Special-Needs Families Fighting Jewish Day Schools

June 9, 2010
Adam Dickter writes about families in the NYC area who are fed up with having to fight the system of Jewish day schools to ensure that their special needs children get a proper Jewish education. They feel that yeshivas and day schools have been reluctant to expand inclusion or explore creative new ways of integrating special-needs students.
There is currently no Jewish school that provides a full-time inclusion class in which special needs children can learn alongside their peers while receiving assistance from special education teachers, says Jeff Lichtman, national director of Yachad, the Orthodox Union’s program for special-needs kids. 
Parents and advocates are calling for more of a communal effort to think outside the box. There have been two panel discussions held in recent weeks, in Riverdale and on the Upper West Side, to call attention to the problem.
At Congregation Shearith Israel on May 24, about 160 people turned out to hear a panel of experts call for more inclusion. Only a small percentage of audience members said they had children with special needs. Most wanted to know what they could do to help. 
Updated: Jun. 22, 2010