Educational Philosophy

Inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, and guided by Jewish values, Temple Ohav Shalom Center for Early Learning creates a welcoming and inclusive community that celebrates the uniqueness of all families and develops a life-long love of learning. 


A Commitment to Excellence

Our early childhood program reflects the influence of Jewish values and teachings, the educational philosophy underlying the Reggio Emilia approach, and the standards and guidelines set forth by NAEYC, professional early childhood organization. Our goal is to provide for the children an environment that is rich and engaging, and a curriculum that encourages children to question, to investigate, and to develop the skills necessary for future success. We are a school guided by Jewish values, inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, and a community that celebrates the diversity of our families.

In August, 2011, our Center was selected as one of three Jewish early childhood programs in the greater Pittsburgh area to participate in the JECEI* program, a comprehensive program designed to bring into our classrooms the acclaimed early childhood philosophy of Reggio Emilia as viewed through the lens of Jewish values and teachings.  Our goal is to provide for the children an environment that is rich and engaging, and a curriculum that builds upon their interests and encourages them to question, to investigate, and to develop the skills necessary for future success.  We are a school guided by Jewish values, inspired by Reggio Emilia, and a community that celebrates the diversity of our families.

* The Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI) is a program supported by the Centennial Fund for the Jewish Future, an endowment within the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Foundation and the Agency for Jewish Learning.


Inspired by the Principles of Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia approach creates a rich, engaging environment for young children while creating a curriculum built upon children’s interests, curiosities, and theories. Partnership and collaboration among parents, children, and the educators is considered essential to success.

  • An emergent curriculum built upon the interests, experiences, and needs of each child
  • A relaxed, unhurried classroom where children have time to pursue in-depth projects and investigations
  • Multiple forms of art and communication used by children to investigate, construct and represent an understanding of their world
  • A rich learning environment created through the collaboration of children, families, and educators
  • Observing, understanding and communicating children’s learning through visual, audio, and written documentation
  • A home-like environment that is welcoming, stimulates curiosity and reflects beauty
  • The teacher as learner, researcher, resource and guide


Guided by Jewish Teachings and Values

The foundational ideas and values about Jewish life are expressed in what we call “the Jewish Lenses.” These lenses are a way to view and experience our lives and the world, while engaging families in Jewish life and learning. Independent of one’s upbringing, denomination, beliefs or practices, the philosophy of this model is built upon the values which help us nurture our children, families, preschool community, and the community at large.

Masa/Journey (Reflection, Return, Renewal)
This lens focuses on how we look at the history of our people and our “story” (the Torah) to teach us life lessons. While we grow, we learn as much through the experience as we do by reaching our goals.
In our preschool we document the stories and journeys within the classroom and learn together with the children by revisiting these stories and planning for new experiences.

Brit/Covenant (Belonging and Commitment)
This lens is about relationships. We value the relationship with each other, with our families, friends, communities, and our environment. When we have honored relationships, we feel a sense of security and our individuality is honored and respected.
In our preschool there is a covenant between families and teachers to work together toward a shared vision for the children.

Tzelem Elohim/Divine Image (Dignity and Potential)
This is a lens of responsibility, compassion and self-esteem. One of the most famous teachings of the Torah is that all people are created in the image of God (B’tzelem Elohim). This lens helps us understand that we all are part of humankind but all are unique as well, deserving of value and respect.
In our preschool we respect the unique nature of each child and family, and yet come together to celebrate the divinity that unites us all.

K’dushah/Holiness (Intentionality and Presence)
Through Jewish teachings, we understand that there are holy times and spaces (separate and special) in our daily life.
In our preschool we strive to be fully present with the children and together to establish times, spaces, and rituals that honor significant events in our lives.

Hit’orerut/Awakening (Amazement and Gratitude)
Through this lens, we pay attention to the wonder of the world. The potential for wonder exists every day, and we take the time to stop and appreciate the richness of our relationships and the world around us.
In our preschool we help children experience the wonder and beauty of nature and our world.

D’rash/Interpretation (Inquiry, dialogue, and transmission)
The art of inquiry is a valued tradition within Judaism. By challenging ourselves to look at different points of view and interpretations, we are open to new meanings and understandings of our world and how we relate to it. We value questions because they lead to more questions and exploration.
In our preschool we encourage children, families, and educators to discuss, question, disagree, and grow together.

Tikkun Olam/Repair of the World (Responsibility)
This lens helps guide us as partners in creating harmony and unity in the world. The actions we focus on range from every day kindnesses to large impact social justice causes relating to the environment and to human relations. We know that what we do matters to us not only today but to generations to come.
In our preschool our goal is to teach children responsibility for their own words and actions, for the care of our environment, and for the well-being of others.