Celebrating 18 Years Opening the Doors for Children with Special Needs

May 30, 2013 | Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit

It was a feel-good evening, filled with laughter, stories to share and recognition of accomplishments to celebrate. It was a night for families and friends, educators and advocates, all to support Federation’s nationally recognized program — “Opening the Doors.” Now in its 18th year, Opening the Doors supports Jewish education in 26 schools, annually serving nearly 1,000 students with diverse learning challenges.

With about 130 in attendance, the event featured speakers Richard Bernstein, activist well-known for his tireless advocacy for disabled rights, and Harlene Appelman, Executive Director of the Covenant Foundation and past director of Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education. Speaker introductions were given by Anita Naftaly, Founder of Opening the Doors Program.

In her opening remarks, Ellen Maiseloff, Associate Director of Opening the Doors, praised Naftaly for her “unique vision from the ground up” to serve children with learning disabilities and other challenges so they may participate in a Jewish education with their peers. “Our continued motivation for this program comes from the children who inspire us to open the doors wide as we recognize and celebrate their unique talents and abilities,” Maiseloff stated.

In recognition of their devoted service and generosity to the community and the Opening the Doors Program, Mary Must and Madelon and Lou Seligman were honored at the event as the first recipients of the Opening the Doors Make a Difference Award.

With special thanks: to Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation, sponsoring Doors to the Future Early Childhood Inclusion Program

With appreciation: to Edward I. Fleischman Foundation for underwriting the special educators at the event

Another note of thanks, in Celebration of  “Madrichim”

The Madrichim Leadership Institute, a program sponsored for the past three years through a grant from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit, has offered a leadership training program for high school students who work as congregational school classroom assistants to children with special needs.

In celebration of the school year’s end, the program staff, teens and parents gathered for an evening of fun and friendship with motivational speaker Jordan Levin and psychologist  Robyn Glickman.

Below is a sample of some of the “6 Word Memoirs” that participants wrote while creating memory cups and working together to build a captivating sculpture describing the program’s impact:

Everybody is special, just look closer!
Take a breath. Ask for help.
Learning together. We grow as one.
Learning together to make a difference.
Learning to accept other people’s differences

 

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