Sweet Sounds 2011

November 20, 2011

Sweet Sounds Photos

November 20, 2011

Click to view photos of this year's wonderful Sweet Sounds event.

Dear Friends, 

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 Federation, CJP, and all of the supporters whose dedication and generosity stand behind each and every child who can now receive a Jewish education. 

Arlene Remz, Executive Director

   

Speeches and Remarks

Program Welcome

Marni Smilow Levitt, Sweet Sounds Co-chair and Gateways Mom

“I want to thank each of you for touching the lives of our children and supporting Gateways programs and services. Please know that your caring and support embraces entire families and reaffirms a culture of Jewish learning that nurtures each and every one of our children and celebrates their unique abilities.”   Watch video

Read Marni's Full Speech

A few short years ago, I had never heard of Gateways. The first I heard about the organization was through my involvement in CJP, when I participated in the Cynthia and Leon Shulman Acharai Leadership class, and we were learning about the many agencies that CJP supports.

What a difference a few years make!

Today I am connected to Gateways in so many ways – I am currently a Board and Executive Committee member, a Development Committee member and, most importantly, I am a Gateways Mom.

Our son, Ari, participates in the Gateways Sunday Program. Our son, Josh, is a teen volunteer in the Sunday Program this year through Prozdor High School. And our son, Noah, has access to Gateways support services in his first year of middle school at Kehillah Schechter Academy. To say that Gateways has had a meaningful impact on our family is an understatement.

I want to thank each of you for touching the lives of our children and supporting Gateways programs and services. Please know that your caring and support embraces entire families and reaffirms a culture of Jewish learning that nurtures each and every one of our children and celebrates their unique abilities.

You will hear from five individuals today who will share their powerful Gateways experiences. Each voice will provide a different perspective on Gateways but the sum total of these voices adds up to a community of inclusion and tikkun olam. Thank you so much for helping to make this possible for our children!

Cindy Kaplan at podium

Cindy Kaplan, Sweet Sounds Co-chair and Gateways Mom

“Imagine a Sunday school where children with a variety of special needs count the days before they can come back again, to celebrate their Judaism and know that it is a place where they truly belong.”    Watch video

Read Cindy's Full Speech

Imagine a day school where children feel part of their class even when they leave the room every so often for the support services that enable them to keep up.

Imagine a preschool where specialists teaming up with the teachers are able to work with a child with behavioral challenges so that he no longer disrupts the class.

Imagine a Sunday school where children with a variety of special needs count the days before they can come back again, to celebrate their Judaism and know that is a place where they truly belong.

Imagine a family Shabbat dinner where all children, regardless of how they speak or move, or how they hear or pay attention, can say the blessings and feel the holiness of this special moment.

For my daughter, Mira, the Gateways Sunday Program brings life to her Judaism that allows her to feel like she is a part of the Gateways community, a member of our synagogue and an important family member at the Shabbat table.

Speaking for our family and for so many others, I am honored to welcome all of you to Gateways’ Sweet Sounds 2011.

 

Voices from the Gates

Arlene Remz at podium

Introduction: Arlene Remz, Executive Director

"These are just a few of the many hundreds of Voices from the Gates -- the students, families, volunteers and educators whose lives have been changed by Gateways. It is the support of each and every one of you that keeps these gates open, that enables Gateways to serve our community, to ensure that every child has access to a Jewish education."    Watch video

Read Arlene's Introduction

Thank you Marni and Cindy, Rachel and Ross.  And thank you---all of you---for joining us today at Sweet Sounds.

The Neilah service on Yom Kippur is replete with the imagery of gates.  We read:

Open the gateway, Lord, open the gates

For us and for our brethren everywhere.

Open the gates that yield what we yearn for:

Blessing and brotherhood, compassion and kindness

Devotion and dignity, faith and forgiveness,

Hope and healing, justice and joy

Life and love, peace and pardon

Solace and sustenance, Torah and tranquility

Open the gates, Lord, show us the way to enter

This fall, Gateways lost a beloved friend and incomparable supporter, Mort Ruderman. We miss him today.

Two years ago, Mort, his wife Marcia and their family -- Jay and Shira, Sharon and Rony, Todd and Liz -- were honored right here at Mishkan Tefila for their dedication to Gateways. I’m sure that everyone that attended Sweet Sounds that year will remember Mort raising his arms, asking us to stand, and then asking us to sit down -- and his humble and endearing words --“I always wanted to do that.” 

Mort and his family truly were the builders of our Gates. Without the Rudermans, we would not have had the strong foundation on which to continue to build the gateways of our organization. Today, we dedicate our program “Voices from the Gates” to the blessed memory of Mort Ruderman.

I invite you to listen to the Voices from the Gates….

First, you’ll hear from the articulate and passionate JCDS English teacher Joanne Baker, whose understanding of different student learning styles has been radically transformed by her work with Gateways.

Next, Kayla Handler and her mom Wendy will speak about how the support Kayla receives from Gateways is such an essential and integral part of her success at Rashi.

Then you’ll hear from Ellen Dietrich, Director of the early childhood learning program at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham. Ellen will tell you about how her center’s three-year partnership with Gateways has changed the way the early childhood educators at Beth Shalom think about and work with all children.

Next, Elisa and Frank Murphy will tell you about how the Gateways Sunday program enriches Rachel’s life and at the same time has introduced Frank to Jewish holidays, prayers, songs and customs.

Finally you’ll meet Rebecca and Daniel Krane -- two-thirds of the Krane triplets.  Rebecca and Daniel are teen volunteers in the Gateways Sunday Program. And their triplet Josh, who prepared for and celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Gateways three years ago, is a student in the Sunday program.

These are just a few of the many hundreds of Voices from the Gates -- the students, families, volunteers and educators whose lives have been changed by Gateways. You, our donors, are the keys to these gates. It is the support of each and every one of you that keeps these gates open, that enables Gateways to serve our community, to ensure that every child has access to a Jewish education.

Thank you for opening the gates to Jewish education.

Joanne Baker at podium

Joanne Baker, Jewish Community Day School Teacher

“We are all now recognizing that intelligence, creativity, intellectual power and talents are present in these kids who all have different learning styles. We’re realizing that ‘smart’ looks different in each one of them.”    Watch video

Read Joanne's Full Speech

Hey Jed,

I woke up thinking about you this morning. Though I don’t know exactly why I woke up thinking about you, what I do know is that a hundred times I have thought about writing you this letter, and this seemed like exactly the right time…

I wonder what JCDS would be like for you were you at the school today. It is a very different place, VERY different than it was when you attended a few years ago. Teachers understand kids better -- we are actually being trained and taught regularly, by professionals, about how to teach all kinds of kids with all kinds of learning styles and abilities -- not just the ones who can sit quietly in their seats and learn from anyone! It is remarkable to me how much stuff comes up at these meetings about what are called visual learners and audio learners – like how some kids learn by reading and others by listening. Some by seeing words written up on the board, yet others by writing them themselves. To remember, some kids need reviewing of the material after the class. We contemplate and recognize how some of our students can't keep anything organized, while others know exactly where everything is all of the time. Some kids remember to do their homework, but others do it but leave it at home. And of course there are the kids who know they have homework but somehow just can’t seem to – you know – do it!

And why is it that some kids always look wide awake and ready to work no matter what the time of day, while others appear tired and bored, though maybe they’re not?

We are all now recognizing that intelligence, creativity, intellectual power and talents are present in these kids who all have different learning styles. We’re realizing that “smart” looks different in each one of them.

But you – you were always one of my most favorite thinkers, Jed, and sometimes I think that because teachers didn't understand you at JCDS, your days in school must have been tough and often painful. It makes me so sad and truthfully a little frustrated that you had to deal with adults who just didn't get you. But I also realize now that it was their own ignorance, their own lack of understanding of this thing called learning styles and difference – it wasn't because they didn't care or didn't want to help you -- they just didn't know how – they didn’t know better because they, themselves, didn’t own the skill and knowledge to help you. Jed, dear, it was not about you at all.

So I do wonder what life would be like were we to go back in time -- you, a young boy in lower school at JCDS -- with today's teachers. I think they would revel in your abilities -- your street smarts, your rhythm, your temperament, your beauty. I think you would have a wonderful experience being you at JCDS.

There is no going back in time -- just moving ahead in it, but I am glad I got to share these feelings I have held for a long time, because I so deeply care for you and I also care so deeply for JCDS.

The staff and faculty who teach and work with you in the Brookline schools are the luckiest ever because they have the great fortune of watching you grow and flourish for a few more years.            

With great affection,

Joanne

Kayla and Wendy at podium

Wendy and Kayla Handler, Rashi School Parent and Student

“Some say that I am two-thirds of the way towards achieving my goal and maybe that should be enough. It is not. I want all three of my children to receive a quality Jewish education.”    Watch video

Read Wendy and Kayla's Full Speeches

Wendy Handler, Gateways Day School Program Mom

Like Martin Luther King Jr., I too have a dream. My dream is not as grandiose as his, but nonetheless, it’s important to me and to the achievement of my life goals. I have a dream that all three of my children will receive a quality, Jewish education and that they will appreciate their rich and diverse Jewish heritage.

As parents, we want to replicate for our children those experiences and lessons that were most meaningful to us. Without a doubt, one of the most profound experiences of my life has been my Jewish day school experience. My Jewish day school education has shaped my identity and values and it has strongly influenced the person I am today.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my Aunt Miriam, my grandmother’s sister. It was Aunt Miriam who convinced my parents that I should attend Jewish day school and it was she who paid for me to attend kindergarten at the United Talmud Torah School in Montreal, Quebec. We never know how many lives we influence with a single act and this is my aunt’s legacy.

My two older children graduated from Solomon Schechter Day School and currently attend Gann Academy. Some would say that I am two-thirds of the way towards achieving my goal and maybe that should be enough. It is not! I want ALL three of my children to receive a quality Jewish education. My third child, Kayla, has language-based learning disabilities and processing challenges. These educational difficulties made finding the right learning environment and support network more difficult, but certainly not impossible.

We enrolled Kayla in the Rashi School in second grade and Steven and I could not be happier with our choice. I say a silent prayer of thanks every time I enter the building and I was stunned to see tears of gratitude running down my husband’s cheek at one of our recent team meetings. But Kayla’s success at Rashi is incomplete without an understanding of Gateways. The partnership between Gateways and Rashi has been exemplary. The talented and devoted learning specialists from Gateways work very closely with the Rashi staff to support the learning that takes place in the classroom.  The Gateways learning specialists preview information with Kayla so that she can be a full participant in class discussions and they review information with Kayla to make sure that she grasped key concepts. Kayla’s support team from Gateways has helped transform her day school experience from one that could have been fraught with difficulty and frustration to one that is filled with progress, confidence and self-esteem. These outstanding educators have empowered Kayla to advocate for herself, a skill that will serve her well throughout her life. As an emerging teen, Kayla has definite opinions about how and where she would like services to be delivered. There are times when Kayla likes the learning specialist to be in the class and other times when she prefers to work one on one, outside of class. The administrators at Gateways have been sensitive to Kayla’s needs and feelings, whenever possible. They have taken her opinions into account and tried to offer her options when formulating plans.

In my remarks so far, I have not given adequate credit to my daughter, Kayla.  I AM biased, but I do know that Kayla is an incredible young woman. She is outgoing, kind and funny. She is a conscientious student. She has a wonderful zest for life and an incredible attitude. She is also very, very, very lucky.  She is lucky to live in a community like Boston with so many outstanding Jewish educational options and to have the talented and devoted team at Gateways to support her.

I applaud the leaders of our Jewish community and applaud you for investing in Gateways and our Jewish learning institutions. As I said before, we never know how many lives we influence with a single act.

My child has definitely been the beneficiary of your generosity, but I guarantee you that she will return your investment in spades. Kayla Handler and Gateways, may you both go from strength to strength!

Kayla Handler, Gateways Day School Program Student

Good Afternoon. My name is Kayla Handler and I am one of over 200 day school students served by Gateways. On behalf of my peers, I’d like to publicly thank this talented and devoted team of learning specialists and therapists for their excellent and hard work.

Please stand when I call your name and remain standing until all the names are called.

Sharon Goldstein, Director of Day School Programs

Sally Whittaker, Program Administrator

Catherine Campbell

Stephanie Childs

Beth Crastnopol

Julie Davis

Barbara Edwards

Ellen Forst

Amy Freedman

Rochelle Goldin

Ilene Greenwald

Maxine Haron

Leslie Kates

Sharon Katz

Lisa Klinger

Shana Krell

Evelyn Krieger

Marcie Lipsey

Debra Maibor

Jennifer Newman

Rebecca Raub

Jodi Saltzman

Lyn Shamban

And Lauri Wolff.

Please join in a round of applause.

These specialists and therapists work with us in over 12 different Jewish day schools. They work with us at:

Bais Yaakov High School for Girls

Cohen Hillel Academy

Gann Academy

Jewish Community Day School

Kehilla Schechter Academy

Maimonides School

Metrowest Jewish Day School

New England Hebrew Academy

Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston

Striar Hebrew Academy

The Rashi School

And Torah Academy.

 

Thank you so much for all that you do!!!!!

Ellen at podium

Ellen Dietrick, Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Early Childhood Education Director

“Our three-year partnership with Gateways has changed the way our community educates its children … Together we are seamlessly combining our work with children with special needs with our work with typically developing children.”    Watch video

Read Ellen's Full Speech

As the director of the early childhood learning program at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, I've been fortunate enough to witness the true transformative power of Gateways. Our three-year partnership with Gateways has changed the way our community educates our children. This year, Gateways has given us a very special gift. The gift of learning for the adults in our school community. 

The journey from childhood to adulthood is a long and complex one. On that journey there are many different paths a child could take. As parents and educators, it is our job to guide children, to help them learn to make choices, to solve problems, to understand others and themselves. To this end and with support from Gateways we've undertaken a year-long community study of life skills -- self regulation, attachment, problem solving, and initiative -- the life skills ALL of our children will need to thrive in today's complex, fast-paced society. Parents are meeting to discuss how children's brain development affects their ability to focus in school. Teachers are innovating in the classroom.  Together we are seamlessly combining our work with children with special needs with our work with typically developing children so that we are viewing each and every child and family as a unique individual with a diverse set of needs.  

A few weeks ago, we had a 3-year-old -- let’s call him David -- who was having difficulty transitioning from activity to activity. When it was time to move to a new part of the school day, he would stand watching the other children and cry or he would approach the group and push his body into it. It would have been easy to label this a behavior problem and ask this child to leave the school. Instead, using their recent learning from our community study of self-regulation and working with Sherry Grossman from Gateways, the teachers created a series of social stories -- “David Goes to Music,”  “David Goes to the Sanctuary for Shabbat.” Each story laid out the specific steps, in pictures and words, that David needed to take to successfully make the transition. It was an instant success, with David now smoothly moving from activity to activity. David is a child who could have easily been considered a behavior problem. Instead he is a full and successful member of the class. This success has now spread to other corners of the school and parents are writing these stories for their children to use at home and school.

Another child -- let’s call her Beth -- was having difficulty separating from her mother. This is of course, typical of a 3-year-old. In Beth’s case, it was already November and still she was crying each morning. We could have easily given up and told Beth’s parents that the school was not a good fit for her.  However, knowing what we know from our recent work with Gateways, we used our understanding of attachment theory and taught Beth the nail painting game. For a couple of days, a teacher sat on the floor with Beth, painting her nails with colored water and slowly, carefully bonding with her. In just days, Beth was running into school each morning, transitioning easily and smoothly from home to her classroom. 

A teacher who has been teaching for over 20 years recently commented, “I feel like I'm back in college and have been given the gift of a fellowship to simply study. I'm learning so much and becoming a better teacher with each piece I learn. I’m seeing my students so differently” The commitment from Gateways to help us better ourselves as educators is making a real and lasting impact. 

Thank you for making a difference.

Frank and Elisa at podium

Elisa and Frank Murphy, Gateways Sunday Program Parents

“In our society, kids like my kid are much like the tsitsit on a tallit, fringes around the edges of our society. By contributing to Gateways you’re investing in a program focused on inclusion. So that, like the tallit, these kids and their families who are otherwise out on the fringes of society are woven into the fabric of their culture. So inclusively, I would say ‘thank you,’ I will sign ‘thank you’ and finally, todah.”   Watch video

Read Elisa and Frank's Full Speeches

Sing: The Week is Here, the Gateways Theme Song

Elisa:

Rachel has brain damage from a stroke after heart surgery when she was a 2-year-old. She can’t speak, she can’t walk and she has uncontrolled seizures, but no matter what state she is in, eyes open or closed, we sing that simple song and the cutest little crooked smile you have ever seen in your life will appear on her face along with a “Rachel laugh.”

Frank:

We can describe the Gateways experience in one word: Inclusion. Here are 3 examples:

For me: As the non-Jewish parent in an interfaith couple, I’ve had the opportunity to be included on Rachel's journey in these six-plus years by following with her and the curriculum. I’ve learned the core foundational concepts like the aleph-bet, the holidays, the Shabbat service. I have been included in part of her education. So much so, that if, 6 years ago someone stopped me on the street and said, that on a Sunday afternoon, during football season, I would be giving a speech at a fundraiser for my daughter’s Jewish education, I would have thought they were mishugonah. Did I say that right?

For Rachel: They’re inclusive of cutting-edge technology too. They’re always looking for ways to adapt technology not just for the sake of technology, but to do it in a meaningful way. Rebecca, Rachel’s teacher, has worked with us to adapt her make her Dynavox configured in a way that makes the tifillot accessible. When she sees an image from the siddur of a kid covering their eyes, she knows that’s the symbol for the Shema. But more than that, she can independently participate and lead the congregation. As the geek in the house, I get to program this device and try to have it adapt the voice output to a Hebrew pronunciation. It’s always a chuckle when I’m trying to fiddle with the transliteration. It’s one of those inclusive times, when the gentile works with software developed in India that runs on hardware built in China, to get Hebrew output.

Last but not least, for our family: Were it not for Gateways we wouldn’t have any access to Jewish education and culture. Gateways makes my family included in Jewish education.

There’s one more point not to be ignored. By cultivating and training a teen volunteer staff, who otherwise would be playing soccer, videogames, or sleeping on a Sunday, by training these kids with expertise in special needs education, you’re creating a massive pipeline of future special needs educators which are VERY hard to come by. Lindsey Thalheimer of Hopkinton was a Prozdor volunteer whom we recruited as a personal care attendant to be Rachel’s 1-on-1 at home. Lindsey just graduated with her Bachelors in Early Childhood Education focusing on Special Ed and just got her first job teaching. Those roots began at Gateways.

In our society, kids like my kid who are much like the tsit-tsit on a tallit, fringes around the edges of our society. By contributing to Gateways you’re not actually contributing, you’re INVESTING in a program focused on inclusion. So that, like the tallit, these kids and their families who are otherwise out on the fringes of society, are woven into the fabric of their culture. So inclusively, I would say ‘thank you,’ I will sign ‘thank you’ and finally, todah.

Rebecca and Dan Krane at the podium

Rebecca and Daniel Krane, Teen Volunteers (whose triplet is a Gateways Sunday Program student)

“Helping Josh become an adult in the Jewish community, just like my siblings and me, will always be one of the proudest and happiest moments of my life, and I have Gateways to thank for making that possible.”    Watch video

Read Rebecca and Dan's Full Speeches

Hello, my name is Daniel Krane.

Hi, my name is Rebecca.

Daniel:

Our family has been connected to Gateways for many years. Our triplet brother Joshua has been a student in the program for more than five years, and we became teen volunteers this year.

One of the best moments that we have shared with our brother is of helping him to have his bar mitzvah. Joshua has a very severe form of autism and he is essentially nonverbal. So when my sister and I were preparing for our B’nei Mitzvah, our family was worried that Josh wouldn’t get to experience this crucial Jewish experience in his life. Our brother couldn’t read from the Torah, but his teachers at Gateways managed to come up with a solution in order to make his Bar Mitzvah a reality. With the teachers’ aid, my parents, my siblings and I all managed to help Josh become a bar mitzvah. We recorded blessings for him on a PowerPoint while another person read Torah on Josh’s behalf, helping piece together the service centered around him and on May 22, 2008 Josh had his Bar Mitzvah. Helping Josh become an adult in the Jewish community, just like my siblings and me, will always be one of the proudest and happiest moments of my life, and I have Gateways to thank for making that possible.

Rebecca:

But Gateways isn’t just great for Josh. It has also been a great experience for us as volunteers. Working with our students has given us a perspective into special needs Jewish education that Josh didn’t give us. Having worked for just over a month with students with significant special needs, I’ve seen more clearly the effect the program has on the students and what we can do as volunteers. I’ve seen students light up to the sound of the guitar during music. I’ve seen how wonderfully accommodating the teachers are, paying close attention to each student. With their guidance, we get to teach each student Judaism in a way that makes sense for them. Students of all levels get to be involved in Judaism and learn to their highest capability. Every week I’ve left class amazed at the brightness of our students. And it feels truly special to know that I’ve helped my student learn something. Volunteering with Gateways has been an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to getting to work more with such a great program. Thank you.

  

A Special Thank You to CJP from the Mitzvah Mensches

Mitzvah Mensches with Barry Shrage

Mitzvah Mensches Honor Barry Shrage and Jerry Silverman

"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."    Watch video

Read the Mitzvah Mensches' Full Speech

Matt:
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.

Noah M:
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.

Hannah:
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.

Noah B:
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.

Barry Shrage at podium

Barry Shrage, CJP President and Honorary Mitzvah Mensch

“When the Jewish community ignored the needs of people with special needs, we dishonored ourselves as a people … you have brought honor back to our people and back to the name of G-d and that’s a very very sacred thing ... I know that Rachel’s prayers speak for the whole community in the highest heavens.”    Watch video

Read Barry's Full Speech

Services for people with disabilities have been very important for me for all of my professional life. This (day) brings together all of my best hopes and dreams, but you can have hopes and dreams and they don’t ever get fulfilled. It’s thanks to all of you -- thanks to the parents who never gave up, thanks to the staff who made great things happen and to the philanthropists who put things in place in order to make great things happen.

CJP’s role is not to miss opportunities, to see how things could come together, then bring the right people together to make miracles happen. When you think about it, (Gateways) has come so far in such a short period of time and with so many great people – it’s really a miracle. 

So CJP really needs to thank all of you, not the other way around. You are so brave and so persistent.  I heard what you said about your daughter, never giving up hope. I think when the Jewish community ignored the needs of people with special needs we dishonored ourselves as a community, we really dishonored the name of G-d who expected us to repair the world and we failed. Because of you, you have brought honor back to our community, honor back to our people and honor back to the name of G-d and the reputation of G-d in the world and that’s a very very sacred thing.

When you described Rachel praying, I know that Rachel’s prayers really speak for the whole community in the highest heavens and that’s a huge blessing. So thank you all very much.