As leaders in the Atlanta Jewish day school community, we add our collective voices to the conversation initiated by the publishing of the personal story of a local family titled “Day Schools, Special Needs and Morality” in the Feb. 24 Jewish Times.
Our hearts go out to this family and the many others in our community who face such difficult challenges. As educators and caring Jewish communal leaders, we share a desire to serve all those in need in our community. At the same time, we also recognize that every child is unique and will follow an individual growth trajectory.
While each school has its own mission and offers a range of services that support diverse learning styles and needs, no one school can be ideal for every child. We have a professional responsibility to ensure that we strive to meet the needs of as many Jewish children as possible in our community and at the same time to acknowledge when other schools or programs may be better able to serve a particular child’s needs and help that child reach his or her potential.
It is a challenging balance between our desire to stretch to serve more children and our moral and professional obligation to admit when what is best for the student is beyond our current capacity.
The dialogue around inclusion in the Jewish community is ongoing on the local and national levels. Here in Atlanta, we are working with leadership across our diverse Jewish community, led by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, to explore greater opportunities to meet the needs of those with disabilities and their families. In addition to the day school environment, this includes each aspect of Jewish life: religious schools, preschools, synagogues, day camps, overnight camps, young adult programs, athletics, the arts and more.
While each school, synagogue, organization and agency may currently serve those with disabilities and learning challenges in its own way, we are committed to continuing our work together with collective energy to expand and improve on these opportunities.
Community challenges require community conversations, and we are all dedicated to being engaged in that discussion.
This letter was submitted by Rabbi Ari Leubitz, head of school, Atlanta Jewish Academy; Rabbi Michoel Druin, head of school, Chaya Mushka Children’s House; Amy Shafron, head of school, the Davis Academy; David Abusch-Magder, head of school, the Epstein School; and Rabbi Elimelech Gottlieb, head of school, Torah Day School of Atlanta.