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Pushing the Inclusion Envelope

We appreciate your recognizing Gateways: Access to Jewish Education’s work in the field of inclusion in Jewish education in your article “Kids With Special Needs To Get N.Y. School Of Their Own” (Jan. 18).

Gateways — with generous support from the Ruderman Family Foundation and the CJP (Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston) — provides high-quality special-education services, expertise and support to enable students with diverse learning needs to succeed in Jewish educational settings and participate meaningfully in Jewish life. Among our programs, we provide services, consultations and professional development in 10 area day schools. Because of the range of services (e.g. speech-language therapy, occupational therapy) and expertise we offer, we are able to broaden the range of students who can successfully participate in Jewish day schools in inclusive settings. For example, we have a fourth-grade student at Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon, Mass., with Down syndrome who is fully included, with an array of services provided by Gateways in partnership with the school.

We have pushed the envelope on inclusion — but we also understand that not all students can be successful in an inclusive classroom, which is why we also offer stand-alone options. As Boston’s regional agency for Jewish special education, we also run our own stand-alone Sunday program and b’nei mitzvah program for students with more severe learning needs for whom the day school option is not viable, as well as consultation and support to 22 preschools and 35 congregational and community Jewish education programs in the Boston area.

Yasher koach [congratulations] to Ilana Ruskay-Kidd. We would love to see more initiatives like hers to include all Jewish children and their families who all too often are excluded from the Jewish narrative.

Executive Director, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education Newton, Mass.

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