December 15, 2011
Members of Mitzvah Mensches wrote and delivered the following speech at Gateways' Sweet Sounds event, and presented CJP President Barry Shrage and Jewish Federations of North America President Jerry Silverman- now honorary Mitzvah Mensches- with Gateways "Mensch" T-shirts.
We are the Gateways Mitzvah Mensches. Mitzvah Mensches is a social action youth group. A mensch is somebody who helps others. At Mitzvah Mensches, we hang out with other Jewish teens and learn about how we can help others.
For the past few weeks at Mitzvah Mensches, we have been learning about CJP. We learned that CJP supports programs that help the elderly, help kids get a Jewish education and help people with disabilities.
CJP makes sure that Jewish teens like us can go to Gateways. CJP also helps Gateways. With the help of CJP, Gateways can fund mitzvah projects. We think that CJP is an awesome organization.
We would like to thank Barry Shrage, the President of CJP, and Jerry Silverman, the President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, tonight because they support Israel and help Jewish organizations in Boston. Thank you, Barry Shrage and Jerry Silverman for all of your hard work. Since you are generous and cool, we would like to make you honorary Mitzvah Mensches, just like us.
By Arlene Remz, Executive Director
December 12, 2011
November 20 was a day I will never forget. Gateways’ “Sweet Sounds” Event always serves as a potent reminder of all the lives we are able to touch through our menu of programs, the hundreds of children with special needs – and their families -- now able to be included as full members of the Jewish community.
“Sweet Sounds” never fails to remind me that none of this would be possible without the vision and support of our wonderful Boston Federation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), and all of the supporters whose dedication and generosity stand behind each and every child who can now receive a Jewish education that’s right for them.
But this year, after our Event Co-chairs Marni Smilow Levitt and Cindy Kaplan welcomed the 400-plus Gateways supporters to Mishkan Tefila’s social hall, after we dedicated the event to the memory of our dear friend and supporter Mort Ruderman, heard from those whose lives have been transformed by Gateways and saluted those educators we’re able to inspire through the Nemzoff Prize, I realized anew how deeply and widely the Gateways impact is felt every day.
It’s felt across denominations and communities, in day schools, congregational schools and preschools and among the teachers who Gateways helps to create more welcoming and inclusive classrooms. It’s felt each time our children sing the Sh’ma, learn alongside their siblings at 10 area day schools or in one of our local congregational schools, each time they participate in their families’ Shabbat and holiday rituals or enjoy the bar or bat mitzvah they could only have dreamed of a few short years ago.
Visit our event page to hear some of what these wonderful “voices” shared with us (and see Barry Shrage adopted as an honorary Mitzvah Mensch – complete with official T-shirt!).
I look forward to seeing you all at next year’s Sweet Sounds…
By Marni Smilow Levitt, Sweet Sounds Event Co-Chair
November 7, 2011
Up until two years ago, I had never heard of Gateways. At the time, 3 of our 4 children were enrolled in our synagogue's religious school program, but our son Ari was not receiving any formal Jewish education other than what he learned through our observance at home, because he did not have the supports needed for him to be successful in the typical religious school setting. That changed when we enrolled him in the Gateways Sunday Program. Now, not only is Ari receiving a meaningful Jewish education in an encouraging and supportive setting, but our son Josh is also now involved in the Sunday program as a teen volunteer through Prozdor Hebrew High School's collaboration with Gateways.
Which is why I happily agreed to serve as Co-Chair (with Cindy Kaplan) of this year's Gateways "Sweet Sounds" event.
Each year "Sweet Sounds" showcases the transformative impact that Gateways has on so many children and families like ours throughout the Boston area. The event invites us to come together as a community and celebrate the fact that now, unlike in years past, all Jewish children have the opportunity to enjoy a Jewish education, one that is designed individually so that each child can be successful! And, in doing so, we raise awareness of the many wonderful services Gateways provides to so many children in our community. We hope you can join us at "Sweet Sounds" this year and see just how well Gateways inspires us as a community and reminds us that each one of our children is a precious part of our collective Jewish community and our future.
Please join Cindy and me at "Sweet Sounds" on Sunday, November 20 from 4-6 p.m. at Congregation Mishkan Tefila, 300 Hammond Pond Pkwy., Chestnut Hill, MA. We look forward to seeing you there!
To hear more about "Sweet Sounds" or make a reservation (walk-ins also welcome), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (617) 630-9010.
Click below to watch a video invitation to Sweet Sounds featuring my son Ari and his classmates at Gateways.
March 29, 2011
It was that rare commodity: a stress-free Purim carnival. Gateways' Purim carnival attracted more than 50 families from its Jewish Education Programs, as well as several preschoolers with special needs and a few families checking out if Gateways might be the right fit for their child. Organizers planned the event to offer enough activity to create a happy buzz, but without the crowds, long lines and most importantly, chaos.
The activities were designed to provide both challenge and success for children with a variety of special needs. Visual supports and a color-coded map of activities helped them select the games and learn the rules ahead of time. The activities were also spread out into different rooms for gross motor and sensory activities, and a quiet room for children needing a break. There were also plenty of sure-fire crowd-pleasers including cotton candy, popcorn and – naturally -- hamentashen.
For Anna, the highlight of her first-ever Gateways Purim carnival was the Moon Bounce where, unlike many other carnivals, there was no line, no time limit -- and no pushing. "It's even better than the popcorn, and she loves popcorn," said her mother Vivian Glassman-Grosser. As Jamie enjoyed the carnival from her wheelchair, stopping to try her hand at adaptive bowling, big brother Tom was impressed. "You can see by the way the aides are interacting with all of them that the kids really feel comfortable here."
The second session carnival ended with a grand finale, a magic show by Gateways Sunday program alumnus Noah Bittner. It was a jubilant performance where objects disappeared and reappeared, ropes stiffened and went limp, balls changed color and shape, all before the amazed eyes of the children.
Noah also made magic happen with his fellow students, many of whom he invited up as volunteer magical assistants.
This connection between the students and the community they and their families have built over the years is part of the larger Gateways magic. "This is a place where it's guaranteed my daughter will be truly successful and feel like a leader," said Rachel Katz who brought her daughter, Genevieve, and little sister Sydra. "It's something that doesn't always happen in other venues."
The carnival's lead staff, Gateways Jewish Education Programs Coordinator Nancy Mager has a theory about why the students had such a wonderful time. "First of all, they were prepared," she says – the week before they'd worked with a social story all about Purim carnivals. "We also wanted them to start their day like they always do – in the classroom, only this time planning their carnival experience," Mager adds. "And the teen volunteers understood the goals of the day included each child feeling feel like a winner. They were able to adapt a game – often on the fly -- as needed, cheering on the children, whether they won or not." As an educator, Mager's favorite games included "Ahasuerus' Moat," featuring a floating fleet of pirate-garbed plastic ducks, and "Dig for Mishloach Manot" where carnival-goers sift through sand for plastic gems which, when added to a crown, made them a winner. As Gateways music therapist Miriam Greenbaum played the children's regular Good-bye Song on her guitar as the carnival's first session drew to a close, many of them sang along, and several jumped up to dance.
"These are all kids who are on the fringe in many ways, but at this moment," said Rachel's dad Frank Murphy, "they are all in sync. Gateways really is Rachel's way of being part of the community."
November 23, 2010
What a day! Last Sunday, not only did more than 400 supporters come out to celebrate Gateways' innovative and transformative impact on so many of our children and families, but we were able to salute some very special pioneers of Jewish education for all our children.
There were emotional standing ovations for Jennifer and Erik Bittner, whose vision and determination ensured that Boston-area children with special needs could receive the Jewish education that's right for them. And for Gateways' outgoing Day School Program Director Sue Schweber, for her years of hard work, partnering with our day schools to welcome students with special needs.
But the real star of the day was Noah Bittner, a proud Gateways graduate who, even after his bar mitzvah, continues to take part in Jewish social action projects in our Mitzvah Mensches teen program.
In introducing his parents, Noah showed us all what a charismatic and engaging speaker he is. My personal favorite part of his speech was when he looked up at the hundreds of smiling grown-ups in front of him and said, "When I was in middle school, I told my teachers that autistic kids were just like other kids, only they needed more help. At Gateways, when I have a problem, the teachers take care of it…. I learned about being Jewish from my Mom and Dad, and from Gateways."
As our great friend and supporter, CJP President Barry Shrage, told the audience on Sunday:"We need to engage and educate every Jewish soul and, thanks to Gateways, our community now has the opportunity to make that dream come true."
On behalf of Noah and all the other children and families who Gateways reaches each year, I want to personally thank all of you -- our supporters and volunteers, our committed and talented staff and the families who entrust your children to us so we can help, in the words of the Ethics of the Fathers, to "teach each child according to his way." --Arlene Remz, Executive Director
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