With Israel’s birth rate the highest in the developed world, daycare centers in the Holy Land are filled to capacity. Though Israel’s population explosion is a miracle and a blessing, the need for quality child care centers is a pressing issue.
Colel Chabad, Israel’s oldest continuously operating tzedakah (charity) organization, is doing all that it can to ease the plight of so many working and single-parent families through their daycare centers. In fact, there is a network of Colel Chabad-run daycare centers reaching from northern to southern Israel.
“The key to survival for many families, especially for those without a father and where the mother must go to work, is for parents to know that there is a caring place for their child,” said Rabbi Mendel Lieberman, Organizer of Activities for Colel Chabad, to Breaking Israel News. “In Judaism, we believe that the most crucial years for a child to develop a good character is from birth until three years of age. That is what we strive to achieve in our daycare centers.”
The average Israeli household has three children. Even in non-religious households, four children are not uncommon. This is nearly double the fertility rate for the rest of the industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Many in the Holy Land endeavor to fulfill the Biblical commandment to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). There is also a more subtle desire among the Jewish people to rebuild what the Nazis destroyed during the Holocaust. Additionally, since the 1980’s when there were fears that the Arabs would outnumber the Jews in Israel, the Jewish population has expanded while the Arab population has been on a decline.
“I am based in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon near the Gaza border,” Rabbi Lieberman told Breaking Israel News. “Even here, there is a big shortage of daycare centers. If we doubled the number we have, there would still not be enough.”
Recognizing the importance of proper early childhood education, the Israeli government subsidizes daycare throughout the country. Yet for many citizens from all walks of life, Colel Chabad daycare centers are the first choice for their child.
“A lot of people want to send their children to Colel Chabad-run schools,” Rabbi Lieberman continued. “We do much more than babysit. We provide an enormous amount of love, care, and spirituality for the children.”
Colel Chabad day care centers give the children nutritious breakfasts, lunches and snacks. They operate Sunday through Friday from 7:30 am through 4:30 pm (Friday is a shorter day to leave time for Shabbat preparations).
The centers only close two weeks a year in order to refurbish rooms, gather fresh supplies and provide the educators with advanced training courses. “Education is a dynamic process,” explained Rabbi Lieberman. “We cannot use the same mediums as we did 20 years ago. Our staff and daycare centers are given the latest resources in education and technology in order to provide the best experiences for our children.”
Summer is the time when parents seek out daycare for the next year. With Colel Chabad consistently receiving the highest evaluations from the Israeli government, for many parents, irrespective of their religious background, Colel Chabad daycare centers are their first choice.
“Parents know that we believe in an eternal soul which needs to be treated with the highest respect and love throughout its life and certainly during the most formative years of a child’s life,” said Rabbi Lieberman.” Colel Chabad daycare centers ensure that the physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional needs of every child will be nurtured.”