Every interaction within an early childhood program either promotes community or disrupts it. Therefore, excellent early childhood programs have in place a process that pulls the energies and abilities of all the members of the school community together so that everyone—children, educators, parents, and community members—develop well. In particular, healthy interactions between educators and families create the necessary conditions for the early childhood programs: (1) to impact the lifepaths of the families; and, in turn, (2) to engage the families in the work of improving the early childhood programs. In this article, research on the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI) is presented. JECEI was selected for study because JECEI early childhood programs are characterized by healthy relationships, the capacity to successfully promote children’s learning and development, and the engagement of families in the work of school improvement.
"JECEI is a school reform initiative informed by the scientific study of child development, Jewish thought, the approach of Reggio Emilia schools, and research on the most effective way to engage children and their families in Jewish life. JECEI early childhood programs are characterized by healthy relationships, increased capacity to successfully promote children’s learning and development, and the engagement of families in the work of school improvement. In comparison to a similar Jewish early childhood educational initiative, JECEI families had statistically significant higher scores on a scale of items that addressed the extent to which the early childhood program influenced the connections of the families to Jewish life: provided them with assistance in enhancing their parenting skills, encouraged them to be good people, encouraged them to promote social justice, encouraged them to respect the potential of each person, helped them feel better about being Jewish, and led them to experience joy in Jewish life. JECEI families also participated in adult Jewish learning at a higher rate that was not due to chance. In turn, JECEI early childhood centers developed ways to engage the families in the work to improve the centers. Far stronger communities emerged."