St. Louis area’s newest Jewish Conservative congregation, Kol Rinah, is one with deep roots and a rich history -- and a new early childhood center under construction in the heart of Clayton.
"We embody the true meaning of 'kol' and 'rinah,' where generations gather to experience Jewish traditions, yet in modern ways," says Gary Kodner, president of the Kol Rinah board of directors. "The vision and plan is to broaden the offering of one of Kol Rinah's great strengths – highly regarded early childhood care and education – to fill a clear community need in the Clayton area."
Nearly half of the current enrollment in the center are children from families who do not practice Judaism.
Kol Rinah Rabbi Noah Arnow says the Early Childhood facility, housed in Kol Rinah’s former home in University City for the past 34 years, was built in 1953 for other purposes, and was severely under-sized and ill-equipped to handle today's community needs.
"Our new center can play a large role in the lives of additional children and their families who can be accommodated in the new space, as well as those Clayton-based companies whose employees are anxious to find high-quality, nurturing day care and early childhood education within a few minutes’ walk from their workplaces," says the rabbi.
He says interactions with corporate neighbors in Clayton suggested a considerable level of pent-up demand for first-rate, affordable childcare and early childhood education in or near the Clayton Central Business District.
Capacity of the former KR facility was 88 students at any one time, and the winter wait-list stood at 40, says Gary. Conversely, the new Early Childhood Center will be large enough to accommodate 130 children in 10 classrooms.
Gary says it's the group's commitment to these quality standards that interest families:
- Professional Teachers
- Effective Leadership/Administration
- Educationally Effective Curriculum
- Comprehensive Family Engagement Activities
- System for Continuous School Improvement
- Stable Funding and Community Support
Each classroom will be led by two lead co-teachers and supported by one or more floater/assistant teachers, Gary says.
"Children learn best through play-based, experiential lessons. Our teachers use learning centers and thematic lessons to create a warm and nurturing environment and present a developmentally appropriate, exciting and creative Jewish and general pre-school curriculum. Learning can best take place, and children can develop self-esteem and reach their full potential, in a loving, caring and relaxed atmosphere," he says.
St. Louis is also home to six Jewish centers housed within synagogues, plus two Jewish Community Center ECCs and two Jewish day schools that begin at preschool, according to KR analyses.
"The Center’s new facility will enable us to serve more children and families, of all backgrounds, whose own values and those of their employers assign high importance to building a tolerant society in which people from different backgrounds appreciate and enjoy one another. This is 'mission critical' to us," says Gary.
Kol Rinah Sanctuary, KoREH Religious School and Office: 7701 Maryland Ave.
[FORMER Kol Rinah Early Childhood Center was located at 829 North Hanley Road, but has been vacated.]
Kol Rinah's new early childhood care facility, under construction, will be the first center for Jewish childhood education in Clayton and the east central corridor of St. Louis County. In addition to educational benefits of quality early childhood education, industry researchers point to physical, socio-emotional and psychological benefits as well.