Gateways NewsBlog Feed

And the ENTIRE Nation Saw

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
February 5, 2021

In my video message today, I share my reflections on this week’s Torah portion in which all the Jewish people gathered together as one nation to accept the Torah at Mount Sinai—and the deep longing expressed by a thoughtful young adult with autism, Jacob Artson, who spoke at a session this week hosted by CJP and the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project.

This first week of February marks the beginning of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), when we reaffirm our commitment to emulate that remarkable historic moment at Mount Sinai—to make all spaces of Jewish life and learning welcoming and inclusive, so that the entire Jewish nation can participate.

I look forward to hearing how you are taking part in JDAIM this year.

Category: Op Ed, Inclusion Profiles, Synagogue Inclusion

Tagged under: Jewish values, inclusion, JDAIM

 

Shabbat Shira and the Power of Song

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
January 29, 2021

Tonight and tomorrow are Shabbat Shira, the Sabbath of Song, named for the special song found in the Torah portion that we read this week. This song, which the Children of Israel sing to God after being saved from their Egyptian enslavers, is a joyful expression of sheer redemption. I’m always fascinated by how a song, music formed by a pattern of notes that creates a melody, can evoke such strong emotions in us.

I remember reading the story of a child who had trouble walking, but when listening to music, was able to walk perfectly. Music, or more specifically, melody, is processed by an entirely different part of our brains than speech. There is much fascinating research about music and the brain, including how music therapy can be beneficial for individuals with neurological conditions.

Music brings people together in a way that words alone never could. We were so fortunate that even though we couldn’t be physically together this past November for our annual Sweet Sounds event, we were able to host Israel’s Shalva Band virtually. These eight band members, each with a disability, united us even when we were apart.

So in the spirit of Shabbat Shira, I am sharing this clip from The Shalva Band, and hope you will join me in song.

 

Climbing the Hill

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
January 22, 2021

On this historic week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration, I reflect upon both the words that Dr. King spoke many years ago and those that inaugural poet Amanda Gorman spoke only two days ago in her poem, "The Hill We Climb."

In this video, I share how these words of perseverance and hope speak to my own experience as a person with a disability and to our imperative at Gateways to overcome inertia—to keep climbing the hill—when it comes to advocating for our community members and making inclusion the birthright of our children.

I hope you will share with me the quotes from Dr. King and "The Hill We Climb" that have inspired you this week.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: reflections, advocacy, inclusion

 

Finding Strength in Times of Transition

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
January 8, 2021

This week, the transition from the end of 2020 to the beginning of 2021 has coincided with a transition in the reading of the Torah, as we finish one book and begin the next. In this video message, I reflect on the words that we say when we enter these moments of transition in the Torah: chazak, chazak v'nitchazek—be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

 

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