We vividly recall the unforgettable moment when the doctor told us that our child had Down syndrome. It felt like a horrific sentence meted out to us. The questions and fears loomed large. What kind of a life would our child have? How would this impact our family?
For the past 12 years, SINAI Schools has provided so many of the answers to these daunting questions. The infinitely patient and talented staff has helped Chaya Ziporah grow in her social skills and knowledge of Jewish life, and she has advanced in mathematics, reading and writing. Over the years, SINAI staff worked with Chaya Ziporah, taking into account her stubborn streak so characteristic of children with Down syndrome, and with their dedication we have seen Chaya Ziporah progress with joy and a true love for life.
Imagine not being able to read or write. So much of the world is closed off to you! Chaya Ziporah could have been so isolated without the uniquely specialized education she received; with the help of SINAI staff she overcame barriers and learned to read in both Hebrew and English. What a transformation! Freed from the fetters of ignorance, one can begin to function and advance in the world, and this is exactly what Chaya Ziporah has been able to do.
It is not easy to teach a child with Down syndrome, and it is even more challenging to make the learning enjoyable. SINAI has managed to make learning successful, meaningful and enjoyable for our Chaya Ziporah. Even as a teenager she loves to go to school and delights in her experience at SINAI Shalem’s High School at Ma’ayanot.
This year in particular, SINAI teachers are placing special focus on her reading and other vital skills. As parents, we are eager to see Chaya Ziporah gain the life skills that will enable her to live as independently as her potential will allow, and we are thrilled to see Chaya Ziporah’s reading skills improving. Mrs. Ilana Picker enthusiastically challenges Chaya Ziporah to reach her true potential in English reading, while Ms. Miriam Mathel supports her in Hebrew reading. Chaya Ziporah is so proud to show us what she has learned; each week at the Shabbat table she reads the Tehillim she is learning in school, and at parent-child learning on Motzei Shabbat at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, Chaya Ziporah loves to join and sit with her father practicing her Tehillim reading.
A word for the broader community: Thanks to SINAI, a child’s Down syndrome diagnosis, while difficult to swallow, is not a sentence for a miserable life. Thanks to the devoted administration and staff at SINAI Schools supported by an ultra-generous community, children with this challenge can look forward to a high quality of life.
SINAI continues in its efforts to help Chaya Ziporah and so many children like her to reach their potential in all areas of life, while also serving children with a range of developmental, intellectual, and complex learning disabilities. In doing so, SINAI breaks down barriers and facilitates achievement and success, all the while bringing joy to the SINAI students and their families.
The SINAI dinner is by far the most well-attended dinner in our community because we all take deep pride in SINAI. SINAI sheds such an enormous positive light on our community that each year we undertake the extraordinarily ambitious responsibility of sustaining this holy endeavor. We hope you’ll join us this year for what is sure to be another incredible dinner in support of a vital local institution that has made a huge difference in our lives and in the lives of so many other children and families.
SINAI’s annual dinner will be on February 24, 2019, at the Marriott Glenpointe Hotel in Teaneck, New Jersey. The annual dinner is the largest single source of scholarship funding for their students. Visit www.sinaidinner.org to donate or make reservations.
Rabbi Chaim Jachter is the Rabbi of Congregation Sha’arei Orah in Teaneck, a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth, and a rebbe in TABC. Rabbi Jachter and Malca are the proud parents of Chaya Ziporah, a student at SINAI, and of four other children.
This article was originally published in The Jewish Link.