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Momentous Passing of the Torch

We are down to the final months of our significant transition of passing the torch from our treasured Preschool Director Lisa Heller to our incoming Director Sharon Alkin. Lisa Heller has been the beacon and driving force of the Preschool at Congregation B’nai Israel for twenty years. Lisa, with the help of many of our congregants and Rabbi Spitz, took a tiny schoolhouse of three rooms with less than twenty children and created a boutique preschool of five enriched rooms with sixty-five children. Over the years, the staff of four became a community of fifteen very experienced teachers, and the small playground with one plastic climber evolved into two beautiful outdoor environments. These areas now are home to butterfly and tortoise habitats and organic fruit and vegetable gardens. Hidden amongst succulents and vines is a Shalom teepee. There is a Nature Art area, mud and water experiences, a natural modern wooden climber and a little playhouse. Dotted within the environment are colorful flowers and plants, which are home to wild birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and lizards (the children’s favorites). Lisa, with the help of Linda Oxman, has transformed the preschool into a Reggio Inspired school of learners where the Image of the Child is celebrated. Sharon Alkin will continue the developmentally appropriate philosophy of the school when she becomes the new director in July 2016.

For those of you who have not had an opportunity to meet Sharon, she can always be found in and around the Parparim Pre-K room, in the Preschool garden, the Preschool office, or helping out wherever extra hands are needed. She is undoubtedly wearing a smile and always approachable, although you may have to wait your turn!

Sharon Alkin has been an Early Childhood Educator in California for the past twenty-five years. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Sharon received her Bachelor of Primary Education from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. After immigrating to Los Angeles, shortly after completing her degree, she started her career as a preschool teacher at Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, before moving onto becoming the Director at the Susan Sims Bodenstein Preschool at Mishkon Tephilo Synagogue in Venice Beach. Sharon worked closely with Rabbi Naomi Levy [1] to build the Preschool and helped to revive one of the oldest synagogues in Los Angeles. Over a period of three years, on a shoestring budget, she was able to build the school from six to twenty children with a thriving Summer Camp and Mommy and Me program, which helped to sustain and grow the preschool organically.

In August 1995, Sharon, her husband Jonathan, and their two children Hayley and Josh moved from Los Angeles to Orange County. Sharon spent some time at home with her young children, before returning to teaching Preschool. She worked both at the old JCC in Costa Mesa and at the Merage JCC in Irvine. In May 2009, Sharon joined the Congregation B’nai Israel Child Development Center as a substitute teacher, which quickly became a permanent position. Sharon has worked with Linda Oxman in the Parparim Pre-K room for the past seven years and more recently, since her promotion to Assistant Director, she divides her time between the classroom and other Preschool needs.

Sharon has a tremendous ability to make parents, children, and teachers alike feel at ease. She is experienced in Jewish Early Childhood Education, is extremely passionate, professional, kind and loved by all. Jewish education has always been central to Sharon’s teaching. She is fortunate to have a large extended family in Orange County. Her family maintains strong traditional Jewish values and practices while acknowledging the secular world we live in. Her children, Josh and Hayley, now in their 20’s, both attended Tarbut v’ Torah and then went onto Northwood High School. The Alkin children also spent many summers at Camp B’nai Ruach with Barbara Sherman.

One of the values that Sharon holds close to her is that of honor or kavod. It is evident in the way that she interacts with both adults and children, honoring who they are.

We too are honored to have Sharon lead our CBI Preschool for years to come!

[1]In 1989, Rabbi Levy became the first female Conservative rabbi to head a pulpit on the West Coast. She led Congregation Mishkon Tephilo Synagogue in Venice Beach, CA for seven years.