New Fund Supports Inclusion at Day Schools

“The hardest conversations I have are with families who dream of giving their child a Jewish education, but we are not able to meet their student’s particular educational needs,” says Rabbi Elliot Goldberg, head of school for Solomon Schechter Day School. “Telling them they have to look elsewhere is painful to me as a rabbi and educator, and it’s painful to them.”

Thanks to a new partnership between CJP and the Ruderman Family Foundation, Rabbi Goldberg will soon be able to welcome more children, and have fewer “painful” conversations. $3 million in new funding, paid out over five years, will create the Morton E. Ruderman Inclusion Scholarship Fund which will allow Greater Boston day schools to significantly defray the cost of special education services (both school-based and ancillary services), especially for students in need of financial aid. 

The funding will also support a new Response to Intervention (RTI) program in day school pilot sites throughout Greater Boston.  This program will be implemented through a partnership with CJP, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education and several day schools, and will focus on building teacher capacity to more effectively support and include students with special learning needs.

Day schools have long been aware of the need to invest in special education services, and have made significant advances toward this goal, but this new fund will speed their progress. As Rabbi Goldberg noted, this fund “changes the question from ‘how can we maintain what we’re doing to meet the needs of diverse learners?’ to ‘how can we do more?’”

A question of fairness

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, says the family had been looking for an appropriate way to honor their father since Morton Ruderman passed away in 2011.

Everyone deserves a fair shot in life—that was a bedrock value of my father’s. It seemed to us fundamentally unfair that because they were born with a disability, some children were unable to get a Jewish education. My father’s investment [in philanthropy] transformed how Boston approaches people with different abilities. We felt that this was an opportunity to honor his legacy.”

Inclusion benefits us all

For the Rudermans, raising awareness about how and why the Jewish community needs to include people of all abilities is just as important as providing direct services.

“My father was aware that ‘community’ is about everyone. Inclusion changes lives, and people draw strength and power from it. If you want to have Jewish continuity, you have to be inclusive.”

Rabbi Goldberg explains, “A core Jewish value is that we see God’s image within everybody. Inclusion exposes everyone in the school to the diversity of the Jewish community, and that’s a good thing.”

Philanthropy that starts with a conversation

Jay says the Foundation’s focus on inclusion in our schools “started from a conversation between the family and CJP, about what was missing in Jewish education in Boston. We saw that children with disabilities were excluded from the school system.”

That initial conversation led to a ten-year day school inclusion initiative, in partnership with CJP and Greater Boston’s Jewish day schools that has had a transformative impact. The Ruderman Family Foundation has become an international leader in raising awareness about the need for inclusion in the Jewish community, as well as funding and developing programs that help communities address this issue. With CJP, they have also partnered to create the phenomenally successful Transitions to Work employment training program for young adults with disabilities, and have launched the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Program.

 “The Ruderman family’s impact extends beyond the programs they fund and even beyond the awareness they’ve created. Jay stepped up at the last General Assembly event with Federations from across the country and almost singlehandedly restored inclusion to the list of American Jewish priorities,” says CJP President Barry Shrage.

“They’ve helped to develop a model for a whole new kind of philanthropy—one where funders are active partners with CJP, and with our community organizations. This collaborative approach increases the impact of foundations and is one of the main reasons that CJP is thriving—it’s because we’re working hand-in-hand with our foundations and donors, with our agencies and with the community. The Ruderman Foundation has taken a leading role in pioneering this approach and has also worked to spread the model throughout our sister Federations.”  

Want to learn more?

Visit our Related Links on this page to learn more about inclusion efforts in Boston’s Jewish community. CJP is working with schools, synagogues, partner agencies and employers to ensure that all are welcome, and everyone can participate in Jewish life.

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