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Ilana and Jaime, An Unexpected Friendship

By Rachel Fadlon, Director, Marketing and Communications, Gateways
June 21, 2013

“I am blessed to be an eighteen year-old who actually knows what I want to do when I grow up.”  Ilana Mael, a recent graduate of Gann Academy, met Jaime when the two were paired together at Gateways’ Sunday Program three years ago. On a whim, Ilana had signed up to get more information about a volunteer opportunity to work with students with special needs. Little did she know that she would not only be accepted into the program, but that the experience would change her life.

Jaime had been attending Gateways: Access to Jewish Education’s Sunday program since age 5. The program provides a Jewish education for students who are unable to participate in a typical religious school environment.  She has cerebral palsy and communicates using an assistive technology device. Aside from small classroom sizes and teachers who are all special education professionals, each student in the program has a dedicated teen volunteer (sometimes more than one) who works one-on-one with them. In addition to working in the classroom weekly with their student, all teen volunteers also meet each week to receive training and support from a teen volunteer coordinator.

Jaime and Ilana were paired together after Jaime’s former volunteer graduated from high school. As Ilana learned to communicate with Jaime, she discovered a clever, witty young girl. The two bonded over shared interests – TV, music, hobbies – and even planned to show up dressed the same to class. “Each week,” says Mael, “I couldn’t wait to see her and continue our conversations about Taylor Swift and Lovelanes.  She is a bright, funny young woman…I love her sense of humor!”

As Jaime approached the age of becoming a bat mitzvah, she also began to attend Gateways’ B’nei Mitzvah Program on Wednesdays.  As part of this preparation – just as in many congregational B’nei Mitzvah programs – Jaime had to pick a cause that she supports and raise awareness and money for it. Jaime choose Lovelanes, a special needs horseback riding program that she participates in. She wrote letters that were sent out in Gateways weekly newsletters sharing information about her project and giving updates on her progress in reaching her monetary goal.

Meanwhile, in addition to volunteering, Ilana became involved in Gateways’ Mitzvah Mensches, an inclusive teen youth group focusing on social action and philanthropy.  The teens chose several causes that were important to them to learn about during the year. They also raised money. At the end of the year, the students campaigned for which cause to donate the funds they had raised.  

At this point, Jaime was just dollars away from reaching her fundraising goal for Lovelanes. As luck would have it, Lovelanes was one of the choices that the Mitzvah Mensches were considering and Ilana jumped in to save the day. Not only did she successfully convince her peers to vote to support Lovelanes, but she also persuaded them to give the money directly to Jaime so that she could donate it to Lovelanes with the reset of the money she had raised as part of her bat mitzvah project. It is unclear whether Ilana or Jaime were more excited by this accomplishment.

On May 29, Gateways’ held an appreciation event to honor the almost 70 teens who volunteer in its Sunday Program. Two teens were chosen to speak about their experiences – Ilana was one of them. As she got up to speak, she did something unexpected: she walked over to Jaime and wheeled her onstage with her, so that she could direct her words to Jaime. As Ilana spoke of how she became a volunteer and how she came to adore Jaime, Jaime sat on the stage beaming with joy, taking in every word – and clearly agreeing. “The dedication of the entire Gateways staff is truly inspirational,” Mael shared. “There is no doubt in my mind that Gateways has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my high school experience ---I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.”

Not only did Ilana gain a friend, but through her experiences with Jaime and her involvement in Gateways’ programs, she is now certain that her future career path will include special education.   

Category: Profiles

Tagged under: Teen Volunteer Program, Sunday Program


Arlene responds to mention in Jewish Week article

By Arlene Remz, Executive Director, Gateways
January 17, 2013

“We appreciate your recognizing Gateways: Access to Jewish Education’s work in the field of inclusion in Jewish education. Gateways – with generous support from the Ruderman Family Foundation and the CJP (Combined Jewish Philanthropies) - provides high quality special education services, expertise, and support to enable students with diverse learning needs to succeed in Jewish educational settings and participate meaningfully in Jewish life. Among our programs, we provide services, consultations and professional development in 10 area day schools; Because of the range of services (e.g. speech-language therapy, occupational therapy) and expertise we offer, we are able to broaden the range of students who can successfully participate in Jewish day schools in inclusive settings. For example, we have a 4th grade student at Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon with Down Syndrome who is fully included, with an array of services provided by Gateways in partnership with the school.

We have pushed the envelope on inclusion – but we also understand that not all students can be successful in an inclusive classroom, which is why we also offer stand alone options. As Boston’s regional agency for Jewish special education, we also run our own stand alone Sunday Program and B’nei Mitzvah program for students with more severe learning needs for whom the day school option is not viable, as well consultation and support to 22 preschools and 35 congregational and community Jewish education programs in the Boston area.

Yasher Koach to Ilana Ruskay-Kidd! We would love to see more initiatives like hers to include all Jewish children and their families who all too often are excluded from the Jewish narrative.

As you noted in your article, the upcoming North American Jewish Day School Conference is not offering even one topic on inclusion during the conference. This is even more tragic seeing as the conference is being held in February during Jewish Disability Awareness Month! I am, however, co- hosting a discussion session with Alan Oliff from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Boston’s Jewish Agency) and Jane Taubenfeld Cohen from Yeshiva University where we will put forward the following questions: How can day schools work holistically to better serve students with a wide range of abilities and interests? What is the role of day school leadership in this process? I hope you will drop by and join us in this important discussion.”

Category: News

Tagged under: inclusion, disabilities, Jewish Week, Gateways, Jewish Education, letter to the editor


Boston sets example for full inclusion of disabled

By by Gateways VP, Development, Sharon Ruderman Shapiro and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrachi
December 17, 2012

Boston Sets Example for Full Inclusion of Disabled »

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.

  • Accessibility— Ensuring that people with disabilities can access Jewish institutions in our communities and all of the activities held within them.
  • Acceptance — Understanding that each one of us has a role to play so that all people are welcome and can participate in meaningful ways.
  • Accommodation — Adapting and modifying the environment or programming to allow people with disabilities to actively participate.
  • Welcoming — Treating people with disabilities and their families with respect and dignity, while creating a sense of unity within the Jewish community.

 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. 

Category: News

Tagged under: Ruderman Family Foundation, CJP, inclusion, resources


Now Enrolling: Gateways Jewish Special Education Programs 2012-13

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!

Ashley and volunteer with Chag Sameach sign

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:

Nancy Mager
Gateways Jewish Education Programs Director
617.630.9010, ext. 104

Please consider printing our recruitment flier in order to post and share it at your favorite spots (gyms, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, libraries, etc.).  Let everyone know about all of the great programs that Gateways offers!

Follow link to our recruitment flier

Category: News

Tagged under: Teen Volunteer Program, Sunday Program


Gateways Announces Transformative Gift From Adelson Family Foundation

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:

Adelson Family FoundationGifts 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.

Category: News

Tagged under: adelson family foundation, support, grants