Raising young children comes with its fair share of challenges (looking at you, bed time) and families with children who have special needs and disabilities face challenges that most parents can’t even begin to understand. Fortunately, for New Jersey parents in Essex, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Union counties there are 13 local Jewish organizations that provide programs and services for families with children who have special needs and disabilities. These 13 organizations make up a consortium called Greater MetroWest ABLE and their mission is to help parents and families by:
Finding appropriate, inclusive opportunities for children to connect with the Jewish community and with other Jewish kids.
Connecting Jewish parents and caregivers with each other for support and guidance.
Helping teens in search of opportunities for socialization
Providing educators with training and professional resources
Rebecca Wanatick, Greater MetroWest ABLE’s Coordinator is available for one-on-one meetings with parents and caregivers of children with special needs to help them access Jewish community resources such as preschools, religious schools, synagogues, summer camps, and other recreational programs.
She is also available to connect parents with monthly support groups for moms and caregivers and sibling support groups. Parents can also be paired with experienced, volunteer parent mentors who can provide emotional support and information based upon their own parenting experiences in similar situations. For more information on all of these opportunities contact metrowestABLE@jfedgmw.org or call (973) 929-3129.
All of the Jewish preschools in the area strive to accommodate children of all abilities. To help find a preschool that is the right fit for your child, schedule an individual consultation with Rebecca or with Leemor Ellman, Director of Empowerment of Families with Young Children.
Rebecca is available to work with families and with local synagogues and Hebrew schools to create accessible, inclusive environments that accommodate the needs of all types of learners. There are also several specialized programs in the area that provide Jewish educational experiences for children with special needs and disabilities.
Adath Shalom – Journey Program
841 Mountain Way, Morris Plains
Provides students with personalized plans ranging from mainstreaming with a shadow to one-on-one Hebrew lessons for either one or two days per week. Special education teacher available for additional support.
Temple Emanu-El of Westfied – Ma’ayan
756 East Broad Street, Westfield
Specialized program for children with special needs taught by a certified special education teacher. Small group and individualized instruction are used to prepare for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Affiliation with the synagogue is not required.
Temple Har Shalom – Open Door
104 Mt Horeb Road, Warren
Sunday morning learning program for children whose learning needs cannot be met in a mainstream classroom. Students receive differentiated instruction through a multi-sensory program including music, art, cooking, movement, and socialization.
Temple Sholom – Al Pi Darco
1925 Lake Avenue, Scotch Plains
Families work with synagogue staff to create an individualized Jewish education model appropriate for their child. Models vary from small group and partial integration to one-one one classroom support with trained volunteers or special needs professionals.
Morristown Jewish Center Beit Yisrael – Yad B’Yad
177 Speedwell Avenue, Morristown
Sunday morning program for children ages 3 – 7 years with special needs including individualized instruction with a certified special needs teacher. Synagogue membership is not required.
SINAI Elementary at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, New Jersey offers highly individualized programming and therapeutic services within a Jewish day school environment. SINAI students are fully integrated into the school community, riding the bus, eating lunch, and playing at recess and gym together.
The Arrowsmith Program at the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, is an individualized, supplemental, pull out program for students with mild to severe learning disabilities and children who feel challenged by learning.
The following local Jewish day schools have special educators on staff and inclusive classrooms.
Many area synagogues have accessible bimahs, large print, books, assistive listening devices, and specialized Bar/Bat Mitzvah programs. For a detailed listing of synagogues and accommodations provided, click here.
The following synagogues hold monthly Shabbat programs that are uniquely designed to support individuals with disabilities. For a current schedule of services, click here:
B’nai Shalom, West Orange
Minyan Meyuchad – A monthly Shabbat service, lunch and extended program for teens and adults with developmental disabilities
Congregation Adath Shalom, Morris Plains
Open Door Minyan – a Shabbat service, kiddush and extended program for teens and adults with developmental disabilities.
Temple Beth Shalom, Livingston
Shabbat L’Khulam (A Shabbat For Everyone) – an interactive Shabbat service for children and their families.
Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah, Clark – a monthly Shabbat morning experience for adults with special needs including worship and a Kiddush luncheon.
Congregation B’nai Israel, Millburn
Yaldeinu – A Shabbat program for children, teens, and adults with special needs.
Jewish Day & Overnight Camps
There are a variety of camp options for children with special needs and disabilities ranging from full inclusion programs, inclusion with separate living, self-contained programs within a larger camp setting, and vocational education.
The following local day camps offer full inclusion for campers:
Camp Deeny Riback, Flanders
Camp Yachad, Scotch Plains
JCC MetroWest Exploration Camp, West Orange
The Babysitter Training Program provides teens in grades 8 – 12 with up to 15 hours of specialized training, including six hours of pediatric CPR and first aid, which provides them with the skills needed to babysit for children with special needs. A list of local teens who have completed the program and are available for babysitting is available through the Greater MetroWest ABLE office.
The MetroWest Madrichim Advocate Training Program trains teens in grades 8 – 12 to provide one-on-one support for children with special needs attending Hebrew school or recreational programs in the Jewish community, allowing them to be full participants in the program. Contact the office for more information.
Teacher Training & Lending Library
Opportunities are available for early childhood educators to receive subsidized training and coaching from local psychologists and social workers. Support for area religious schools is provided through consultations and educational workshops. A resource library is also available with films, books, and training materials on the subject of inclusion. Contact the Greater MetroWest ABLE office for more information.
The 13 agencies that serve children and families in the Greater MetroWest ABLE network include:
Daughters of Israel (adult services)
JCC of Central NJ
Jewish Community Center MetroWest
Jewish Family Service of Central NJ
Jewish Family Service of MetroWest
Jewish Vocational Service
JESPY (teen and adult services)
Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled (teen and adult services)
Joint Chaplaincy Committee of Greater MetroWest
The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life
YM-YWHA of Union County