SOUTH ORANGE, N.J., July 1, 2013 - Mindy Schreff (left), religious school director, and Carol Paster, early childhood center director, from Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI) attended the Matan Institute for Education Directors on June 9 and 10 in New York City. The program brought together religious school directors from synagogues around the country to learn how to prepare their schools for different learners with the goal of becoming more inclusive. Paster was the only early childhood director accepted into the program.
The Matan Institute is sponsored by Matan, an organization that advocates for Jewish students with special needs and educates leaders, teachers and communities so that all children have access to a meaningful Jewish education. The conference offered interactive sessions on various aspects of teaching students with special learning needs.
TSTI's Rudy & Linda Slucker Religious School and the Iris Family Center for Early Childhood Education are known throughout Essex County for their inclusive programs, as well as the accommodations staff members provide to children who learn differently. "Both of our schools are unique in their abilities to include and teach many types of students," said Schreff. "Our religious school was one of the first Jewish education programs in the area to provide one-on-one support for students with special needs."
TSTI has developed strong partnerships with the early intervention professionals in the South Orange school district, a certified special education coordinator is on staff at the religious school, and a social worker from Jewish Family Services is available to both faculties to advise on special-need situations.
A long-time proponent of accessibility, the synagogue was recently awarded a grant from MetroWest ABLE (Access, Belonging, Life Enrichment). The grant will fund construction of a final wheelchair ramp to provide direct access to an elevator from the temple's early childhood center and make all areas of the building accessible.
"We're proud of the actions we've taken to make full participation in Jewish education available to all," said Paster. "Being completely barrier-free goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to educating all children who wish to attend our schools."
Rabbi Miller joined TSTI in 1999 as the Assistant Rabbi and became the Associate Rabbi in 2001.