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By Joanne Palmer for The Jewish Standard on Feb 18, 2021
It’s fair to say that the Sinai Schools both benefited from and contributed to the societal changes that started to nibble away at some of the stigma surrounding special education. Children who could not keep up academically or behaviorally with their peers used to be seen as embarrassments to their parents, burdens to their families, bars to the marriageability of their siblings. Over the last 40 years — that is, over the years that Sinai has existed — that worldview has changed substantively. Educators began studying special education, developing techniques that could help students...
By Elizabeth Kratz on Feb 18, 2021
In last week’s paper, my family enjoyed the final article in “A Season of SINAI Stories,” an uplifting piece by Esther and Jacob Schlanger, who accompanied their daughter Tamar to the marriage canopy in 2017. Tamar, who married Chaim—both SINAI alumni—famously gave new meaning to the term “Saw you at SINAI.” As I read the article aloud to my 10-year-old daughters last Friday night, they were thrilled at the descriptions of Tamar’s dream wedding, including the white stretch limo that whisked Tamar and Chaim to and from the ceremony. In my daughters’ world, Tamar’s wedding was just like any...
By Esther and Jacob Schlanger on Feb 8, 2021
Tamar wanted a fairy tale wedding.  The beautiful flowing white dress, the big wedding cake, the simcha dancing.  A shiny part of that dream was a stretch limo to take them home at the end of the night.  So we hired the fanciest stretch limo we could find to drive Tamar and Chaim at the end of the wedding to their new, supervised residence apartment.  This was a night we never dreamed would happen for our daughter with Down Syndrome. When Tamar was born, we had to make peace with the knowledge that her life would be filled with limitations, but we were determined to...
By Joanne Palmer for The Jewish Standard on Feb 5, 2021
As all sorts of nonprofit institutions — local, national, and international, Jewish and non-Jewish — try to figure out how to raise the money that they need to keep going, many of them have done a great deal of thinking about how best to explain who they are, what their mission is, and in general what drives them. The Sinai Schools — the organization that provides special-needs education specifically tailored to each of its students, housed in Jewish day schools and both separate and part of those larger schools — is among those institutions. Sinai — whose unique and successful approach to...
By Jill Friedbauer on Feb 1, 2021
Our weekly parenting group meeting was rolling along as it usually did---chit-chat, joking, complaining, noshing---when my phone rang, and I immediately excused myself to speak in private.  It was our daughter Racheli’s genetic counselor, and she had news that changed everything for us in an instant. I struggled to take in the information that she was telling me: that our 9-month old daughter had extra information on one chromosome and was missing information on another; that as far as the experts knew, Racheli was the only one in the world with this exact genetic make-up, a fluke...
By Zev Rand on Jan 25, 2021
There are some kids who struggle in a class or two, but are able to get the extra help they need to stay in a mainstream Jewish Day School. For me, multiple subjects were challenging, and it was clear to my parents that I needed something more.  I toured several schools and remember how nothing compared to SINAI.  In one school I noticed that nobody wore a kippah, and at another the “special ed” class was in the basement of the building.  Seeing SINAI at Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy (JKHA) for the first time was an unforgettable experience.  I can picture the light filled...
By Joanne Palmer for The Jewish Standard on Jan 22, 2021
When people talk about something as having a lot of moving parts, unless they’re actually talking about a piece of machinery, usually they’re being metaphoric. When you’re talking about a school, though it’s entirely literal. Students rarely sit still, and their teachers rush to keep up with them. When you’re establishing a new school, when you’ve gotten beyond the very beginning but you’re still building — when, say, you’re the Sinai Schools, you’ve started as a program of the Hebrew Youth Academy in South Orange in 1981, and you’re moving forward, inventing as you go — you have so...
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...

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