|Posted by Mark on March 13, 2012 at 11:05 AM|
When speaking about The Davidson School to colleagues in the field, I often share that one of our main goals is to train and empower our students to be leaders and innovators, impacting the Jewish landscape by either transforming within existing Jewish institutions or by creating or enhancing new ones on their own. A prime example is Dori Kirshner (JTS Education 1996, before it was called the Davidson School), the Executive Director of Matan (matankids.org).
Matan advocates for inclusion, fairness and quality education for all Jewish youth, including those who may be fairly or unfairly labeled as children with special needs. On Sunday March 11th, I attended the keynote address of Matan's Institute for Synagogue Education Directors, who over two days will be trained to effectively address this important issue, creating communities where everyone feels welcome, acknowledged and supported. (Matan has also visited JTS this year twice to lead sessions on special needs education for The Graduate School's MSW/MA Jewish leadership program and Davidson's experiential education master's cohort).
Dori welcomed the institute calling this a "watershed moment" in Jewish Education. She then introduced the keynote speakers, Rabbi Artson from California and his son Jacob, a 19 year old Jewish teen with Autism. No embellishment, Jacob wrote one of the most compelling, intelligent, direct, pithy and inspirational keynote speeches I have heard, from anyone. He challenged all of us not to think of him as different or impaired or stupid, rather that we all have special needs, and each of us deserves to be fully a part of the Jewish community, without unfair labels, glaring stares from across the room, or pre-judgments. His father echoed his son with eloquence, passion and challenge for all of us to think broader, be more inclusive, create the kehilla for every Jew like we are commanded to do.
This morning represented a true transformation in the Jewish landscape, with Dori and her Matan Team leading the way. She credited her studies at JTS in her address, and we applaud her for her leadership, boldness, and drive to bring quality Jewish education to all Jews.
-Mark S. Young
(Above Dori Kirshner, JTS-Education 1996, the Executive Director of Matan)