Many Jewish parents want to choose day school for their kids, but costs can be prohibitive. So can special-education services, which can be difficult to obtain. Morton Ruderman wanted all Jewish families to have the option of choosing day school, including kids with disabilities. A new scholarship in his name focuses on inclusion, helping families who might be unable to access Jewish education to have that choice.
Ruderman always wanted to help others, and once he could, he did. The Malden native didn’t grow up wealthy, but he eventually co-founded Meditech, a global health-care tech firm—and wanted to give back. Ultimately, he founded the Ruderman Family Foundation. One of its missions is the inclusion of Jewish and secular people with disabilities in all aspects of life.
The Morton E. Ruderman Inclusion Scholarship Fund now provides funds that support the financial aid needs of families with students with special needs, as well as the cost of individual services for those students. Formally launching last year as a partner with CJP, the scholarship has enabled special-needs children who might not be able to attend day school to do so. Individual services are brought to schools through Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, which facilitates special-education services in Jewish settings.
To date, 194 families with special needs in 11 day schools have received $400,000 in tuition scholarships. Of these, 66 students received an additional $177,000 in Gateways services scholarships. All financial aid determinations and decisions are made by individual schools using objective assessments, and applicants need either an individualized education plan or a comprehensive private assessment to indicate their need.
The scholarship has been invaluable for one father. He was prepared to make a significant investment in his children’s education, but tuition was daunting with more than one child in private school. The scholarship allowed his special-needs student to continue at school through defrayed costs and services he might not have been able to obtain otherwise.
“[My son] is having a great year. This is his second year doing Gateways, and it’s been fabulous. His therapist figured out what he needed right away, and we’re seeing benefits and improvement from the time they spend together,” he says.
Ruderman’s daughter Sharon Shapiro says this is the outcome her father dreamed about.
“Our whole philosophy is that every Jewish child and Jewish person needs to be included fully in the community, whether it’s synagogue or school. We want to make sure every family who wants their child to have a Jewish education can, and that needing supportive services isn’t going to deter them,” Shapiro says.
Schools value the help, too.
“The scholarship has been a great resource in helping us to continue to enroll kids at our school whom we might otherwise not be able to serve. They’re enabling us to enact our mission for the next generation,” says Dr. Susie Tanchel, head of school at the Jewish Community Day School in Watertown.
CJP has been a longtime Ruderman partner in promoting day-school affordability and access.
“The scholarship is really maximizing the next step in the evolving effort on the part of schools and community to meet the needs of a broader array of learners. Every child who wants a Jewish day-school education should be able to access one,” says Nancy Kriegel, director of the CJP Initiative for Day School Excellence.
Shapiro says her dad would be pleased.
“It’s a wonderful way to continue my father’s legacy of inclusion and what he felt passionately about,” she says.