Staff Spotlight: Kedma Cantor
Interview with Kedma, ECE Assistant Director of Operations
Even if you don’t get back to our preschool very often, you have likely seen Kedma Cantor offering challah baking workshops, hanging out by the pool with her kids, or even upstairs at the gym. Her friendly face, warm smile, and vast array of hats, are always a welcome sight. Kedma is from Manitoba, Canada, which, she explains, “is in the prairies. We have three months of 40 below weather. It’s quite a change from Long Beach!
“I stayed in Manitoba through college, where I got a bachelor’s degree in Political Studies with a minor in Judaism. I met my husband (Rabbi David Cantor) when I was 16 years old, and we got married in 1994. We moved to California so we could go to school at the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University) in 1995. I got two degrees while I was there. A BA in Hebrew Letters and an MA in Education.
“I had my first son in 1998,” Kedma continues, “and we moved to Israel for a year for David’s rabbinic program, and I got to practice my Hebrew! I really enjoyed that. We came back to California to finish his schooling and then moved back to Canada. I have moved 13 times since I have been married! It’s the life of a rabbi. We have lived in Maine, Connecticut, Tennessee, Manitoba, and then back to California four years ago for David’s job at Temple Beth Shalom. I hope we’ll be staying here. I love it, and the weather is definitely better than in Canada!”
Kedma has been a Jewish educator for over 20 years and has worked with all ages, from babies all the way up to senior citizens. Before she came to the AJCC, she had been both Assistant Director and Director at other Jewish schools: “I started working at the JCC in Winnipeg and worked with children with special needs. That’s a specialty of mine--physical and intellectual special needs. I worked in Pre-K, so when we came to Long Beach four years ago, we came for a tour of the entire JCC. I fell in love with what a great facility we have here. I was very impressed with a few things. The first is that there is a lot of longevity: some of the staff have been here for more than 20 years. That says a lot about a place.
“I also really appreciated that we offer chugim (the enrichment programs)—we offer 25 different programs during the week! I had never seen that before. It is a huge undertaking. The chugim range from sewing to science and from cooking to Zen. It’s very cool. We also have a Spanish program and use Hebrew in the classroom, which is great because studies have shown that the more languages you are exposed to when you are young, the better it is for your brain and later development. And I love the fact that we take the preschool and camp kids to the pool in the summer. I had never seen that at the other JCCs I worked at. I think that’s just fantastic.“So I applied to work at the ECE, and they said yes! I started as a teacher’s aide and then started subbing and then I became the interim Assistant Director, and eventually moved into my current position as Assistant Director of Operations. I like my job because I get to work with everyone in ECE: the staff, the kids, and the parents. I really enjoy that aspect of it.”
Working at the AJCC is a perfect fit for Kedma. “My passion,” she explains, “is Judaism—everything about it. Living it and teaching it. I love to bake and I especially love to bake challah. I have done a number of workshops on challah baking as well workshops on Jewish cooking from the Bible. I’ve also done a lot of different lectures and programs over the years. I like teaching about the colors of Judaism and the colors of the Bible, and I really like teaching about tallisim (Jewish prayer shawls) and why they are important to the Jews.
“I really like the opportunities I have working here: I have four children (the youngest is 11 and the eldest is 19), and they like to come to Tuesday Nights at the Pool; I take advantage of the Fitness Center (as hard as that is sometimes); and I love that I get the opportunity to teach here and get involved with educational training. I could work at any preschool, but it’s the Jewish part that’s really important to me.”