SINAI in the News

By Gaby Gotesman on Jan 18, 2021
If I told you that my friend FaceTimes me when she’s bored and fills me in on her day, you might think she’s like any other phone-loving teenager. If I said she has super trendy glasses and bangs I wish I could pull off, you might wonder if she’s interested in fashion. If I explained that we see each other every week, and love hanging out, you might ask if we go to school together. But from what I told you, I don’t think you would guess that my friend has Down Syndrome. I met Tova when I was a ninth grader at Ma’ayanot High School; she was at SINAI at Ma’ayanot.  One of the amazing...
By Leah Commer on Jan 11, 2021
For as long as I can remember, I knew my brother wasn’t like other kids his age. There was something very special but different about him. Avi is only 20 months younger than me, but as I grew and matured, he lagged behind.  Even so, we were always very close: goofy, sweet Avi and his protective older sister.  It was always hard to understand what Avi was trying to say, and he was diagnosed as learning disabled with a speech impediment very early on. I was pretty good at school, but Avi struggled to sit still, and to do even basic work.  35 years ago, the concept of “special...
By Judah Lazar Gross on Jan 4, 2021
I have a lot of advice for Past Me, but if we’re playing the time-travel game, I’m going to be practical: invest in Zoom.  Go to Notre Dame before the gargoyles are all gone.  Don’t go so fast on your bike down that hill on Booth Avenue.  Plan more zoo trips before March 2020.   So really these words of wisdom are not for Past Me, but for any kid who has learning disabilities, special needs, or anything that makes him or her feel different.  I have my teachers at SINAI to thank for teaching me these lessons.  I didn’t even realize they were teaching me...
By Rabbi Yehuda and Laurie Minchenberg on Dec 21, 2020
We are blessed to have a beautiful family, with six wonderful children.  Four of them have special needs. A story we heard long ago about the Netziv, Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, has framed our perspective and given us the ability to feel truly blessed.  At a siyum upon completing his famous sefer, The Ha’amek Sheila, the Netziv told his talmidim that as a young boy he had been less focused, until one day he overheard his father telling someone that he was upset about his son’s inattentiveness.  Realizing the pain he was causing his father was the push he needed to turn...
By Joanne Palmer on Dec 18, 2020
This pandemic year, we are telling the story of the Sinai Schools by installment. That’s unusual. We’re not big on serializing — we’re a weekly newspaper, not a Victorian publisher — and Sinai usually gears itself up for its huge annual dinner, where an astoundingly thorough cross-section of the community comes to think, to learn, and to feel about what a special education means, and what it means to be a community that supports it so completely. This year, though, when the kind of humming, vibrant, forget-about-your-personal-space-because-there’s-just-not-enough-room-and-you-want-to-...
By Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Rothwachs on Dec 18, 2020
I assume that most people agree with the following premise: No two children are the same, and it is best to employ an individualized approach to both education and parenting. Children differ in their intellect, processing speed, disposition and, of course, ambition. One size does not fit all. Each child is a gem waiting to shine, and our job as educators and parents is to assure that they shine. We live in a world in which we are blessed with a refined understanding of child development, so the above premise is widely appreciated and embraced. The challenge arises, however, when adults...
By Joanne Palmer on Dec 3, 2020
Probably the most important thing that the Sinai Schools has done during the 40 years since it first was an idea in its founders’ hearts and heads was educating its special-needs students, helping them make the most of their skills and abilities, allowing some of them to live entirely mainstream lives, others of them to be independent, and all of them to engage in the pursuit of happiness. But it’s also worked magic on the other kids, the neurotypical ones, who shared school halls and lunchrooms and bus seats with the Sinai students, and on their parents, and on the rest of their...
By Elizabeth Kratz on Dec 3, 2020
During my time at The Jewish Link, I’ve been blessed to meet many people and get to know the work of many outstanding nonprofit organizations. As a Bergen County resident, however, there were a few I knew about and supported even before my involvement with our paper. One such organization is SINAI Schools, which started 40 years ago as an auxiliary school inside yeshiva day schools for children with special needs, and now operates eight such schools across the region. Aside from having been neighbors with its dean, Dr. Yisroel “Srully” Rothwachs and his wife, Wendy, for the last dozen-plus...
By Sam Fishman on Dec 3, 2020
I grew up in a world where there were no children with special needs. There were stupid kids. Weird kids. Problem kids. But kids with learning disabilities or autism? We never heard of that. Kids who couldn’t keep up were sent to sit in the back of the classroom. They were teased, ridiculed and bullied. Occasionally they were even smacked around by their teachers. This was the world of Jewish education that I remember from Brooklyn in the 1960s. Sam's son in his SINAI classroom. Communally, kids who were visibly different were swept under the rug. Hidden away. Often sent...
By Gittie Rothschild on Nov 19, 2020
I grew up surrounded by the study of Torah, amidst a constant flow of people coming to learn in our home. I woke up early to the sound of my father’s learning, and I fell asleep to the tune of his laining practice. My father learned with me and my sister on a regular basis for all the years that we lived at home, with my mother encouraging us.  Both of my parents were powerful believers that everyone---boys and girls, no matter what their abilities---should have access to a strong Jewish education. Gittie Rothschild with her students, circa 1999 My love of Torah...

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