A Brief History of OKECC
In the Fall of 1980, a group of Ohr Kodesh parents formed a Jewish nursery school. These parents wanted a synagogue-based nursery school that would provide a warm atmosphere that fostered positive Jewish experiences. The school was to be a place that would encourage nurturing relationships, positive play experiences, and an understanding of each child’s unique needs and abilities.
In 2004, after several years researching different educational practices, Joanie Smeltz (Director since 1991) was inspired by the Reggio-Emilia philosophy. It was the major principles of the philosophy that captured her attention: Image of the Child, Emergent Curriculum, Parents as Partners, and Natural Environment. A year later, OKECC was honored and chosen as one of twelve Jewish preschools in the country to participate in a pilot program of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI). JECEI’s vision was to increase the quality of Jewish early childhood education in the nation as a whole. This opportunity encouraged OKECC to begin a journey with the support and guidance of two mentors: Dr. Naama Zoran and Diana Ganger. Today, OKECC is still guided by Dr. Naama Zoran, as we deepen and elevate the quality of our school.
For many years, Ohr Kodesh had two schools operating simultaneously. The Full Day Preschool, which started as a satellite program for the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Rockville, Maryland, was operating as separate entity on the second level of the synagogue. During Fall 2009, OKECC was redefined. The Half Day and Full Day programs were combined to form one early childhood center for all children at Ohr Kodesh.
In the first year of OKECC there were three classes of three- and four-year-olds, with a total enrollment of 35 students. Over thirty years later, the school has grown to approximately 100 students in nine classes divided among two-year-olds, three-year-olds and four-year-olds.
The integration of the two schools has been a wonderful gift to the children, families, educators and entire Ohr Kodesh community.