With New Director, Evelyn Rubenstein JCC’s West Houston Facility Sees Climbing Enrollment Amid New Programming
With a new director and an exciting offering of innovative programming in the works, the future is bright for the Ellen Boniuk Early Childhood School, the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center’s West Houston facility.
Rene Kariel, formerly Corporate Sponsorship Foundation and Community Relations Director at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC, came on as director in August, and since then, enrollment has climbed. Kariel is looking forward to continued growth and strengthened partnerships with nearby congregations, including Congregation Or Ami, Temple Sinai and Chabad West Houston.
“We’re looking to create a hub of Jewish life in the West Houston area,” said Kariel, who previously served as Director of the Jerome Robinson Family Young Adults Division at the Jewish Federation.
This past December, the school hosted a Community Chanukah celebration in partnership with the synagogues that featured singing, origami dreidel making and make-your-own edible menorah. In November, it held a fall festival that drew nearly 200 community members. Future programming will include a community-wide second night Seder and a Purim event.
“These are the kinds of events that we’re planning to add more of,” Kariel said.
Established just over 30 years ago, the Ellen Boniuk Early Childhood School is located at 1120 Dairy Ashford, and offers infant and child care for children ages six weeks to PreK. The school is the only Jewish preschool in West Houston. Programming is influenced by Jewish heritage, and the school’s 19-member staff teach a curriculum rich in Hebrew, Judaic music, Jewish values and Jewish cultural opportunities. While the school is based on Jewish principles, everyone, regardless of race or religion, is welcome.
The school is also one of few options in the area for infant care. It offers flexible programs, including half and full days and has space available for new students. Its location in the fast-growing energy corridor and close to area synagogues has set a solid foundation for its future, long-term growth.
“We have some of the best teachers, and we’re getting calls daily for childcare,” said Kariel, who is excited to welcome new families to join its current 44 students from 39 families.
The school prides itself on its close-knit, supportive community with active parent volunteers. Parents work the school book fair, bring bagels for staff breakfasts and serve snacks at the annual Thanksgiving program.
“The Ellen Boniuk Early Childhood School is truly a gem,” said Melissa Wolfson, a parent at the school and chair of its Early Childhood Development Committee (ECDC), a unique, parent-led committee that serves as a partnership between parents and the school. Wolfson is also the West Houston representative to the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC Board of Trustees.
Wolfson grew up in Meyerland and enjoyed spending time at the main campus of the J. When she moved to Katy three years ago, she knew she wanted to give her children a Jewish education. Her daughter Brooke, now 7, started at the school when she was 18 months old and continued through preschool. Her son, Logan, 2, is in the toddlers program.
The school “serves as an entrance to Jewish education for children whose families live or work in this part of town,” Wolfson said. “Once Brooke started, nothing made me prouder than to see her say the Shabbat blessings or celebrate the Jewish holidays. But, what I also found was that the values being instilled in her were the most important, values that are universal.”
Caroline Rosen Funk, parent to former student Valentina, 4, and current student Isabella, who’s two-and-a-half, attended the Ellen Boniuk Early Childhood School herself as a child. Rosen Funk is also Chair of the school’s Marketing Committee.
“The West Houston JCC has truly been a home away from home for our family,” she said. “We drop off our children knowing they are in a warm and nurturing environment. Our time at the West Houston JCC has translated into a fantastic experience where we have made lifelong friendships.”
For the 2019-2020 school year, registration for families currently enrolled at theEllen Boniuk Early Childhood School runs from January 21-25. Registration for new families runs from February 4-8. On January 24 at 7 p.m., the school will also host a J Camps information session. The West Houston facility runs a bus each summer that takes campers from the Dairy Ashford location to the main JCC campus in Meyerland. Camp registration opens February 10.
“The momentum is building,” Kariel said. “Parents and staff are really excited about where we’re going. Our program has a bright future ahead.”