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.
Matan's new tagline says it all. For every child. For every community. The gifted Jewish learning. From its beginnings, sometimes to a short-term detriment, Matan has always been focused on what's best for the children with special needs, the families of which they are part and the Jewish community which needs to realize that their inclusion will only provide strength. Matan was never only focused on what was best for the organization, but instead focused on the mission. This approach has forced the organization to consistently explore how it can be a better partner, a better educator and a better advocate. Through challenging times, it is proven that it can face any challenge. This ”little engine that could,” has transformed many lives, those who have worked. The organization, those who volunteer for the organization, the families whose children are included in Jewish education because of its work, and of course the children, who without the work of Matan would be left out in the cold by the Jewish community, but most of all to the communities, the various JCC's and synagogues which have not only housed Matan supported programs, but have been transformed by those programs, those children and those families. Each child, each classroom, each JCC, each synagogue, each community, that comes in contact with Matan is stronger for it. As an individual with special needs, Jewish education would have been stronger if Matan were founded earlier, I wish to thank the organization for what it has done, encourage it as it continues to face challenges head-on, and encourage anyone who is not done so to join us in this mission.
I have seen the people at Matan work tirelessly to serve kids with special learning needs. They are passionate about their work and they reach families who feel disenfranchised from the Jewish community.
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.
had the opportunity to visit a Matan class for young children, one for adolescents and a holiday celebration for families. Without Matan these children would not have the opportunity to access religious education. Young children are cute, but the older children are not so “cute” and can be difficult to manage and miss out on many opportunities to interact and socialize with others their age.. Thanks to Matan they get the exposure to religious education and at the same time, an opportunity to socialize in an environment where they don’t have to feel “different.” The holiday celebration was a joyous occasion meticulously planned and organized by the Matan staff. Parents and children were having a wonderful time. Its not often that funders get to have the opportunity to see their money at work and feel a sense of pride and that they are making a difference in a really worthwhile way. I wish more people could become aware of the needs Matan is meeting and its success doing so.
For many years I served on the Board of Education of the Hebrew school in a large synagogue in upstate New York. The school was well-staffed, had good teacher-student ratios and an experienced principal, all doing their best to serve the students and the community. We also had children with learning disabilities who needed people trained to provide them with the education they deserved and that their parents wished for. It was difficult to find the teachers, programs and resources they required. Sometimes we were successful but what a gift it would have been if Matan had been there to guide us and teach us so that a healthy and rewarding Hebrew education could have been accessible to all the children. We wish Matan continued success in its very important mission.
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.
We are so grateful that Matan exists! Our son has been attending the Matan Sunday School class at the Manhattan JCC for the past three years. We have three children, two of whom attend day school. Our son, diagnosed PDD, now 10, attends a special needs school that is secular. Without a program like Matan, he would have have little Jewish identity at all. We really cannot say enough about the quality of the people at Matan. The teachers and administrators have been so unbelievably caring about helping our son learn about Jewish holidays and observance and Hebrew. It is not easy to make a special needs boy look forward to Sunday School, but somehow at Matan the engaging teachers and their go-at-each-child’s-pace approach combine to make our son actually look forward to Sunday School! We are really grateful to Matan for bringing this important service to our son, as he is unable to participate in a mainstream Sunday School program. The lessons he is learning at Matan are making the difference in him identifying himself as a Jew and believing that he can participate fully in the Jewish community going forward. He has even spoke of having a Bar Mitzvah, something unimaginable a couple of years ago! We heartily recommend Matan to anybody seeking a Jewish education for their special needs child.
My son has autism and epilepsy. Our synagogue didn't know how to help him, but MATAN did. They made it possible for him to learn and thrive, and at the age of 13 we celebrated his bar mitzvah. Even though he has now graduated out of Matan's program, I continue to be actively involved with them, helping them to fulfill their mission: Every Jewish child, regardless of intellectual or physical disability, deserves a Jewish education.
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.
My daughter Jodie is diagnosed with autism and has been attending Matan classes since she was in Kindergarten. This year she will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah. I honestly never thought this would be possible, and it wouldn't without the incredible support, dedication and knowledge of the team at Matan. Jodie's teachers have tailored the work to fit her skill level. She is able to recite the prayers (actually she loves to sing them really loud!) and participate in our family celebrations. Matan teachers have even attended meetings with our Rabbi to plan Jodie's Bat Mitzvah ceremony. I honestly feel that they are as excited about her becoming a Bat Mitzvah as I am. Our whole family is grateful to Matan for helping Jodie grow into the person she was meant to be.