Beth Am in Carmel Valley celebrates new infant center

Congregation Beth Am is now the first synagogue in San Diego to offer its own infant care. Beth Am leadership, families, the center’s first cuddly babies and Congressman Scott Peters helped celebrate the opening of “The Nursery” at a ribbon cutting Jan. 15.

Denise Neifeld, Beth Am’s preschool director, said she had thought about the moment for a very long time and wanted most to thank the parents.

“Thank you for your gorgeous infants, because only when they arrived did it truly become a nursery,” Neifeld said.

Congressman Peters presented a proclamation to Beth Am and cut the ribbon with help from Josh Wolfson, the older brother of a baby in the nursery, freshly awakened from a nap.

Peters said he believes education is a “statement of confidence in our future” and complimented Beth Am for setting a great example for the community and the nation.

The vision for the infant center was born out of an identified community need, Neifeld said. As North County demographics evolved, more and more families were requesting full-time infant care.

Tammy Fischman, assistant preschool director, said from the onset it was clear that the program would be highly specialized and would require experienced teachers to care for their youngest students. She said the infant center will embrace the preschool’s philosophy that they can foster the development of the whole child through an environment filled with warmth, respect and imagination.

The first official day for The Nursery at Beth Am was Jan. 5.

The new infant center used to be a classroom — a wall was added to separate the play area from the cribs, where the name of each baby is spelled out in letters above the cozy sleeping spots. Artwork, in the form of the tiniest of handprints, is already hanging on the wall.

“Our nursery has special significance for us as a Jewish community, as our culture and traditions are passed from one generation to the next,” Neifeld said. “Our babies and children learn who they are from their experiences both at home and at school.”

Beth Am president Steve Hochberg said it took a lot of hard work weaving together to make the center possible, from Rabbi David Kornberg and Rabbi Matthew Earne’s leadership and the dedication and vision of Neifeld, Fischman and preschool committee chairwoman Michelle Strauss.

Neifeld said the longest part of the process was the licensing and getting everything in line with Title 22 regulations that apply for all community care facilities.

In his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Rabbi Kornberg said that at naming ceremonies and brises, he always reminds attendees that it is a time to celebrate the joy of that moment, but also the potential of what the child is to become. He said he felt the same way about the nursery that has grown out of so much careful thought and planning.

“To see the love and interaction happening in that room brings a smile to my face,” Kornberg said. “I imagine what the potential can be … it’s a place where families can come and feel the support of the Beth Am community.”

The Nursery at Congregation Beth Am is located at 5050 Del Mar Heights Rd. in Carmel Valley. For more information, visit