Preschool Project Strives to Educate All

What can we do to bring people together?  How do we get our parks and communities safe?  How do we teach tolerance?  For years our elected officials have grappled with these questions and have provided a matrix of answers.  Some work, some don’t. 
The answer for one group may be a question for another, for one is a good medicine, for another it is a poison.  What is the common denominator that will help everybody?
I believe that everything starts with education.  If we educate the very young in their most impressionable years, sponge years, and then we may succeed in making progress. After all, it is much easier to plant a tree correctly than to reshape it in its maturity. 
King Solomon was known to have coined the expression “Educate the child accordingly so that when he grows old he will not leave”, meaning to take advantage of the child’s education as soon as possible. 
Our government has created a super fund, an organization called Los Angeles Universal Preschool, L.A.U.P. in short.  The money is from Proposition 10, the tobacco tax venture and is being applied for early child programs.  My day care, the Bilowit Learning Center, applied for the state lottery and was one of the lucky schools.  We won a slot to join this important venture.
What a job it was.  We hired a new special educator to direct this program, two new teachers and redesigned the preschool classes.  We then advertised “Preschool for Free – How Can It be?” and left our number to call.  Who would believe that in a few short months over 40 preschoolers applied and joined the L.A.U.P. program.
Parents of children from all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds came to see a Jewish school for the first time.  Their reaction was beyond their wildest dreams.  Yes, people can have different religions, beliefs, and backgrounds and yet get along, working side by side.  All this in a safe and sound environment.  Prejudices disappear and children learn trust.  Most of all the little ones grow in a safe place.
A child of a Hispanic family plays with a little Jewish boy while sharing a game with a black child, causing a fusion of energy beyond my wildest imagination.  As the children play, coming together, we see love and understanding.  The excitement the children have spills over to the parents and they, too, become friends, learning to trust others.  Trust turns to belief that we can all get together and make this world a safe place to live.  All this without the fears of the need for gangs and special groups.
The transition from preschool in such a friendly environment leads the children to assimilate and live the American ideals.  We may be different but we are all the same.  We want our children to be assets to society and not liabilities.
As the L.A.U.P. program increases the great mosaic is drawn.  Each child adding beauty and trust.  See to visit a L.A.U.P. preschool program and see the miracles it performs.  You will be glad you did.
Rabbi Eli Hecht is vice–president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America and past–president of the Rabbinical Council of California. He is the director of Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, CA, which houses a synagogue, day school, nursery school and chaplaincy programs.