CBI groundbreakFrom left: Michelle Martens, Joel Weissglass, Ellen Levine, Cantor Dov Goldberg, Lynn Einbinder, Rabbi Jeff Sultar, Larry Kaplan, Administrator Emilie Kovit-Meyer, CBI President Francine Semaya, Director of Gan Yeladim Suzanne Wykoff, and fundraising co-chair Tootsie Olan participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Outdoor Exploratorium at Congregation B’Nai Israel. 

Press release from Congregation B’Nai Israel

It’s called an Outdoor Exploratorium — a “part playground, part classroom” environment that Congregation B’nai Israel president Fran Semaya explains “will replace the existing playground and be the centerpiece of a revitalized outdoor space for the young children in our community.”

On Tuesday, June 10, CBI in Rumson held a groundbreaking for an Clergy leaders, lay leaders, educators, administrators, board members and fundraisers all gathered to ceremoniously break ground for the new nature-based play and learning space, an asset that will be unique among schools in Monmouth County.

As project liaison Larry Kaplan states, construction for the Exploratorium will begin this week, and while the project will be built in several phases, the initial phase should be finished in time for the summer camp session at CBI’s Gan Yeladim Early Learning Center. Gan families, members, friends, and business associates of CBI funded the project.

“The Exploratorium will provide the children in camp and preschool with a safe, inspiring, outdoor space to create, explore, splash, make music and exercise,” explains Gan Yeladim director Suzanne Wykoff. “In addition to a garden, the Exploratorium includes water features, a trike path with tunnel and bridge, all-weather musical instruments, a station for arts and crafts as well as traditional playground equipment.”

“What makes the Exploratorium more than just a playground is its focus not just on the equipment itself but on the environment,” said Rabbi Jeff Sultar. “There will be birdhouses to attract birds and bushes to attract butterflies. We will be planting a garden so that community members across the generations can work together on a meaningful project. Our plan is that some of our harvest will not only go into our community meals, but also to a food bank in the area. In this way, our students will experience in a direct, hands-on manner the central role of caring for others in Jewish tradition.”

“A later phase will include a multi-purpose space that can be used by the children for story time and performances, and by the CBI community as a whole for outdoor services and events,” added Rabbi Sultar. “In addition to providing a fantastic play space for our younger children, the Exploratorium will help connect what goes on in inside our building to the outside world, to nature, to multi-generational relationships, and to our responsibilities to other people.”