Archives in December 2020

Sharing the story of our 89th B'nei Mitzvah

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
December 23, 2020

This past year has changed the landscape of reality, of normalcy, for so many of us. Faced with unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, Gateways pivoted to continue serving our students and families through it all. As schools were closing their doors, we bolstered our online programs and provided therapy services remotely. As educators worked to meet new student needs, our therapists and coaches developed new strategies to help them. And as countless celebrations were postponed, the Gateways B’nei Mitzvah program held its 89th simchah—celebration—with our virtual community.

The story of our 89th bar Mitzvah is a truly special one. For so many of us, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a significant milestone that brings our family and community together. We come together to recognize this young adult coming of age in the tradition of our Jewish heritage. With such an important moment on the horizon, you can imagine the excitement—and subsequent disappointment—of many families who prepared for such an occasion for months or even years, only to be forced to drastically revise their plans due to the pandemic.

Now we come to Yair*, our 89th B’nei Mitzvah celebration. Yair worked painstakingly in our B’nei Mitzvah program to prepare for his precious milestone. His family has all said the same thing: between the pandemic and Yair’s personal struggles, they truly thought that their family would never be able to take part in a meaningful Bar Mitzvah experience.

How did we make this possible? Gateways educators and a professional tutor worked individually with Yair to learn the prayers and the parshah—the weekly Torah portion—for his Bar Mitzvah. Not only did they work with him on these recitations, but they worked together with Yair to compose and revise his d’var Torah—a personal story connected to the parshah. Our staff also collaborated with his synagogue to help plan the structure of the service and helped them prepare Yair for his celebration.

tactile book for prayer reminders

Through the relationships our educators had built with Yair, they tailored this virtual gathering with an entire community to embrace Yair as he entered the realm of Jewish adulthood. To shape the service to his interests and needs, he accompanied the rabbi during much of the morning service on the piano. Yair even wrote a new song for his Bar Mitzvah: a jazzy composition inspired by the words of Yotzeir Or (Creator of Light). Everyone was glued to their computer screens, dancing and rejoicing over the wide smile on Yair’s face as he achieved this new milestone in his life.

As we make our way through these tumultuous times, there is one constant that our families can count on. Gateways will always adapt and create ways to ensure no child is left out of our Jewish tradition. On behalf of the hundreds of families and children who are able to learn and grow in our life-changing programs, thank you for your ongoing generosity.

*name has been changed to preserve privacy

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: b'nei mitzvah


Refuat hanefesh: illuminating mental health

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
December 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

As we say goodbye to the holiday of Hanukkah, I share my thoughts on shining a light on mental health, which is deeply rooted in our Jewish prayer and tradition.

I hope you’ll share your Hanukkah observations and experiences with me as well—you can always email me at

Happy Hanukkah and Shabbat shalom,

Tamar Davis
Chief Executive Officer

P.S. Check out the recording of the webinar on bullying that I mentioned (led by educator and New York Times bestselling author Rosalind Wiseman) here!

Category: Op Ed, Inclusion Profiles, Synagogue Inclusion

Tagged under: mental health, bullying, hanukkah


Dispelling the Darkness

By Tamar Davis
December 11, 2020

One of the things I love about Hanukkah is how we add to the number of candles we light each night. Seeing the aura of light grow stronger and stronger as it dispels the darkness around us fills me with hope. During this Hanukkah season, when so many of us are celebrating apart from family and friends, it is especially important to remember how powerful each candle can be in dispelling loneliness and fear. We are each lights in our community, and when we take a moment and reach out to others who might be alone or struggling, we become even stronger.

At Gateways, we are working to amplify that light—to extend our hands to our community in a time of disconnection. For example, when we decided to "go remote" for our Sunday and B'nei Mitzvah programs, we stayed in touch with the families of students who have more trouble accessing our program online, sending them messages and Hanukkah gifts.

This is why I quoted Rav Soloveitchik in my remarks at Sweet Sounds (see the video above!), and why I say it again now: "It is a privilege and a pleasure to belong to such a prayerful, charitable, teaching community, which feels the breath of eternity."

May the light of Hanukkah continue to spark hope and connection within our community, especially during this time.

Shabbat shalom and Chag Hanukkah sameach.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: hanukkah


Thanking Before We Think

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
December 4, 2020

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a lovely and restful Thanksgiving, even if it felt very different than years past! In the spirit of Thanksgiving and my message last week when I reflected on the insight of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l that, in Judaism, “we thank before we think,” I want to dedicate this space to the purpose of thanking the hundreds of you who joined me at Gateways’ first-ever virtual Sweet Sounds. And most especially, I want to thank each student, volunteer, donor, lay leader, educator, and staff member who helped make this event possible. I can’t begin to tell you what a herculean task it was to put together a program that showed the breadth and depth of what Gateways does in a way that was personal and meaningful, and to somehow convey all this through your computer screen.

We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and responses to every part of virtual Sweet Sounds, from moving video submissions, to generous donations, to enthusiastic offers to host our mini "Sweet Salons."

After watching Sweet Sounds, one long-time supporter wrote me a note saying, “We were just blown away by tonight’s virtual Sweet Sounds. We have been going live to the event for many years. This was so very special. I have to admit I cried through most of it!” And another new supporter wrote, “This was a wonderfully put together program and very inspirational. Your teachers and volunteers show such dedication and personal involvement and those receiving the benefits are so proud of their own accomplishments. Thank you for the opportunity to watch and be educated about this great organization.”

There is no adequate way to truly express our gratitude. Normally, the name of every person who helped make Sweet Sounds possible would have been listed in a printed program that we distribute in person at the event. Since we couldn’t do that, we wanted to list those names here. I hope you’ll take a moment to read these names, as each of these people has helped ensure that Gateways can remain steadfast in our mission, no matter what challenges come our way.

May you each continue to go mechayil el chayil – from strength to strength.

Todah rabah and Shabbat shalom,

Tamar Davis
Chief Executive Officer

P.S. While Sweet Sounds 2020 is now behind us, if you haven’t sent in your gift yet, you can still do so here!

Category: Reflections & Perspectives


Gratitude with Attitude, Part 2

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
December 1, 2020

Last Wednesday, I shared a message of "gratitude with attitude" with you, as we entered a holiday that encourages us to show gratitude for the blessings we have. Then came "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday," when many of us bought things that we wanted to have and that we wanted to give. This brings us to today, what we now call "Giving Tuesday," which is about the people and places that make our community better.

This year, I humbly ask you to show your support to Gateways. During a pandemic that has made barriers to education feel more insurmountable than ever, Gateways has served our community like never before. We are delivering vital therapy services to 100 day school students in person and remotely, we have hosted 40 webinars to support parents and educators, and we continue to meet weekly on Zoom with our students and teen volunteers (with 100% of our teens returning from last year!) for our beloved Sunday Jewish education program. We even celebrated our 89th B'nei Mitzvah!

As I wrote last week, it is truly "gratitude with attitude" that keeps us going during these times. Thank you for making your donation today to support our mission of inclusion. 

With heartfelt appreciation,

Giving Tuesday logo