By by Gateways VP, Development, Sharon Ruderman Shapiro and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrachi
December 17, 2012
by Sharon Ruderman Shapiro and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrachi »»»
Recently, we had the honor of participating in an informative and inspiring conference in Baltimore titled, “Opening Abraham’s Tent: The Disability Inclusion Initiative.” This conference was proof that, finally, the right people are “on the bus” to help ensure that people with disabilities and their families are fully included in Jewish life in communities across North America. It also validated the model for inclusion that has been developed here in Boston.
The conference resulted from a partnership of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) and the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH).
The caliber of the people in the room, including top staff from JFNA and many of the largest federations, demonstrated the importance of this issue. These organizations, which collectively raise billions each year to support Jewish causes, can do more for inclusion than any other network in the Jewish community.
An important first step is work done by JFNA’s Disability Committee, which developed the “Four Key Elements of Inclusion,” a framework to guide federations and affiliated agencies to achieve meaningful progress toward inclusion.
Agreeing to these elements was an important milestone, but actions mean more than words, and the commitment to these principles must come from the entirety of our communities. Therefore, it was meaningful that the gathering included luminaries in the field from all different walks of Jewish life, as well as representatives from the breadth of religious, Jewish social service, and educational organizations.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who keynoted the program, is Jewish and served on his local Federation board and as a member of the JFNA Young Leadership Cabinet.
As chairman of the National Governors Association, Governor Markell has focused his efforts on employment issues for individuals with disabilities. His initiative, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities, is working to bring people with disabilities into the workforce by focusing on their abilities, not their disabilities. He is meeting with governors and businesses across the country to advance opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market. During his speech, Markell inspired federations and other Jewish organizations to “walk the walk” and be even more inclusive not only in whom they serve, but also in whom they hire.
In Boston, the Ruderman Family Foundation, in partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies has funded groundbreaking initiatives that provide inclusive opportunities for members of our community. Among them are Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, which helps children with disabilities in Greater Boston to access Jewish learning services. Another program, Transitions, which partners with the Jewish Vocational Service, funds an innovative employment program for young adults with disabilities to obtain job training at a site (Hebrew SeniorLife’s NewBridge on the Charles) that can potentially employ them after training. This pioneering program aims to increase the low employment rates among persons with disabilities.
In addition to these programs, Boston is blessed with agencies, synagogues and initiatives that provide housing, employment, education, friendship, camping, case management and advocacy services to people with disabilities and their families.
It is clear that every Jewish person must be included in order for the Jewish people as a whole to be truly united as one. The work done by CJP and other Jewish philanthropic organizations in Boston is ushering in a new era of accessibility, acceptance, and accommodation to welcome everyone into our Jewish community.
We believe that while much is left to be done, Boston is a model for the full inclusion of people with disabilities. This is a cue for the rest of the Jewish world not to trail behind.
Sharon Ruderman Shapiro is Vice President of the Ruderman Family Foundation of Newton and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the Founder & President of Laszlo Strategies and co-director of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Trust, which was a cosponsor and funder of the conference.
June 28, 2012
Do you know a child with special needs who would thrive in a Jewish education setting with innovative programming, small classes, and plenty of individualized attention?
Gateways: Access to Jewish Education is accepting applications for students in our Jewish Education Programs for the 2012-2013 school year!
Gateways, Boston's central address for Jewish special education, supports children's learning in a number of settings - including day schools, congregational religious schools and Jewish preschools. But for those students who need an alternative, there are the Gateways Jewish Education Programs: a free-standing Sunday school, a b'nei mitzvah program, and a youth group, each designed to meet the needs of children and teens with a range of disabilities and learning styles.
Gateways Jewish Education Programs deliver a dynamic Jewish education. Special education teachers utilize visual supports and differentiated instruction in a multisensory curriculum that includes Jewish holidays, bible stories, Hebrew, Jewish culture and traditions. Technology, music and creative arts are intertwined throughout each day and highly trained teen aides or adult tutors provide 1:1 support to each student. Families are invited to choose from:
To learn how Gateways can meet each child's unique needs, contact:
Gateways Jewish Education Programs Director
617.630.9010, ext. 104
June 7, 2012
Gateways is thrilled to announce that we have received a new $2 million gift from the Adelson Family Foundation. This transformative commitment will enable Gateways to continue to build on our existing work, be creative as we implement our new 5-year strategic plan and make significant strides toward sustainability.
Please read the official press release from Combined Jewish Philanthropies below:
THE ADELSON FAMILY DONATES $6 MILLION TO THREE
GREATER BOSTON JEWISH INSTITUTIONS
Gifts to support Jewish special education, health care and elder services
Boston - June 7, 2012 – Dr. Miriam Adelson and Sheldon G. Adelson today announced three gifts totaling $6 million from the Adelson Family Foundation to institutions representing Greater Boston’s Jewish community. The grants will assist Hebrew SeniorLife, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education and Chelsea Jewish Foundation.
“Miri and I are honored to continue our support for these three great Boston institutions, which have created outstanding national models for caring for the elderly, treating the sick and expanding Jewish opportunities for children with special needs,” Sheldon G. Adelson said.
“If a community is measured by how it cares for its most vulnerable members, Boston’s Jewish community can look with pride at the services rendered by these three organizations,” Dr. Miriam Adelson added. “We have admired their work and are happy to be able to support their continued efforts.”
Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL) will receive $3 million to complete its $100 million campaign and will establish the Adam and Matan Adelson Multigenerational Program in honor of the Adelsons’ two youngest children. The program will support HSL’s robust volunteer programming across its extensive network of care. Previously, the Adelsons donated $20 million to NewBridge on the Charles, HSL’s innovative 162-acre retirement community in Dedham, Mass., named the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Campus, which provides independent and assisted living as well as long-term and post-acute care.
Len Fishman, CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife, said, “We are incredibly grateful to the Adelsons for repeatedly investing in the vision of NewBridge on the Charles on the campus that bears their name. Their generosity made possible a community where seniors of all abilities and incomes enjoy a connected, purposeful life. By naming the Gloria Adelson Field Health Center they made possible a revolutionary new model of long-term care that respects the individuality, dignity and independence of the frailest and poorest members of our community. And now, by creating the Adam and Matan Adelson Multigenerational Program, they are supporting the original vision behind the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Campus—L’Dor VaDor—a community where old and young people play, learn and interact in ways that benefit multiple generations.”
Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, which creates opportunities for Jewish children with special educational needs to engage meaningfully in Jewish learning, will receive $2 million. Part of the gift will be structured as a challenge grant to encourage others to support Gateways. Gateways partners with Jewish schools across all denominations throughout Greater Boston, providing both direct services and professional development that foster inclusivity. The organization also provides its own programs of formal and informal Jewish education, including a Sunday school and b’nei mitzvah preparation, specifically designed for students with special needs.
“We are thrilled with the Adelsons’ continued investment in Gateways,” said Arlene Remz, executive director of Gateways. “This transformative gift validates Gateways’ critical role in the Greater Boston Jewish education system, enables us to grow strategically to meet the increased demand for programs and services and builds long-term sustainability.”
Chelsea Jewish Foundation will receive $1 million to support its unique, specialized residences for patients with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and multiple sclerosis (MS) at the Leonard Florence Center for Living. In addition to this latest grant, the Adelsons previously contributed $5 million for this project.
Barry Berman, CEO of Chelsea Jewish Foundation, said, “We are so grateful for the continued support that Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson have demonstrated in making the Leonard Florence Center for Living the first nursing home of its kind in the nation to provide specialized care to individuals with ALS and MS, as well as short- and long-term care to its residents.” He continued, “The Adelsons’ generosity has allowed us to provide programs and services to those in need while perpetuating the legacy of philanthropy of Leonard Florence for whom the building is named."
“The Boston Jewish community has been blessed again by the Adelsons’ extraordinary generosity,” said Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “In addition to these three gifts, their contributions to the Rashi School, Beth Israel Hospital, Temple Emanuel, Gann Academy and so many other local charities have had a transformational impact on our community. Their continuing commitment to caring for the vulnerable and supporting Jewish education is in keeping with the best Jewish values.”
Dr. Adelson is an Israeli-born physician who works in the area of treating the disease of substance addiction in the United States and Israel. Mr. Adelson is Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. The Adelsons reside in Las Vegas, Nevada.
By Gateways and Frank Murphy
June 4, 2012
On May 5th, the Gateways community came together to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of a very special student: Rachel Murphy. Rachel is a cheerful girl whose enormous love of music causes her to light up at the first note of a familiar tune. Rachel has brain damage from a stroke after heart surgery when she was a 2-year-old. She can’t speak, she can’t walk and she has uncontrolled seizures. Yet, since first enrolling Rachel in 2005, her parents have driven 2 hours round trip to bring her to Gateways’ Sunday Program each week so that she could receive a Jewish education. And in spite of her limitations, and with the support of a Gateways special educator, Rachel has learned. On the day of Rachel’s Bat Mitzvah, her dad, Frank, addressed the large gathering of family and friends at their home synagogue, Temple Beth Torah in Holliston, and these were his words:
Elisa and I wanted to take a moment to say a very big and very heartfelt thank you to all of you for joining us on this very special day. In the next few minutes we’ll try to express in words how moving and how powerful it is just to be here on this very unique day.
As many of you know, especially if you were with us during those early days in the cardiac ICU in Children’s 13 years ago, we never really knew for sure if we would be standing here today. In the time that’s passed, she’s grown up quickly. The pictures on the walls of her room have changed from butterflies to…Justin Bieber. Oy vey!! In those 13 years as we’ve faced struggles and obstacles head on, Elisa and I have often been asked: How do you do it?
The answer is simple: it can be found in this room. Look to your left, look to your right. This community of family, friends, care givers, volunteers, school and religious educators have all played some role in helping us not just to survive some medical crisis, but to overcome life’s obstacles, and to grow and thrive in a way that ultimately brings us here today. You’ve all done some sort of good deed in our lives and we thank you for that. There’s a word for that- doing good deeds- it’s called mitzvah and it’s a perfect theme for today.
That’s because today isn’t about putting Rachel on display just to have her push buttons on a screen. Today is about resilience, about accepting life’s limitations and making the best of them anyway, about broadening the view and the value of a Bat Mitzvah.
Think about these words: help, learn, grow. Those are great ways to describe today and the importance of helping and of doing good—doing mitzvot.
But please remember that helping and teaching isn’t just a one-directional activity with Rachel. While each of us has been part of her education, she has, in turn, taught many life lessons. Life skills, they call them at school. Here are three examples:
1. Be present in the moment. Stop and think, how difficult was it to shut off your phone today? Doing that helps us be present, to be in this special moment before God. Have you ever known Rachel to worry about tomorrow, or next week, or be sad about some event in the past? No. She completely lives in the moment. No filter, no hidden agenda.
When you say hello, she gives you a hug, a real one. They’re great. That ability to always be present and to live in the moment is very powerful. It’s a great lesson.
2. Next, be flexible and adapt. There have been many adaptations behind the scenes to put this event together today. Her Hebrew School team from Gateways in Newton. Arlene, Nancy, Rebecca, Yarden, this team has worked with us for years to adapt Jewish education and make it accessible to children with all types of disabilities. As the non-Jewish parent in the house, I’ve been able to join Rachel on her educational journey so that I also understand the holidays, the torah and the culture. They’ve helped us adapt as a family so we can pray and celebrate together.
Another adaptation they’ve helped with today is on her Dyanvox device. They’ve helped build programs on it that make the Torah accessible for Rachel. When she sees an image from her prayer book on screen, of a kid covering their eyes, she knows that’s the symbol for the Shema, one of the holiest of prayers. So today is not just pushing buttons, she’s independently calling us to prayer, and leading the congregation.
3. The last lesson is to be inclusive: The ultimate symbol of inclusion today is the tallis itself. It has hundreds of fringes, or tzitzit, around the edge. Each one serves as a reminder of God’s many commandments. In our society, when faced with tragedy and disability, kids like my kid can become much like the tzitzit on a tallis, fringes around the edges of our society. By being here today, singing with us, praying with us, each of you has played some inclusive role in our life. So that, in the same way as the tallis itself has fringes and fabric woven together, by celebrating with us today, though we come from different backgrounds and have different abilities, we’re all woven together in celebration.
So on Rachel’s behalf, thank you for coming here today, for doing good deeds and mitzvot, for being part of this inclusive moment, and for helping us most to grow. Hopefully along the way we’ve helped you in return.
Prayers with visual supports were created to help make prayers simple, accessible, and understandable for students with a variety of disabilities. In these files, each Hebrew phrase is illustrated by a simple picture symbol (we use Mayer-Johnson Boardmaker symbols). Students with disabilities can follow along with each prayer and learn to understand its meaning using symbol prayers.
These files were imported onto Rachel's Dynavox device, and synced with audio files of someone singing the corresponding blessing or prayer. Over the years, Rachel learned to recognize the images that represent the various blessings and prayers, and was able to lead others in prayer by pressing the images, activating the voice output. »»»
This Bat Mitzvah vocabulary sheet features short and clear explanations of some Bat Mitzvah basics: mitzvah, kippah/yamulka, tallit, bimah, ark, and many more. Rachel comes from an interfaith family, and this sheet was distributed with the program book on the day of her Bat Mitzvah to help everyone in the audience feel comfortable and participate. »»»
Producing a clear and simple service guide like this one, and including it in the program at a child's bar or bat mitzvah, can make the service inclusive of everyone in attendance. Whether intended for the other children in the congregation or for non-Jewish members of an interfaith family, this guide can help everyone follow along and participate in the service. This guide includes a visual representation of the order of the service, and explanation of each part of the service, and an explanation of the Torah's clothes and ornaments. »»»
By Deborah Fineblum Raub, for Gateways
June 1, 2012
Helena Schreibman is comfortable at Congregation Mishkan Tefila. After all, each week she takes her Gateways: Access to Jewish Education B’nei Mitzvah classes here, coming in all the way from her home in Winthrop. Each week she’s worked with her tutor learning to read Hebrew and prayers and each week she’s practiced with her fellow students the fine points of a service such as the blessings and Torah procession.
But the 9th grader never thought she’d be having her bat mitzvah here. Her mother’s unexpected passing in April 2009 and a series of conflicts had pushed Helena’s bat mitzvah off again and again at the family’s home congregation, Temple Tifereth Israel in Winthrop. But this time when her dad, Nat, made a date, May 9, 2012, it stuck.
And the event was the product of incredible teamwork. “It really does take a village to raise a child and this day is proof,” remarked Arlene Remz from the bimah. Remz heads up Gateways, which provides students with special needs like Helena a Jewish education tailored specifically for them. “The Gateways community has been with you in tough times and has now come to celebrate your bat mitzvah with you,” Remz said.
And celebrate they did. The chapel was filled with Gateways students and their parents, beaming at Helena. As she led into the opening words of Ma Tovu, Helena looked up with a huge grin when everyone chimed in, the Gateways kids singing the loudest of all.
“Helena, today is a day you and your family and friends have looked forward to for many years,” said Mishkan Tefila Rabbi Leonard Gordon. “I know how much this moment means to you and all you did to make it happen. Helena, your mother Michelle would have wanted us to invoke her blessing on this occasion. This ritual marks the fulfillment of one of her hopes ... As the rabbi at Congregation Mishkan Tefila and a friend of Gateways, I am especially delighted to join with your tonight and share our joy in hosting this service. May this be the first of many such moments we share.”
Nancy Mager, who directs Gateways’ Jewish Education Programs and has worked with Helena over the past several years, was the next to speak. “You have such a positive attitude, you make friends wherever you go,” she said, adding that Helena is determined to continue her Jewish Education next year in both the Sunday program and Gateways’ Mitzvah Mensches youth group, where she’s already an active participant.
But on this day, like generations of b’nei mitzvot before her, Helena ducked the candies being thrown her way and the Gateways kids, like generations before them, wasted little time collecting them.
As the congregation moved to the social hall for the celebration, the “village” Remz had referred to was in full flower. The buffet dinner had been organized by the Mishkan Telfila Sisterhood, the cake was a gift from Helena’s tutor, Michelle Gary, and Schreibman cousin and photographer David Fox manned the camera, while the colorful centerpieces had been crafted at the Mishkan Tefila’s Religious School’s recent Mitzvah Day.
“Everyone did something to make it special for the family and it all came together,” said Laurie Gershkowitz who, along with Sharon Diamond and Diane Jaye, organized the dinner and party.
But none of the behind-the-scenes grown-up planning seemed to matter at the moment. As her Gateways friends lifted Helena high on her chair, she threw back her head and laughed, without an ounce of fear.
“When I saw her reading and singing up there, I was incredibly proud of her,” said Helena’s teacher at Winthrop High School, Chris Donnelly, who’d made the trek out to witness his student experience her special day. “I was really, really impressed.”
In fact, besides Helena’s father and grandmother, no one beamed brighter than her teachers and her tutor.
“When other kids get up and say the blessings at their bar or bat mitzvah, it’s pretty easy for them,” said tutor Michelle Gary. “But Helena must have practiced the brachas before and after the Torah reading thousands of times over the last couple years. Never once did she get frustrated or give up. And you know what? She did them perfectly. It’s just that most people who heard her could not have known how much went into it. If they did, they would have seen it for what it really was. It really was a triumph.”
Gateways: Access to Jewish Education is Boston's central address for Jewish special education. Follow our blog as we spotlight the best in Jewish educational practices and materials for children through exciting ideas, valuable resources, moving personal stories and important updates.
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