The first Jews, Abraham and Sarah, can be thought of as the first Jewish educators. Moses, most certainly, was a teacher (in fact, he is often referred to as Moshe Rabeinu- Moses Our Teacher), charged with the unimaginable task of explaining the Torah to the nascent Jewish People. Tradition holds that a father must teach his children three things: Torah, how to earn a living, and how to swim. Of course, the commandment “teach them [the 613 mitzvot] to your children” underscores the very rationale for Jewish education.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Special Education in Jewish Community Day Schools
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RAVSAK is in the business of meeting educational needs, but we cannot forget that schools must also consider social and emotional needs, and that RAVSAK schools particularly are impelled by a spiritual imperative/obligation in educating Jewish children. This communal obligation is expanded by the contemporary consensus that all children are capable of learning. However, each child has a unique learning style, and could, ideally, benefit from some level of individualized instruction.
“Mommy, may I do my homework now?” “What?! – er, I mean, excuse me, what did you say?” “Mommy, I said, “May I do my homework now?’ That way, when we get home, I can go play outside.” This was a conversation in my minivan one afternoon two weeks ago, and this has become the question du jour.
Each day when we recite the sh’ma, we repeat the words “v’shinantam l’vanecha v’dibarta bam”, loosely translated “we shall teach the lessons of the Torah diligently to our children.” The sh’ma, of course, does not differentiate between any of our students, nor does it delineate that there are some students we should teach while others may remain out of our reach. One would be hard-pressed to find any Jewish educator who believed our heritage implied such a sentiment! However, when our schools neglect to consider serving the needs of students with special needs, we inadvertently choose some of our children over others. In so doing, we unintentionally send the message that some of our families belong in the Jewish community more than others.
We all know the old saw about the newspaper with the motto “all the news that fits we print,” and today I found out how true to life this adage can be. Deferring to our many talented contributors to this issue of HaYidion, my column has been relegated to the back page – and to 300 words or less. But as the head of any dynamic organization knows, it is nearly impossible to say all that must be said about our many challenges and many successes. Thus, in brief, allow me to mention one major success story in the making, and one challenge which I know we can meet with your help:
It is so hard to believe that we are fast approaching 2006. I hope that you are all back to teaching full time after a very fragmented October. More so, I hope that the joy of the holidays is not simply a memory - that it sustains you in your important work as leaders in the Jewish community dayschool movement.
The children in M’silot are the Greenfield Hebrew Academy’s best advertising for this innovative and nationally recognized program for students who learn differently. A “school within a school,” M’silot (“pathways” in Hebrew) provides children with an educational environment in which they become empowered learners, maximize their potential by building new skills, and develop a positive self image – all under a Jewish umbrella. Six years ago the program began with eight first grade students and now has eighty-five students who are currently in or have completed the program. M’silot gauges its success by the outstanding growth and development of these students.