Combined Jewish Philanthropies, MetroWest Jewish Day School and Gateways: Access to Jewish Education to co-create comprehensive inclusion initiative for students with moderate to significant learning challenges
BOSTON – March 26, 2018 – Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish Federation, today announced that the Alfred and Gilda Slifka Foundation has pledged a $5 million gift to create The Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative, a comprehensive inclusion initiative to be housed at MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham and another local Jewish day school to be announced at a later date. Establishing this crucial initiative within the two k-8 schools will enable the Jewish day school system in Greater Boston to accommodate an even broader array of learners and their families than was previously possible, providing access for students with moderate to significant learning challenges. The program’s fully inclusive philosophy strives to establish Jewish day school options where all students, including those with learning disabilities, succeed and flourish within the regular educational framework of school.
CJP, MetroWest Jewish Day School, and Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, Boston’s regional Jewish special education agency, will co-create the specific elements of The Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative. In designating MetroWest Jewish Day School as the initial program site, CJP and the 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 may be suitable for the program and will also provide the initiative with ongoing consultation services.
Established in memory of the late Alfred Slifka – who along with his wife Gilda Slifka, was a long-term supporter of Jewish day schools and equal access to day school education for students of all abilities – The Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative at MetroWest Jewish Day School will be a fully integrated special education initiative grounded in the best practice of inclusion for those students with moderate to significant learning challenges.
"This is a wonderful tribute to Fred, a great friend with a warm heart who cared deeply about every child and everyone in need. He loved our people and our community and shared a vision of an inclusive community in which every child has access to Jewish education and a meaningful, dignified and joyful Jewish life surrounded by love," said Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ President Barry Shrage. “The creation of this initiative will expand upon the culture of inclusion in Jewish day school education in Boston spearheaded by the Ruderman Family Foundation beginning over a decade ago. The Slifka family’s generous contribution and commitment to families who desire a Jewish education for their children with moderate to significant learning challenges will serve as a model and inspiration for other communities throughout the country.”
“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.”
The $5 million gift will be distributed over a 10- year period, to establish the initiative’s foundation at MetroWest Jewish Day School and one other site which has yet to be determined. Additional components of The Fred and Gilda Slifka Family Day School Inclusion Initiative include:
- Students (5-7 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 all teachers at the two participating schools so all 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 to be comprised of a set of local and national experts who will come together on a regular basis to consult with CJP, 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.
“MetroWest Jewish Day School’s individualized approach to education aligns well with the intention of this grant. For over 15 years, we have been educating a wide range of learners by providing students the support they need to succeed in a nurturing and collaborative learning community,” said Dr. Scott Sokol, MWJDS Head of School. “This grant will make it possible for us and our partners to do more for more students.”
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, 617-630-9010 x106, or Beth Null at email@example.com, 508-620-5554 x105.
The mission of CJP, Greater Boston’s Jewish Federation, is to inspire and mobilize the diverse Greater Boston Jewish community to engage in building communities of learning and action that strengthen Jewish life and the world around us. For more information please visit www.cjp.org.
About MetroWest Jewish Day School
MetroWest Jewish Day School is a Pre-K to grade 8 community Jewish day school that celebrates pluralism and diversity. MWJDS fosters the personal growth of each child through a multi-faceted, individualized, and dynamic 21st century approach to learning. Our student community actively engages in the comprehensive exploration of both secular and Jewish curricula, weaving together ancient texts and modern perspectives. MWJDS inspires our students to excel in the world as knowledgeable and responsible members of the diverse Jewish community. MWJDS, located in Framingham, MA educates students from 17 cities and towns across the Commonwealth.
About Gateways: Access to Jewish Education
Gateways provides on-site special education support and services to students with a range of learning needs in seven Boston-area Jewish day schools. We employ a team of skilled speech/language therapists, occupational therapists, behaviorists and learning specialists to integrate personalized services within each day school. Children in participating schools receive direct services individually and/or in small groups, both in and out of classroom, to enhance their academic success and support their social, physical and behavioral development. www.jgateways.org