For Lara and Joey Panish, sending their two daughters to the APJCC Preschool was a big step in their journey as an Interfaith couple raising their children as Jews. Lara grew up in a Christian family in a small town in California’s central valley, where there was no Jewish community or presence.
Joey was raised in Berkeley and was a part of the Jewish community there as a child. He went to Hebrew school and had a Bar Mitzvah. As an adult, he went back to celebrate Jewish holidays with his family.
Lara and Joey decided to raise their children as Jews because, in their words, “we wanted our children to belong to a community as a venue for learning to be a good person, a mensch.”
Before Lara and Joey’s two children were born, they decided to join the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center (now part of Jewish Silicon Valley). “We lived just over the border in San Jose one mile from the APJCC,” Joey relates, “and we liked the feeling of community.”
When it came time to decide on a preschool, Lara and Joey felt there was little choice but to send their daughters Olivia and Camille to the APJCC Preschool, not only because of its strong reputation, but because of the way in which the APJCC Preschool engages the whole family with open acceptance. “For me,” Lara says, “I needed to be educated about Jewish religious practices along with my daughters, but without myself converting to Judaism. I am not a religious Christian, but I wanted to maintain my own spirituality while, at the same time, raising my children as Jews.”
Lara became very involved in the APJCC Preschool as a volunteer many times over. What motivated her was, “the fullness with which the whole family was regarded as valuable. From seeing the teachers pour their hearts into the kids, to the emotional support Joey and I received from teachers, fellow parents and the preschool director, the APJCC Preschool is indeed a home for the whole family.”
Lara and Joey remain committed to raising their daughters as Jews through their family membership at their synagogue and as continuing members at the APJCC.