Council for Jews with Special Needs

Gesher Disability Resources, formerly Council For Jews With Special Needs, was founded in 1985 by two moms who wanted a Jewish lifestyle for their children with special needs.

Location: Scottsdale , AZ
Year founded: 1985

Description

Gesher Disability Resources, formerly the Council For Jews With Special Needs, mission is to support individuals with special needs and their families in the Jewish community to lead fuller lives. Gesher is the Hebrew word for bridge. It is our vision to create bridges to bring all communities together.

Gesher Disability Resources serves children and adults affected by a disability through inclusion assistance in the classroom, resource referral, residential support and social groups. Founded in 1985 as the Council For Jews With Special Needs, the agency now engages a larger percentage of the disability community than ever before and benefits more than 3,000 individuals through our events and services. We do this through inclusion in our community while providing quality programs that intertwine the worlds of the disabled and the typical.

The agency changed its name in 2017 to reflect more accurately who it is today. Gesher is the Hebrew word for “bridge” and it is our vision to create bridges that bring together all communities. Our mission is to support individuals with special needs and their families in the Jewish community to lead fuller lives. Gesher is eligible for Arizona’s dollar-for-dollar tax credit (tax id# 86-0626273).

Visit us online at gesherdr.org and follow us on Facebook.

Programs and Services:

  • Inclusion support in Jewish religious, day and pre-schools and camps
  • Teacher training and community education
  • Social groups for adults and children with differences
  • Simchat Shabbat monthly joyous and inclusionary service
  • Information and referral networking
  • Educational forums and workshops
  • Sign language interpreters for community events and/or religious services
  • Adult residential support with limited housing available

B'Nail Mitzvah - Special Needs Style

About

In 2002, a group of men and women all affected by disabilities gather together to study Torah and Jewish life. They were ready for their personal journey of becoming a Jewish adult, and our agency was with them every step of the way to see it through together. In 2020, Gesher Disability Resources will bring this same experience to another group who have not had the opportunity to become Jewish adults just yet. 

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Allow individuals with disabilities to become Jewish adults in a way that is right for them. 

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Program Description

Gesher Disability Resources is thrilled to assist young adults who have disabilities achieve the goal of becoming a B'nai Mitzvah. Once the group has been established, monthly classes will begin at The New Shul. Instructors will include Rabbi Elana Kanter, Stacy Rosenthal, RJE, and Ricki Light, M.Ed., along with other guest instructors. Each class will spend time learning Hebrew and learning teachings from the Torah. The ceremony will be designed with inclusion in mind, from the physical location to the words spoken (or not spoken). The individual disability will be assessed to determine the way each person can best participate. The culmination of the study will be a B'Nai Mitzvah service for the community followed by a great party. 

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Demonstrated Need

To date, there are 4 women, each in their 30s, whose parents individually asked Gesher if the agency could help their child become a Bat Mitzvah. Through initial conversations, we know there are more who would be eligible and willing to participate. Gesher will team up with local synagogues and disability organizations throughout the Valley for a "Call for Participants" outreach promotion of this new program. 

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Program Accomplishments

This is a new program for Gesher, but in 2002, there were 8 men and women for the B'nai Mitzvah. 


The agency has received numerous accolades since opening the agency doors in 1985. These include Belle Latchman Community Service Award in 2002 for Simchat Shabbat and again in 2018 for Community Model Seder. 


Gesher was recently voted Best Special Needs Shabbat by the JewishNews readers this year and for the second year in a row won Best Special Needs Programming. 

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How do you measure the success of your program?

Number of participants who stick with the program and become B'nai Mitzvah


Number of attendees at the culminating service


Number of families who hear about the service and ask if their child can be in the next session


Please note: Due to the nature of special needs learning many times being a longer process, the class size will be limited. The initial goal is to have a minion (10 participants) as long as that works for all participants.

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B'Nail Mitzvah - Special Needs Style

About

In 2002, a group of men and women all affected by disabilities gather together to study Torah and Jewish life. They were ready for their personal journey of becoming a Jewish adult, and our agency was with them every step of the way to see it through together. In 2020, Gesher Disability Resources will bring this same experience to another group who have not had the opportunity to become Jewish adults just yet. 

Back to Top

What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Allow individuals with disabilities to become Jewish adults in a way that is right for them. 

Back to Top

Program Description

Gesher Disability Resources is thrilled to assist young adults who have disabilities achieve the goal of becoming a B'nai Mitzvah. Once the group has been established, monthly classes will begin at The New Shul. Instructors will include Rabbi Elana Kanter, Stacy Rosenthal, RJE, and Ricki Light, M.Ed. Each class will spend some time learning Hebrew and learning teachings from the Torah. The ceremony will be designed with inclusion in mind, from the physical location to the words spoken (or not spoken). The individual disability will be assessed to determine the way each person can best participate. The culmination of the study will be a B'Nai Mitzvah service for the community followed by a great party. 

Back to Top

Demonstrated Need

To date, there are 4 women, each in their 30s, whose parents individually asked Gesher if the agency could help their child become a Bat Mitzvah. Through initial conversations, we know there are more who would be eligible and willing to participate. Gesher will team up with local synagogues and disability organizations throughout the Valley for a "Call for Participants" outreach promotion of this new program. 

Back to Top

Program Accomplishments

This is a new program for Gesher, but in 2002, there were 8 men and women for the B'nai Mitzvah. 

The agency has received numerous accolades since opening the agency doors in 1985. These include Belle Latchman Community Service Award in 2002 for Simchat Shabbat and again in 2018 for Community Model Seder. 

Gesher was recently voted Best Special Needs Shabbat by the JewishNews readers this year and for the second year in a row won Best Special Needs Programming. 

Back to Top

How do you measure the success of your program?

Number of participants who stick with the program and become B'nai Mitzvah

Number of attendees at the culminating service

Number of families who hear about the service and ask if their child can be in the next session

Please note: Due to the nature of special needs learning many times being a longer process, the class size will be limited. The initial goal is to have a minion (10 participants) as long as that works for all participants.

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Community Passover Seder for individuals with special needs

About

Council
for Jews with Special Needs (CJSN) is partnering with the Bureau of Jewish
Education of Greater Phoenix (BJE) to hold a community wide Passover Seder for
people with special needs.  This Seder is designed for the unique needs of individuals who have various disabilities.  With volunteer support from the BJE, we are going to be able to have typical members of the greater Phoenix area's Jewish community "buddy" with our members.


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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The mission of CJSN is to provide programs, services and resources that help all Jews with disabilities be fully included in Jewish communal life. The Passover Seder for individuals with disabilities is an excellent example of this. We plan to hold a Passover Seder and meal for fifty participants utilizing a specially written Haggadah for people with cognitive disabilities. The Gateways Haggadah is written in a way that appeals to people who find it difficult to participate in traditional Seders. The directions are clear, concise and easy to follow. The images are colorful, diverse and interesting for everyone. We believe that all Jews should be able to meaningfully participate in all Jewish Holidays.  By, planning a special and unique Seder that engages people who have been overlooked in the past, we stay true to our mission.

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Program Description

The Community Seder for individuals with special needs will be held at a congregation in Scottsdale that often partners with CJSN. We will begin with candle lighting and blessings.  We will than follow the order of the Seder using The Gateways Haggadah which utilizes Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbols along with other vivid images. Each of our participants will be paired up with a buddy who is not disabled. Matching those who have disabilities with those who do not, serves the purpose of reading assistance while promoting socialization. We will follow the Seder with a classic Passover meal.  We will finish with a Passover themed art project that the pairs complete together.

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Demonstrated Need

Disabilities touch a great deal of  lives in the United States. According to the
U.S. Census, 18.6% of Americans (approximately 1 in 5) have a disability. Many of those Americans are Jewish. Steinhardt
Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, found that an estimated 6.8
million Jews lived in the United States in 2012, constituting nearly 2.2
percent of the total population of the U.S. Of those,106,300 live in Arizona. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that
19,000 Jews with disabilities live in AZ.  For that reason, a Passover Seder with differentiated instruction tailored to the distinctive learning abilities for Jews with special needs is a welcome program in our area.

In addition,  a poll of 2,607 Jews conducted in September 2013 by RespectAbilityUSA. org and Jerusalem U shows that Jews feel very strongly that Jews with disabilities need to be included in Jewish life. CJSN has made the inclusion of all Jews, regardless of ability, into Jewish communal life our mission.



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Program Accomplishments


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How do you measure the success of your program?

We plan to measure the success of this program though both Quantitative and Qualitative measures.

Quantitative
measures:

1. 
Number of Council participants participating.

2. 
Number of typical volunteers from the
Bureau of Jewish Education participating.

Qualitative
measures:

1. 
Questionnaires/surveys where participants will be able to
rate their satisfaction with each outing.

2. 
One-on-one interviews with participants.


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Disability Education - Our Community Deserves It

About

Gesher Disability Resources and LimmudAZ are excited to partner for a second year and bring an incredible educational opportunity to our local community. Representatives from newly opened The Ed Asner Family Center in Los Angels http://edasnerfamilycenter.org/ will discuss family-wide assistance to those facing mental health challenges. 

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?


Mental Health is a growing problem in our nation and being able to talk about it in public is half the battle. 


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Program Description

For the second year, Gesher Disability Resources and LimmudAZ will be sharing the second weekend of February, which is Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month, to educate our community. In 2018, Steph "The Hammer" Hammerman shared her story of overcoming the adversities of being born with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and later battling cancer, through a healthy lifestyle and a career as the first Certified Crossfit Trainer with CP. 


For 2019, the topic will be mental health and the speakers will be from The Ed Asner Family Center with the hope that Ed Asner will be one of the speakers. Our community will have the opportunity to hear the presentation four times (2 public and 2 private).


  • Friday, February 8, 2019, during Gesher's 2nd Annual Community Luncheon
  • Friday, February 8, 2019, VIP Shabbat Dinner at one of Gesher's homes
  • Sunday, February 10, 2019, at one of LimmudAZ's morning presentations
  • Sunday, February 10, 2019, during LimmudKidz


Limmud is a worldwide movement that started in Great Britain in 1980 and has grown to include programs in multiple locations in Europe, The Americas, Africa, Asia & Australasia, Israel and the UK. When Rabbi Elana Kanter started the Women’s Jewish Learning Center in 2010, one of the main goals was to inspire more female leaders in our local Jewish community while at the same time bringing more Jewish education to Arizona. From this, LimmudAZ was born.


Limmud is the Hebrew word for “learning" - and that's what it's all about. Heading into its 5th year, LimmudAZ has quickly become a must attend conference in the Valley. This one-day event created solely by volunteers, allows individuals to craft their own Jewish experience, explore connections to Jewish ideas and tradition, and meet people who share the same curiosity and enthusiasm. And yes, plenty of snacks will always be available as well as a group lunch (following kosher dietary laws) because everyone needs to eat too!


This gathering of hundreds of Jews (over 400 in 2018) from all walks of life and lifestyles, all Jewish backgrounds and ages, offers a full schedule of workshops, discussions, arts, music, performances, and text-study sessions each led by an expert. In 2018 there were 54 presenters, some local but many taking the time to travel to Arizona from all over the United States. An exciting addition has been LimmudKidz where parents can drop off their children ages 5-10, so they can learn, create and enjoy the day too. Babysitting was also available for children ages 0-4.

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Demonstrated Need

Mental Illness is on the Rise in the U.S. for a Frustrating Reason


The Alarming Rise in Teen Mental Illness


Depression on the Rise Worldwide, says WHO


Hundreds of articles like these can be found illustrating the real challenges individuals and our community are faced with in regards to mental health. 

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Program Accomplishments

Being able to talk about mental health in public is an accomplishment in itself. Our goal is to start a support program for teens and/or adults to keep the conversations going. 

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How do you measure the success of your program?

Attendance is one of the greatest indicators of interest and support. Gesher Disability Resources' first community lunch had 110 attendees. LimmudAZ's 4th Annual Conference has more than 400 participants including 54 expert spekers and presenters. We see the speakers from The Ed Asner Family Center as a beginning to get the community engaged in talking about mental health that will lead to support group(s) with at least 10 participants. Additionally, exploring the possibility of bringing The Ed Asner Family Center to Phoenix will also take place. It is a much needed resource that our community deserves. 

Back to Top

Disability Education - Our Community Deserves It

About

Gesher Disability Resources and LimmudAZ are excited to partner for a second year and bring an incredible educational opportunity to our local community. Representatives from newly opened The Ed Asner Family Center in Los Angels http://edasnerfamilycenter.org/ will discuss family-wide assistance to those facing mental health challenges. 

Back to Top

What is the mission and purpose of this program?


Mental Health is a growing problem in our nation and being able to talk about it in public is half the battle. 


Back to Top

Program Description

For the second year, Gesher Disability Resources and LimmudAZ will be sharing the second weekend of February, which is Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month, to educate our community. In 2018, Steph "The Hammer" Hammerman shared her story of overcoming the adversities of being born with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and later battling cancer, through a healthy lifestyle and a career as the first Certified Crossfit Trainer with CP. 


For 2019, the topic will be mental health and the speakers will be from The Ed Asner Family Center with the hope that Ed Asner will be one of the speakers. Our community will have the opportunity to hear the presentation four times (2 public and 2 private).


  • Friday, February 8, 2019, during Gesher's 2nd Annual Community Luncheon
  • Friday, February 8, 2019, VIP Shabbat Dinner at one of Gesher's homes
  • Sunday, February 10, 2019, at one of LimmudAZ's morning presentations
  • Sunday, February 10, 2019, during LimmudKidz


Limmud is a worldwide movement that started in Great Britain in 1980 and has grown to include programs in multiple locations in Europe, The Americas, Africa, Asia & Australasia, Israel and the UK. When Rabbi Elana Kanter started the Women’s Jewish Learning Center in 2010, one of the main goals was to inspire more female leaders in our local Jewish community while at the same time bringing more Jewish education to Arizona. From this, LimmudAZ was born.


Limmud is the Hebrew word for “learning" - and that's what it's all about. Heading into its 5th year, LimmudAZ has quickly become a must attend conference in the Valley. This one-day event created solely by volunteers, allows individuals to craft their own Jewish experience, explore connections to Jewish ideas and tradition, and meet people who share the same curiosity and enthusiasm. And yes, plenty of snacks will always be available as well as a group lunch (following kosher dietary laws) because everyone needs to eat too!


This gathering of hundreds of Jews (over 400 in 2018) from all walks of life and lifestyles, all Jewish backgrounds and ages, offers a full schedule of workshops, discussions, arts, music, performances, and text-study sessions each led by an expert. In 2018 there were 54 presenters, some local but many taking the time to travel to Arizona from all over the United States. An exciting addition has been LimmudKidz where parents can drop off their children ages 5-10, so they can learn, create and enjoy the day too. Babysitting was also available for children ages 0-4.

Back to Top

Demonstrated Need

Mental Illness is on the Rise in the U.S. for a Frustrating Reason


The Alarming Rise in Teen Mental Illness


Depression on the Rise Worldwide, says WHO


Hundreds of articles like these can be found illustrating the real challenges individuals and our community are faced with in regards to mental health. 

Back to Top

Program Accomplishments

Being able to talk about mental health in public is an accomplishment in itself. Our goal is to start a support program for teens and/or adults to keep the conversations going. 

Back to Top

How do you measure the success of your program?

Attendance is one of the greatest indicators of interest and support. Gesher Disability Resources' first community lunch had 110 attendees. LimmudAZ's 4th Annual Conference has more than 400 participants including 54 expert spekers and presenters. We see the speakers from The Ed Asner Family Center as a beginning to get the community engaged in talking about mental health that will lead to support group(s) with at least 10 participants. Additionally, exploring the possibility of bringing The Ed Asner Family Center to Phoenix will also take place. It is a much needed resource that our community deserves. 

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Formal Dance for Individuals With Special Needs

About

The Council For Jews With Special Needs (CJSN) is requesting a grant to host a formal dance for adult individuals with special needs and volunteer buddies in the Metropolitan Phoenix area. This formal dance, hosted by CJSN is designed specifically with supports to meet the needs of adults with disabilities. Supports include, a dj that plays quieter and easier to dance to music, room lighting that is muted rather than dark, décor that isn't too "busy", photographers with experience working with people who have special needs, volunteers and trained facilitators who will engage the participants, we will also provide kosher snacks that are carefully chosen.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The CJSN Formal Dance for Individuals with Special Needs will enable adults who have lacked age-appropriate social opportunities in the past to enjoy the excitement, energy and fun that others in their age group enjoy on a regular basis. The program’s trained facilitators and volunteers will accompany the participants during the dance which will be hosted at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus (JCC). Participants and their families value the chance to socialize in the same manner as typical young adults. Our CJSN members have missed out on dances for people with disabilities hosted by other agencies because many are held on Friday nights, which is when our members spend time with their families for Shabbat. The CJSN Formal Dance for Individuals with Special Needs will be hosted on a Saturday evening allowing our members to socialize with their peers after sundown.

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Program Description

Our target population is adults with a variety of special needs who wish to experience the pleasure of attending a formal dance with their peers. The CJSN formal dance is designed with the specific needs of our participants in mind. The DJ plays an upbeat and easy to dance to playlist and keeps the lighting brighter than at mainstream dances. The trained facilitators and volunteer “buddies” keep the energy in the room up by engaging and encouraging participants to dance throughout the evening. The photographer is very patient while taking formal and informal pictures. The photo booth has a trained facilitator who is able to encourage all people to have fun while taking playful pictures that become keepsakes.

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Demonstrated Need

The CJSN Formal Dance for Individuals With Special Needs serves a target audience consisting of adults with special needs that enjoy socializing with their peers. Many of these adults have either never attended a formal dance or one designed with their needs in mind. The CJSN dance will be held on a Saturday evening allowing those who observe Shabbat to attend.

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Program Accomplishments

CJSN hosted a PROM in June of 2016 for adults with special needs. Approximately 60 people (25 current members and 35 community participants) attended our Saturday evening dance at the JCC. The participants and their care givers were delighted with this program. Many asked us to repeat it during spring 2017.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

We are measuring the success of our Formal Dance For Individuals With Special Needs by the following:

We will assess success through the following quantitative measures:

Number of individuals participating from CJSN

Number of individuals participating from the broader community

Number of volunteers participating.

Qualitative measures will include:

Questionnaires/surveys where participants will be able to rate their satisfaction with the dance.

Questionnaires/surveys where parents and staff will be able to rate their satisfaction with the dance.

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Formal Dance for Individuals With Special Needs

About

The Council For Jews With Special Needs (CJSN) is requesting a grant to host a formal dance for adult individuals with special needs and volunteer buddies in the Metropolitan Phoenix area. This formal dance, hosted by CJSN is designed specifically with supports to meet the needs of adults with disabilities. Supports include, a dj that plays quieter and easier to dance to music, room lighting that is muted rather than dark, décor that isn't too "busy", photographers with experience working with people who have special needs, volunteers and trained facilitators who will engage the participants, we will also provide kosher snacks that are carefully chosen.

Back to Top

What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The CJSN Formal Dance for Individuals with Special Needs will enable adults who have lacked age-appropriate social opportunities in the past to enjoy the excitement, energy and fun that others in their age group enjoy on a regular basis. The program’s trained facilitators and volunteers will accompany the participants during the dance which will be hosted at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus (JCC). Participants and their families value the chance to socialize in the same manner as typical young adults. Our CJSN members have missed out on dances for people with disabilities hosted by other agencies because many are held on Friday nights, which is when our members spend time with their families for Shabbat. The CJSN Formal Dance for Individuals with Special Needs will be hosted on a Saturday evening allowing our members to socialize with their peers after sundown.

Back to Top

Program Description

Our target population is adults with a variety of special needs who wish to experience the pleasure of attending a formal dance with their peers. The CJSN formal dance is designed with the specific needs of our participants in mind. The DJ plays an upbeat and easy to dance to playlist and keeps the lighting brighter than at mainstream dances. The trained facilitators and volunteer “buddies” keep the energy in the room up by engaging and encouraging participants to dance throughout the evening. The photographer is very patient while taking formal and informal pictures. The photo booth has a trained facilitator who is able to encourage all people to have fun while taking playful pictures that become keepsakes.

Back to Top

Demonstrated Need

The CJSN Formal Dance for Individuals With Special Needs serves a target audience consisting of adults with special needs that enjoy socializing with their peers. Many of these adults have either never attended a formal dance or one designed with their needs in mind. The CJSN dance will be held on a Saturday evening allowing those who observe Shabbat to attend.

Back to Top

Program Accomplishments

CJSN hosted a PROM in June of 2016 for adults with special needs. Approximately 60 people (25 current members and 35 community participants) attended our Saturday evening dance at the JCC. The participants and their care givers were delighted with this program. Many asked us to repeat it during spring 2017.

Back to Top

How do you measure the success of your program?

We are measuring the success of our Formal Dance For Individuals With Special Needs by the following:

We will assess success through the following quantitative measures:

Number of individuals participating from CJSN

Number of individuals participating from the broader community

Number of volunteers participating.

Qualitative measures will include:

Questionnaires/surveys where participants will be able to rate their satisfaction with the dance.

Questionnaires/surveys where parents and staff will be able to rate their satisfaction with the dance.

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Jewish Cultural Experiences for Children and Adults with Special Needs

About

The Council for Jews with Special Needs (CJSN) is
requesting a grant to provide Jewish Cultural experiences for
children and adults with special needs and their same age peer buddies
(modeling age appropriate behavior).  We will offer hands-on experiential
programing focused on sharing the essential elements of Jewish Culture in ways
that are meaningful to participants with intellectual disabilities, attention
deficits, communication issues and other special needs that preclude attending
and benefiting from typical Jewish Culture celebrations. We anticipate
approximately 50 participants meeting six times per year to enjoy Jewish communal life.


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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The mission of CJSN is to provide programs, services and resources that help all Jews with disabilities and their families fulfill their spiritual, cultural and religious needs.  The Jewish Cultural Experiences for children and adults with special needs is a wonderful way for CJSN to stay true to our mission and include all Jews regardless of cognitive ability in Jewish communal life.  We plan to meet with typical buddies from Metropolitan Phoenix Jewish groups a  minimum of six times throughout the Jewish Calendar year to participate in hands-on programming designed for the unique needs of CJSN participants.

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Program Description

“Look not at the container but what is within it.” - Pirke Avot 4:27. The challenges presented by a person’s disability should not be an impediment to nurturing the neshama or soul within each of us. Experiencing Jewish culture is an integral part of Judaism that typical people take for granted. The program CJSN is proposing would allow our social group members to have the same opportunities to experience the cultural aspects of Judaism that their peers experience. The individuals we serve require special accommodations for their learning styles, language differences and attention span.

There are three main goals that we hope to achieve by offering Jewish culture experiences to children and adults with special needs.

  1. Provide individuals with special needs the opportunity to experience Jewish Culture through a multi-sensory approach that is accessible and meaningful for everyone, regardless of their unique challenges. Some examples of programs we are planning to offer:

    •  Challah making with experienced challah bakers
    •  Shofar making workshop with a rabbi
    •  Olive Oil and matzo making in partnership with the Bureau of Jewish Education of Phoenix
    •  Mezuzah and dreidel making with an art teacher
    •  Hamantaschen baking and Purim program
    •  Kosher Pickle making workshop


  1. Offer Council participants the chance to experience and appreciate the communal aspects of Jewish culture, including Shabbat, with their non-disabled peers and families.

  2. Partner with local Jewish organizations, such as BBYO, to give typical Jewish people opportunities to volunteer their time and “make a difference” in the lives of Jews with special needs.


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Demonstrated Need

Disabilities touch a great deal of  lives in the United States. According to the U.S. Census, 18.6% of Americans (approximately 1 in 5) have a disability. Many of those Americans are Jewish. Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University, found that an estimated 6.8 million Jews lived in the United States in 2012, constituting nearly 2.2 percent of the total population of the U.S. Of those,106,300 live in Arizona. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that 19,000 Jews with disabilities live in AZ.

A nationwide poll fielded by RespectAbility of more than 3,800 Americans in the disability community (half of whom were people with disabilities, and half were family members and providers to PwDs) shows that Jews with disabilities are far less engaged religiously than are Catholics, Protestants, or Evangelicals. For this reason, CJSN is passionate about our mission of helping all Jews discover the joys of Jewish communal life.



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Program Accomplishments

CJSN
has been the recipient of the Belle Latchman Community Service Award six times
for enhancing the quality of Jewish life in Metropolitan Phoenix.


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How do you measure the success of your program?

Quantitative measures:

1.  Number of Council members participating.

2.  Number of typical volunteers from Phoenix area Jewish groups.

Qualitative measures:

1.  Questionnaires/surveys where participants will be able to rate their satisfaction with each program.

2.  One-on-one interviews with participants.


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Resource in the Classroom

About

Background: Three years ago, our agency was asked to help some struggling students at the local Jewish day schools with their homework and state testing. Agency employees who held degrees in special education teaching and early childhood development did this work and recognized some signs of why the students may have been having troubles. They suggested evaluations from the school district since by state law that is a free service. From those evaluations, learning challenges were identified.

“Resource in the Classroom” program originated because the local school districts are only required to conduct the evaluation and offer services within the district. They are not required to provide services in alternative schools, which is what a Jewish day school would be labeled. This presents a huge challenge to families not only logistically (providing their own transportation), but if they want their child to receive a Hebrew/Jewish education as well. Gesher Disability Resources Student Support Specialist spends time at the Jewish day school with the students in small group settings or one-on-one. The student’s day is modified by the school director, teachers, and parents so that it includes resource instruction that enhances the secular education while not impeding religious instruction.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Purpose of the “Resource in the Classroom” program is to allow families with children who have been identified as having learning challenges a choice in their education.

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Program Description

The Resource
in the Classroom program consists of creating an individualized plan and goals
for the students who have been identified as having a special need or learning
challenge. We determine what their academic needs are and the best services or
solutions to meet those needs. Some students receive suggestions for being more
productive in the classroom that may include certain accommodations made by the
teacher. Other times students are taken out of the classroom for more intensive
one-to-one or small group instruction. Collaborating with teachers on
curriculum and assignments is important as well. Regular progress is reported including
quantitative and qualitative data to provide measurements of success for the
individual student.

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Demonstrated Need

Students
were failing and it didn’t take an expert to see that. The partnership that
Gesher Disability Resources has with the local Jewish day schools and
preschools allows us to be top of mind when a teacher talks with the school
director looking for solutions. Our student support specialist comes to the
school to work with the students which means there is less disruption of the
student’s school day schedule. This program provides special education services
in a private school setting that traditionally were not offered or available. This
means families are not limited to a certain school. They can celebrate and
learn about Judaism while receiving the services they need all at the same educational
facility.

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Program Accomplishments

Over the years, our professionals have seen individualized student goals being mastered, average grades increased, and students’ frustration decreased. Additionally, student confidence and self-esteem has improved. With the proper accommodations and modifications, they are experiencing academic success. Feedback from parents and classroom teachers has been positive and they are thankful for the added support.

Testimonials from participants in this year’s program:
Teacher: “I appreciate all your hard work. I enjoyed working with you.”

Student: “Thank you for helping me with math problems. I like using the computer with you and you helped me with my spelling tests.”

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How do you measure the success of your program?

Measuring success is important to prove the program is working and to see happy students. The process includes:

  • Written Goals - progress notes, data (qualitative and quantitative) and grades
  • Feedback from families and school administration (interviews, open-ended questions, observations)

This year academic software was incorporated that students said they really enjoyed using. When the reports were run after 5 months of use, there was an 80% increase in number of words learned – Recourse in the Classroom works!

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Resource in the Classroom

About

Background: Three years ago, our agency was asked to help some struggling students at the local Jewish day schools with their homework and state testing. Agency employees who held degrees in special education teaching and early childhood development did this work and recognized some signs of why the students may have been having troubles. They suggested evaluations from the school district since by state law that is a free service. From those evaluations, learning challenges were identified.

“Resource in the Classroom” program originated because the local school districts are only required to conduct the evaluation and offer services within the district. They are not required to provide services in alternative schools, which is what a Jewish day school would be labeled. This presents a huge challenge to families not only logistically (providing their own transportation), but if they want their child to receive a Hebrew/Jewish education as well. Gesher Disability Resources Student Support Specialist spends time at the Jewish day school with the students in small group settings or one-on-one. The student’s day is modified by the school director, teachers, and parents so that it includes resource instruction that enhances the secular education while not impeding religious instruction.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Purpose of the “Resource in the Classroom” program is to allow families with children who have been identified as having learning challenges a choice in their education.

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Program Description

The Resource
in the Classroom program consists of creating an individualized plan and goals
for the students who have been identified as having a special need or learning
challenge. We determine what their academic needs are and the best services or
solutions to meet those needs. Some students receive suggestions for being more
productive in the classroom that may include certain accommodations made by the
teacher. Other times students are taken out of the classroom for more intensive
one-to-one or small group instruction. Collaborating with teachers on
curriculum and assignments is important as well. Regular progress is reported including
quantitative and qualitative data to provide measurements of success for the
individual student.

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Demonstrated Need

Students
were failing and it didn’t take an expert to see that. The partnership that
Gesher Disability Resources has with the local Jewish day schools and
preschools allows us to be top of mind when a teacher talks with the school
director looking for solutions. Our student support specialist comes to the
school to work with the students which means there is less disruption of the
student’s school day schedule. This program provides special education services
in a private school setting that traditionally were not offered or available. This
means families are not limited to a certain school. They can celebrate and
learn about Judaism while receiving the services they need all at the same educational
facility.

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Program Accomplishments

Over the years, our professionals have seen individualized student goals being mastered, average grades increased, and students’ frustration decreased. Additionally, student confidence and self-esteem has improved. With the proper accommodations and modifications, they are experiencing academic success. Feedback from parents and classroom teachers has been positive and they are thankful for the added support.

Testimonials from participants in this year’s program:
Teacher: “I appreciate all your hard work. I enjoyed working with you.”

Student: “Thank you for helping me with math problems. I like using the computer with you and you helped me with my spelling tests.”

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How do you measure the success of your program?

Measuring success is important to prove the program is working and to see happy students. The process includes:

  • Written Goals - progress notes, data (qualitative and quantitative) and grades
  • Feedback from families and school administration (interviews, open-ended questions, observations)

This year academic software was incorporated that students said they really enjoyed using. When the reports were run after 5 months of use, there was an 80% increase in number of words learned – Recourse in the Classroom works!

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Special Needs Community Seder

About

Gesher Disability Resources, formerly the Council For Jews With Special Needs, seeks funding to host their third Special Needs Community Seder. This special event is open to individuals with disabilities and volunteer buddies. The date will be a week before Passover to allow attendees to practice being part of a Seder as well as realize what to expect should they attend a Seder with their family. A kosher lunch will be served, but it will not be kosher for Passover. To keep the afternoon fun, there will be singing and an art project that each member can take home.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The purpose of this program is to allow those who may not otherwise have a chance to attend Seder participate in the fun and traditions.

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Program Description

There will be a ratio of 1:1 volunteer to member who will stay together creating an art project, reaching through the Haggadah, trying the dishes on the Seder plate, and then dining together with a kosher, but not kosher for Passover luncheon. Everyone benefits from celebrating this wonderful time in Jewish history together.

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Demonstrated Need

Target audience is children and adult with special needs who may not otherwise attend a Seder for the year. The timing of the service is faster, and the necessity to sit and listen is lifted. Just like our Simchat Shabbat monthly services, this Seder is meant to be Joyous, "no-shush", interactive, inclusive and most of all fun!

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Program Accomplishments

This is the only community-wide special needs Seder in the Valley.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

We measure our success in the following ways:

1. Number
of people with disabilities we serve in our social groups

2. The
level of satisfaction that our members have with our services

3. The
amount of members who participate in our groups year after year.

4. The
number and consistency of volunteers.

5.
Recommendations to new/potential members from established families and
volunteers.

Our first Seder, in 2016, was very successful as we had more participants than our goal and everyone said they loved it and will come back for the next year.

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