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Jewish themes central in Cary mommy and me program

Chana Cotlar, a mom of two, started Mommy and Me with a Jewish Twist a year ago. The Sunday morning program is going strong.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Chana Cotlar had barely unpacked the boxes after her move to Cary last year when she started a mommy and me program for Jewish families.

A year later, Mommy and Me with a Jewish Twist is going strong. The informal hour-long program on Sunday mornings features free play, songs and a quick lesson. It's geared toward kid ages three months to three years.
I wrote about Mommy and Me with a Jewish Twist last year soon after it began. Cotlar is the youth director at the Chabad of Cary Learning Center. The former preschool teacher and director is passionate about early childhood education. Now she's the mom of two young children - a two-year-old girl and a baby boy.

I promised Chana I'd make it to one of her programs after we spoke last year. And I finally was able to attend about a week ago with my own kids, ages 5 and 1. We all had a great time.

Cotlar has converted the living space of the center, which doubles as a private home, into a large play area for the kids. Just like you might see in a preschool, there are different play stations for the kids. You can tell Cotlar knows exactly what she's doing.

There's a block area; dramatic play with a pretend stove and dress-up clothes; and a special space for babies. When the weather is nice, the play continues outside to a sensory table and a collection of play sets. When it's cold, as it was when I visited, kids can play on the large, plastic indoor play structure with slides in the garage, which was recently converted into an impressive library and lounge for parents and kids.

It's an informal program. Kids are free to participate in the structured activities or not. Each class focuses on a Jewish theme. The theme when I visited was Jewish birthday celebrations as Cotlar's own daughter had recently turned two. After the cake was cut and blessing was said, Cotlar led the children in a few songs. Some of the kids who have been attending the program for a while  eagerly reached for little fuzzy stuffed Torahs and other props as they anticipated each of the songs.

The moms all chatted with each other about kids, travel and life. Some had attended since the beginning. Others were newer to the program. Cotlar holds the program on Sunday mornings so working moms can participate.

Classes are 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sundays during scheduled sessions at the center at 909 Reedy Creek Rd. in Cary (note that this is a house, which more than confused me when I first drove by it). The final class in the current session will be from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Feb. 27. The theme is sensory experience day. Cotlar offers a free complimentary class for all new participants. After that, it's $7 per class.

For more information, check the Mommy and Me with a Jewish Twist website and watch the video to hear more from Cotlar on the program and see some snippets of my morning there.

Thanks to everybody for making us feel so welcome!


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