I helped found Matan because there was an obvious need in the community. There were dedicated Jewish parents with nowhere to Jewishly educate their children with special needs. I am proud of the work we did in Westchester, NY to help these children and their families be included and obtain the Jewish education they deserve. And I'm proud of the way Matan has become a training institute for Jewish educators throughout the country -- in this way more and more children and families are reached and the culture of our communities are elevated by our inclusiveness. But we're not all there yet...so the mission continues.
I especially enjoyed working with the teen volunteers, exposing them to this issue, watching them bond with the kids, and share all they've learned through their own Jewish education, that they might otherwise have taken for granted. Some of these teens are in the process of becoming Jewish educators or special educators due to their experiences with Matan -- which will undoubtedly touch the next generation.
Although I am no longer directly involved, Matan continues to be an awesome organization.
For the first time, children with special needs in our community are being provided an appropriate learning environment. Matan provided supportfor every step along the way. Dori helped us assess our needs, create a class, and market it thoughtfully. She connected us with an excellent teacher who is not only doing a wonderful job with her students, but creating a new model for exceptional Jewish education for the rest of us. I look forwardto broadening our collaboration with Matan in fall 2010.
I have called on MATAN's expertise in special education/special needs in the Jewish educational setting for almost a decade. My congregational school (I was Director of Education at Park Avenue Synagogue in NYC a the time) was one of the first to set up a special needs program with MATAN's expert guidance and assistance. They not only took the lead in designing our program, but also supplied curriculum and instructors. MATAN worked with us to create a separate class for special needs kids, and in devising systems to accommodate learning differences within our mainstream classes. In more recent years, I have called on MATAN for advice on special needs issues on a larger scale (community-wide initiatives, grant writing for such projects, etc.) while working for central agencies for Jewish education. No matter in what way I have worked with MATAN, the organization has always been highly responsive and professional. MATAN was ahead of the curve in terms of special needs and inclusion in Jewish education, and I am pleased to know that it continues to do the great work it was only beginning to do when I partnered with them in their pioneer efforts.
Dear Colleagues: I have had the distinct opportunity to work with and be associated with Matan over the past year. Their sense of commitment and passion is evident in all spheres of their work. Direct service delivery, advocacy and partnership-building is second to none. Staff are always available to assist, guide and open the proverbial door.
I first became involved with Matan on the client side. I worked in a religious school that had hired the organization to help us address children in our school with learning differences. From the first moment, their professionalism, expertise and creativity impacted our entire staff. They conducted several professional development trainings as well as worked with each teacher individually to help us to address the needs in our classroom. It made the most incredible difference in our school. I believed in the mission so much that I later became a board member of the organization. Matan fills a gap in the world of Jewish education that is both critical and largely ignored. They offer opportunities for both school clients and students to teach and learn together.
MATAN's effort to make Jewish education accessible and possible for every Jewish child has moved our community to build cultures of inclusion in congregations and educational programs. The staff carries forth this message as articulate advocates for their work, and has worked tirelessly with individuals, congregations and communities to help them recognize the hopes and dreams of children with special needs and their families.