Sinai Schools, which provides personally tailored education to students with special needs in six day schools in New Jersey, is working with SAR Academy in Riverdale, N.Y., to establish a pilot program there.
The program, its founders say, will open in the fall of 2018, and at first will accept 6- to 8-year-olds with a wide range of developmental disabilities and complex learning challenges. The next year, if all goes according to plan, the school will expand
SAR, like the other schools that partner with Sinai, is a modern Orthodox day school. “Its philosophy and approach to education and inclusion makes them ideal partners for us at Sinai,” Sinai’s dean, Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Rothwachs, said.
“We are delighted to partner with Sinai,” Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, SAR’s principal, added. “Bringing Sinai to SAR will allow us to provide a place for the children of SAR families whom we currently are unable to serve. This new relationship directly reflects SAR’s educational goals, to foster a community of students who demonstrate sensitivity for their peers and an appreciation of the differences in others. We all have something to learn from one another. Everyone will benefit from our partnership — not only the students who need Sinai’s special education expertise, but our own SAR students as well.”
Sinai now works within two elementary schools, one at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in Teaneck and the other at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston. They both work with first- through eighth-graders who have a broad range of complex special needs. It also works with three high schools for students who have intellectual or developmental disabilities; they are the Torah Academy of Bergen County, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School, and Heichal HaTorah. All three schools are in Teaneck. Sinai also runs a high school at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston for college-bound high school students with complex learning disabilities, Aspergers, ADHD, and social or anxiety disorders.
In each of these schools, Sinai Schools basically sets up a school within the school. Its students are given programs that match their specific needs, including sophisticated art and music sessions. Sinai students are part of the larger school’s community; all ride the same buses, share playgrounds and lunchrooms. At times, particularly in Kushner High School, Sinai students go to classes with other Kushner students, although most of the time at most of the schools they do not.
Sinai is the only Jewish special education school to be accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, an independent agency that sets rigorous educational standards.
There is a huge pent-up demand for Sinai’s services, and each year brings new students with new needs who would flourish if they can be placed at the school. There is a particular demand from New York City and Westchester County; some students go to Sinai schools from there, and a few come from Connecticut, which is even farther away. “Sinai has doubled in size over the past seven years, to meet the ever-growing needs of the community,” Sinai’s managing director, Sam Fishman, said. “In fact, about 35 percent of our students live in New York City or Westchester. Our partnership with SAR will enable us to continue to grow to meet demand, and allow us to serve children who now live too far away to commute to our existing schools in New Jersey.
“It is my hope that Sinai at SAR will become an important resource within New York City and Westchester for families who have children with special needs,” he added.
“It is so exciting for us to work with Rabbi Krauss and his talented staff at SAR,” Rabbi Rothwachs said. “From our first conversation it was obvious that SAR and Sinai share fundamental similarities in how we approach education and inclusion. The success of our schools is intrinsically tied to the positive relationships we have with each of our partner schools, and I can see that this will be a wonderful partnership.”
For more information about Sinai Schools, go to www.sinaischools.org or call (201) 833-1134.