Five years ago, neighbor Karin Feldman (pictured above) and her mom, Dalia Abrahamian, began a new journey in Windsor Terrace when they opened the Oranim Jewish Early Childhood Program, a bilingual preschool offering Brooklyn families the opportunity to explore a traditional, but non-denominational, Jewish education for their young children.
“We wanted to open a place that was more community-based,” Karin explained, “that offered families from all different backgrounds and denominations a chance to really immerse their kids in an experience that would provide a Jewish education that is non-religious, with more of a traditional flavor.”
Karin, who also operates a private psychotherapy practice, told us that the decision to open a preschool was a natural progression for the two women, who spent years working with and caring for children.
“My mom is a native of Israel,” she said. “She was a nurse for many years in an ambulatory hospital in Israel, has always been a very nurturing caregiver, and has always loved children.
“When she moved to the states,” Karin continued, “she found herself gravitating more toward working with children. She worked for many Jewish schools in New Jersey, and really just enjoyed being around younger kids.”
Like other neighborhood childcare centers, students at Oranim dance, sing, cook, get crafty, and discover their world though play-based activities. It’s the school’s heritage and language programs, though, that bring a unique element of history to the curriculum.
“Modern-day, pragmatic Hebrew is immersed into the classroom using an array of materials and activities each day,” Karin said. “Our children practice the Hebrew language skills they acquire year-round, and practice it together.
“Throughout the year, joyous celebrations of Shabbat and the Jewish holidays foster a deep feeling of pride in the children’s Jewish heritage,” she continued. “Our teachers proudly teach Jewish values such as kindness and charity, and the children also celebrate Israeli culture and connect to the land of Israel through music, song, and stories.”
A longtime neighborhood resident herself, Karin knew the South Slope/Windsor Terrace area would be an ideal location to nurture the lessons she and Dalia hoped to instill in their students.
“I love the fact that there is such a great sense of community,” she said. “You know people’s faces. You can walk into the corner deli and recognize your neighbors, and know who the guy behind the counter is.
“It’s not pretentious,” added Karin. “These are real people walking down the street.”
When asked if the school today is how they envisioned it five years ago, Karin’s response was almost instantaneous.
“Absolutely,” she smiled. “We were reminiscing yesterday, looking at some old pictures from our first year, and we were just amazed at how big our kids had gotten.
“One part of our vision,” Karin explained, “was to create a community of children and families that can continue to establish their relationships outside of the classroom, maintain contact, and continue to be a part of each other’s lives and our lives.
“We know that every single year,” she said, “the children and the families that were a part of our school continue to maintain these really awesome relationships. They come back and they visit us, and we get to see them grow. Their siblings enter the school throughout the years, and it’s just really beautiful to see how the community lives on because of that initial spark in the classroom.”
The Oranim Jewish Early Childhood Program is located at 28 E. 4th Street, between Greenwood and Vanderbilt Streets. Tuition prices range from $500 to $1,500 per month. Admission is rolling, with full, part time, and half day schedules available. Early drop off begins at 8am, and extended day programs conclude at 6pm. For more information, visit the school’s website, email [email protected], or call 347-267-4179.
Photos via Karin Feldman