Contra Costa community comes through for preschool families

It’s one thing to talk about community; it’s quite another to demonstrate community when it counts.

But the latter is precisely what happened in the East Bay after the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center abruptly closed last month, sending the parents of some 80 children scrambling for a new preschool.

Without hesitation, several local Jewish institutions stepped up to aid those parents, showing in their responses true rachmones (Yiddish for “compassion”).

The Jewish Federation of the East Bay, Contra Costa Jewish Day School and the preschools at Lafayette’s Temple Isaiah and Walnut Creek’s Congregation B’nai Shalom should be especially singled out for praise.

On ridiculously short notice, and right in the middle of a busy holiday break, the day school and the synagogue preschools welcomed more than 60 children from the CCJCC’s preschool.

This meant teachers had to put in long hours over the holiday break preparing new classrooms. Administrators had to work overtime to register the new families. Moreover, some of these institutions had to hustle to meet county licensing and fire safety requirements.

But the school staffers and congregant volunteers did the work cheerfully, because they wanted to live out the Jewish values they espouse.

These institutions not only helped out the children and their parents, they collectively hired most of the JCC’s preschool teachers, who were laid off after the closure.

This allowed the children to benefit from seamless classroom continuity —  most now have the same teachers and classmates. It also reflects the top rung in Maimonides’ famed ladder of tzedakah: giving work to those who need it, which is one of the highest ideals in Judaism.

As our story this week points out, many of the parents have not yet been refunded prepaid tuition. This is a serious problem, but it seems clear that this issue remains uppermost in the minds of JCC board members, as well as federation leaders, and that they will settle all accounts as soon as possible.

The East Bay Jewish community is still hurting from the loss of the JCC. Many of its former staff members have joined the unemployment rolls. Seniors who took advantage of the center’s many programs have had to look elsewhere for help.

But we are glad that the children have found safe haven in our superb Jewish day schools and preschools. This example proves that our community says what it means, and means what it says.