About three years ago, I started thinking about Birthright. I found the website for Taglit-Birthright Israel, also known as Birthright Israel or simply Birthright, a not-for-profit educational organization that sponsors free 10-day heritage trips to Israel for young Jewish adults, ages 18 to 32. Once I turned 18, I did a little more research and found that Yachad, an organization for people with special needs, sponsors these trips together with Birthright. I immediately signed up.
Food for Thought
I love having SINAI students and faculty as part of our Ma’ayanot family. It is a testament to the culture of SINAI, Ma’ayanot, and the intertwining of the two that so many of us view the SINAI students and teachers as an organic part of our school. SINAI students regularly participate in our morning tefillot, eat lunch with us, take part in our chagigot and Shabbatonim, and chat with us. Sometimes they also cry, seem anxious, or laugh joyfully in the hallways - indistinguishably from other Ma’ayanot students.
A few days ago my wife and I celebrated the bris of our son. We named him Shmuel Tzvi in memory of someone who had a big impact on my life.
Tzvi was the middle name of Naftali Tzvi Hakohen, Nathaniel Cohen z”l. Nathaniel was the first student I worked with after I graduated college, in my first job at SINAI Schools….and at the risk of sounding corny and cliche, I can guarantee you that I learned much more from him than he ever learned from me.
When I was a younger man, and the father of a small child with special needs, I found that there were certain prayers that I said with more “kavanah” – deeper intention and feeling.
One of those prayers was “Birkat Hachodesh,” the prayer said on the Sabbath before the beginning of each new month, in which we ask God that the upcoming month should bring blessings -- and all good things.
What a bittersweet time!
It feels like we just started at SINAI, and now M is graduating. Where did the time go?
It is truly exciting to see M grow from a 9th grader, afraid to go to a baseball game, to a more confident and engaging young man who is self assured and cannot speak enough good about his high school experience. His growth in this period of time is in no small part to each of you. Thank you seems too insignificant to really express our gratitude.
Music therapy is a highly effective evidenced-based tool in the treatment of children and adolescents with special needs. SINAI’s own board certified music therapist, Erika Svolos, shares five ways she sees Music Therapy support and help our SINAI students each day.
Although by nature I am a private person, I share highlights of Jacob's life on social media for various reasons. I want people to realize how easy certain obstacles are for him to overcome, or how difficult seemingly simple tasks can be for him to accomplish. I want him to be able to look back at how fearless and amazing he is, and most importantly, I want people to see how easy it is for them to deeply impact others.
At SINAI’s Maor High School at the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, an important part of our students’ growth is in the social/emotional domain. While our Maor students focus most of their day on academics covering a college preparatory high school curriculum, they benefit significantly from our social skills program that addresses their challenges in navigating social interactions appropriately and effectively. Both Mrs. Pesha New and I use our training as social workers to implement Maor’s social skills curriculum in group and individual settings.
I have a silver linings kind of life.
We, as a family, grapple with some enormous challenges, sometimes on a daily basis. We constantly have to make allowances and adjustments and modifications that other families don't ever have to consider. But, because of all that, I think we're probably closer than most families.
I have a son who struggles in so many ways, but who approaches life with joy and wit and humor, and is capable of so much more than he lets on.