests in English.
Our ultimate goal is to inspire a lifelong love of learning in our students, love for Jewish culture and to teach children to be respectful citizens of the world. A culture of consent and respect permeates everything that we do at Gan Shalom!