Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish Federation, announced that the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston is the second school to benefit from the $5 million gift made by the Alfred and Gilda Slifka Foundation to create the Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative. This groundbreaking effort is aimed at educating students who have more complex learning profiles. MetroWest Jewish Day School was named as the first site to house the initiative earlier this spring. Establishing this crucial initiative within these two schools will enable the Jewish day school system in Greater Boston to accommodate a broader array of learners and their families than was previously possible. The program’s inclusive philosophy strives to establish Jewish day school options where students with various types of learning disabilities can succeed and flourish within the regular educational framework of school.

CJP, Solomon Schechter Day School, and Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, Boston’s regional Jewish special education agency, will collaborate to tailor The Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative for Schechter. In designating Schechter as the second program site, CJP and Alfred and Gilda Slifka Foundation recognize the significant strides toward inclusion already made by the school, whose mission is centered around excellence in individualized education. The initiative will be staffed by a team of experienced teachers, special educators and allied educational service providers (e.g., speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists). Gateways will facilitate local outreach to identify families and students who might be suitable for the program and will also provide the program with ongoing consultation services.

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Gilda and the late Alfred Slifka have been long-time supporters of Jewish day schools and equal access to day school education for students of widely varying strengths and abilities. The Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative at Schechter will be a fully integrated special education initiative grounded in the best practice of inclusion for students with a range of learning challenges.

“Solomon Schechter of Greater Boston has a proven track record of commitment to academic excellence and building a strong Jewish education on the foundations of Jewish values and community. Schechter plays a critical role in the landscape of Jewish Boston and this initiative will give more families access to the power of a Jewish day school education. This grant and the powerful collaborations that come with it will also empower our schools and our community to lead the way as models of excellence and innovation,” said Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ president and CEO, Rabbi Marc Baker.

“Nothing would have pleased Fred more than to see our Foundation work with CJP to jump-start such an impactful program,” said Gilda Slifka. “He believed, as I do, that inclusion policies and practices benefit the entire school, not just the children with learning challenges, and that it is the responsibility of Jewish day schools to develop and provide programs that will help a broader array of student learners reach their full potential educationally.”

Rebecca Lurie, head of the Solomon Schechter Day School, said that “we are committed at Schechter to knowing each and every child deeply as learners and as people. We have created the internal systems to be able to achieve that vision and we are thrilled that the Slifka family and CJP believe in our abilities and are thus eager to invest in our school. Every child is created b’tzelem elokim (in God’s image), and it is our responsibility as educators to see the unique beauty each child brings to our community and support them as best we can. There is no holier work than that.”

The Alfred and Gilda Slifka Foundation’s original $5 million gift will be distributed over a 10-year period to establish the initiative at both schools. Additional components of The Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative include:

  • Students (five to seven at each site) will spend much of the school day in general education classrooms with support as needed from program staff.
  • Professional training will be conducted for faculty members at the two participating schools so that classroom teachers are part of the overall plan and model for the initiative’s students.
  • Ancillary services staff (e.g. speech and language, occupational therapy, etc.) will provide services as needed on site.
  • CJP will convene a professional advisory board comprising local and national experts who will come together on a regular basis to consult with CJP, Solomon Schechter Day School, MetroWest Jewish Day School, and Gateways about program design and implementation, ensuring that the program is utilizing the most cutting-edge technologies and practices and meeting the needs of the program’s learners.

The Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative builds on the strong foundation that CJP, with the leadership and support of the Ruderman Family Foundation, and in partnership with Boston-area Jewish day schools and Gateways, have created in order to promote inclusive practices within the schools over the past 10-plus years. Families interested in learning more about enrollment in the Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative should contact Sharon Goldstein at sharong@jgateways.org or 617-630-9010 ext. 106, or Shira Strosberg at shira.strosberg@ssdsboston.org or 617-630-4609.

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