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YU News

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, Announces $5 Million Gift to Launch The Anita Zucker Program for Jewish Early Childhood Educators

Anita Zucker

Yeshiva University has announced a $5 million gift from philanthropist Anita Zucker of Charleston, South Carolina, to establish the Anita Zucker Program for Jewish Early Childhood Educators.

The generous gift will provide scholarships for qualified Yeshiva University undergraduate students who wish to pursue careers in Jewish early childhood education. It will also fund:

  • Sponsorship for students to the NAEYC Annual Conference, which gathers together early childhood educators from around the globe to connect, collaborate and learn.
  • A peer-reviewed annual Journal of Early Childhood Jewish Education to promote high quality scholarship and inquiry into early childhood Jewish education.
  • Research Fellows from YU graduate schools who partner with the Center to conduct early childhood education (ECE) research as part of their advanced academic study.
Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman

“We are grateful for the extraordinary vision and generosity of our dear friend Anita Zucker, whose recent gift will have a profound impact on generations of Jewish children,” said Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University. “Anita’s commitment to early childhood and Jewish education has inspired me and shaped our thinking of the future. Her gift will have a multigenerational impact, ensuring that our children receive the highest quality of instruction during a critical phase of their growth and cognitive development.”

“Jewish early childhood education is a transformative experience for both young children and their families. It is the foundation for lifelong learning and engagement and can create a powerful bond to both Judaism and the Jewish community,” Mrs. Zucker explained. “I am proud to be able to contribute to the advancement of such an important program at Yeshiva University and to the field as a whole.”

Studies have shown the dramatic impact of Jewish early childhood education, which not only touches young students, but also entire families. Whether through a day school, a synagogue or a JCC, it is, for many families, the formal entry into the Jewish community. Research by CASJE (Collaborative for Applied Studies in Jewish Education) found that for most families, Jewish early childhood education and engagement increases Jewish practice and involvement.

It is with this understanding and a passionate commitment to professionalize the field and incentivize prospective teachers that Anita Zucker made the gift to establish the Anita Zucker Program for Jewish Early Childhood Educators. An educator who taught elementary school for over 10 years, Mrs. Zucker is the Chair of The InterTech Group Inc., a North Charleston-based global manufacturing conglomerate. Her dedication to the field of education has resulted in initiatives across the country, from national institutions of higher education to local programs, projects and summits that have advanced and advocated for the field.

Mrs. Zucker has been instrumental in the launch and execution of Rise Up: The Campaign for 613, Yeshiva University’s comprehensive campaign that will fund scholarships, facilities and faculty to help move the University into its next great era. Along with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, she serves as co-chair of the campaign, which plans to raise $613 million over five years.

The Anita Zucker Jewish Early Childhood Program at Yeshiva University expects to bring 50 trained professionals into the field of Jewish Early Childhood Education within its first five years, affecting approximately 1,000 young Jewish families each academic year.

“The Anita Zucker Program for Early Childhood Educators is a game changer,” stated Dr. Miriam Hirsch, Chair of the Stern College for Women Educator Preparation Program. “This funding will make it possible for students who are interested in early childhood education to become professionals without financial hardship, and it will lead the way in transforming the status of Jewish early childhood education. This is an extraordinary opportunity at a critical time.”