Category Archives: Special Needs

5 Things To Do This Week in Baltimore

Check out these great events for the whole family sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Christopher O’Riley – Out Of My Hands
Saturday, December 6, 8:00 p.m.
Gordon Center for Performing Arts

Imagine hearing the famous rock tunes of REM, Nirvana and Pink Floyd transformed into contemporary classical masterpieces. Christopher O’Riley, recognized as one of the leading American pianists of his generation and host of the popular NPR music program, From the Top, introduces Baltimore audiences to the next generation of classical music stars. Enjoy his renditions of the music of Radiohead, Portishead, Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, Tears for Fears and Elliott Smith. Sponsored by the Peggy and Yale Gordon Trust, tickets are $28 in advance; $32 at the door. For information, go to

Priceless Dress Exchange
Sunday, December 7, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Mitchell David Teen Center
A large selection of ‘brand new, with tags’ special occasion dresses from a well-known boutique has been received and we are GIVING THEM AWAY to teen girls who are looking to save some money this B’nai Mitzvah season. Event is held in conjunction with CHANA.
For information, go to

A Family Chanukah with Joanie Leeds
Sunday, December 7, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus

It’s Downtown Dollar Day and families can get into the Chanukah mood with a rocking family Chanukah concert featuring Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights! Your family will sing and dance to the music of this gifted children’s musician, whose albums include City Kid, Parent’s choice award-winner, and I’m a Rock Star. Then create a handmade Chanukah-themed craft.
For information, go to

Community Screening of Beneath the Helmet
Monday, December 8, 7:00 p.m.
Beth Tfiloh Rosen Arts Center
Take yourself inside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for the Baltimore premier of Beneath the Helmut, a documentary film that explores the intimate journey of young Israelis as they prepare to defend their country at any cost. Following the film, Lt. (res.) Aviv Regev, featured in Beneath the Helmet, will join former IDF soldiers who served in elite combat units, for a panel discussion.
Tickets are $5 for adults and free for students with ID. Reservations are required as seating is limited. Event is held in conjunction with Beth Tfiloh and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

5 People Skills Every Child Needs to Learn
Monday, December 8, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Edward A. Myerberg Center

Is your child painfully shy or a tad rambunctious? Does he or she have trouble making friends? Do you need tools to teach them how to resolve an argument with a best friend?
If so, this program is for you. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, psychologist and writer, whose articles have appeared in Parents magazine and the Huffington Post, will share “5 People Skills Every Child Needs to Learn.”
Program is presented by SHEMESH. A $5 donation is suggested. Go to for more information.



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5 Things To Do This Week in Baltimore

Check out these great events for the whole family sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Sunday, November 2
3:00 p.m.
8th Annual CineFest: Harbour of Hope
Gordon Center for Performing Arts

Join us for the Maryland premier of this heartbreaking but life-affirming documentary about the unbelievable life stories of three Holocaust survivors. Harbour of Hope tells the story of Irene, Ewa and Joe, who were among the nearly 30,000 survivors that were rescued from German concentration camps and sent to the peaceful harbor town of Malmö, Sweden.
Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door, $5 student rush ticket. For information, go to

Tuesday, November 4
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
School’s Out: Make Your Voice Count
Jewish Museum of Maryland

School’s out for Election Day so bring your children to a special program filled with interactive tours and hands-on activities to inspire a deeper understanding of citizenship. Visitors will enjoy a scavenger hunt in the Museum’s permanent exhibit, “Voices of Lombard Street,” meet Ida Rehr, a Ukrainian immigrant to Baltimore in the early 20th century, through the Leo V. Berger Immigrant’s Trunk Living History Performance (11:00 a.m.) and enjoy story time with PJ Library.For more information, go to

Wednesday, November 5
8:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Support Group for Parents of Children with Attention Issues
CHAI Conference Room
SHEMESH has partnered with CHADD of Greater Baltimore to present “ADHD and its Impact on the WHOLE Family.” The free program will feature Dr. Jean Hinlicky, a child psychiatrist in private practice who also consults for the Kennedy-Krieger Institute. She will talk about new ideas and approaches for how the family can best navigate this challenging issue. To register, call Gila Haor at or call 410-843-7588.

Thursday, November 6
10:00 a.m. or 7:00 p.m.
Talk Camp, Drink Coffee & S’more
Dunkin Donuts in Owings Mills Boulevard Shopping Center
camp 2

Second graders to high school seniors – there’s a camp experience for your child. Stop by the Dunkin Donuts in Owings Mills and sit down with Janna Zuckerman of The Center for Jewish Camping for a chance to learn about Jewish camp programs around the country and discuss what options best fit your family’s needs. For information, go to

Thursday, November 6
Pre-Reception, 5:30 p.m.; Program, 6:30 p.m.
One Sole Can Make A Difference
Temple Oheb Shalom

Jane Weitzman

Jane Weitzman, former executive vice president of Stuart Weitzman, founding vice president of Stuart Weitzman Retail and author of Art and Sole, will speak about her book, community and philanthropy. Weitzman spearheaded philanthropy for the company by generating funds to support breast and ovarian cancer research and awareness. Cost is $30 per person for program, $50 per person for pre-reception, program and book. For information, go to


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Preparing for A New School Year

back to school blog

By Rachel Turniansky
Coordinator of Special Needs Programming
Macks Center for Jewish Education

For some parents the end of the summer is the most wonderful time of the year. For others it’s a bittersweet time where the low-key routine of sleeping in a bit and unplanned fun slips away into the hustle and bustle of the routine of back to school. For families with special needs this time can be one of anxiety for parents as well as children.

The start of the school year coincides with the start of the new Jewish year. Many similar themes can be expressed as we get ready to start another year of learning. The start of the Jewish year is a time of reflecting on the past and thinking ahead. The new school year is the chance for a fresh start full of potential. With simple planning and a few tips, the transition can be smoother.

Start with a positive attitude. The new school year is one of possibilities. Even if you know there will be challenges, try to project an air of hopefulness and positive anticipation to your child. Talk about all the great things to look forward to.

Take care of business. Review back-to-school packets. Take care of forms or tasks as early as you can so as to avoid any last-minute scrambling. Buy school supplies early. Checking off items on the list can be a fun way to stir up enthusiasm for the first day of school.

Establish an open line of communication with your child’s school and teachers. Set the stage for working as a team. Arrange a conversation with the teacher(s) to let them know as much about your child as you can. Not only does this give valuable information to the teacher, it lets him/her know that you’re an active, involved parent who is willing to be a strong partner.

Visit the school before classes begin. If you can arrange for your child to meet with the teacher, even for a short time, that would be ideal. If your child is starting a new school or even a new classroom, this will give your child the chance to have a mental image of the physical space. If it’s not possible, set aside time to drive past the building so your child has some frame of reference.

Social stories can be a great way to set the stage for a smooth start to the school year. Social stories are written by parents and/or teachers to describe social situations and help children understand what to expect in unknown situations. For more information about writing and using social stories, see  You can also find books about going back to school and include them in your regular summer reading routine.

Arrange play dates with classmates. If your child will be returning to school with old friends, this can be a way to get him/her excited about going back to school. If s/he will be meeting new classmates, and you can meet them before class starts, it can be a great way to support a new friendship.

Ease back into structure if your summer has featured a relaxed daily routine. It’s a good idea to get back into a more structured schedule before the first day of school. Wake up a little earlier and stick to a consistent bedtime routine. Create a visual schedule for the morning routine by using pictures, icons and photographs to show your child what steps s/he needs to get done each morning.

Create a family calendar for all to see with everyone’s events marked: back-to-school night, first day of school, etc. Using this visual aid can cut down on chaos. Take the opportunity to look at a Jewish calendar and talk about how the cycle of holidays works throughout the school calendar. Making a family calendar a useful tool throughout the year can be a lifesaver.

Set up the environment to make things run as smoothly as possible. Select a spot to keep backpacks, lunch boxes, coats and shoes to avoid scrambling around in the morning. Check to make sure school clothes from last year fit. Even if last year’s clothes fit, getting a few new items can give your child something else to look forward to. You and your child can take the opportunity to say the Shechianu blessing, a tradition when wearing new clothes.

The night before the first day, plan ahead. Set the breakfast table as you clear the dinner dishes, and plan what breakfast foods will be served. Have the kids lay out their clothes the night before. Make lunches the night before. Leave plenty of extra time in the morning to start the day off on a calm note and allow for any last minute things that might come up. Keep that first week of school simple, both at home and work, to allow for flexibility and make things more relaxed.

Get involved in your child’s school. Volunteering can be a way to develop a good relationship with the teachers and staff as well as building connections between school and home. It’s another way to show your child that you care about his/her learning environment.

Extracurricular activities can be a great opportunity to have fun, learn new skills and develop social skills in a low stress setting outside of the classroom. Choose one or two worthwhile activities. Shared experiences with friends and classmates can help maintain interest in the activity and build connections that deepen the friendship.

Whether it’s the first day of school or the last, one of the most important keys to success is open communication between home and school, as well as between you and your child. By building a relationship and working together towards the same goal, the year ahead will be sure to be one of not just learning, but real growth.

Learn about CJE’s special needs educational programming.


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One Gift Reaches Thousands

By Michael Hoffman
Chief Planning and Strategy Officer

We may not agree on everything, but we can all agree on this: We are part of a special community, and The Associated is the gateway to supporting the needs of the entire community – from baby to bubbie. The Associated is committed to being as efficient and effective as possible, maximizing the limited human and financial resources for the overall benefit of our community. We bring together Jews from across the spectrum – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, secular and everyone in between – to help one another live better lives in Baltimore, in Israel and around the world.

This year, with the help of our donors, The Associated distributed $47.2 million in total resources to support efforts that strengthen Jewish life here in Baltimore and overseas. These resources are anchored by the power of the unrestricted Annual Campaign which raised $30 million. Thanks to the stability of these resources, we will once again to be able to provide our local and overseas agencies with 100 percent funding so that they can continue to provide meaningful services to our fellow community members in need. Here in Baltimore, we have much to be proud of. This year’s accomplishments ensured that next year’s funding plan continues to be a safety net for everyone in our community. And it was.

We pioneered care for the vulnerable

senior nnc
CHAI’s Northwest Neighbors Connecting (NNC) continued to develop a diverse, interdependent community in northwest Baltimore City and is now one of the fastest-growing villages in the country with over 175 members in its first year.

We invested in our youth

Jewish summer camps are an immersive way to ignite positive Jewish memory and lasting Jewish living for our children. Understanding the powerful potential of summer experiences, we launched the Center for Jewish Camping to build excitement and participation in Jewish day and overnight camps.

We deepened Jewish life

The active participation of Baby Boomers in Jewish life became a priority. Baby Boomers have the time, resources and drive for meaningful, active life that can benefit the community and themselves. We convened the Baby Boomer Task Force which identified volunteer service as an opportunity for significant engagement. Looking forward, Jewish Volunteer Connection will develop strategies to connect these skilled Baby Boomers with specific community needs.

We developed a global peoplehood

global peoplehood
For more than 20 years, the Baltimore-Odessa Partnership has advanced the revitalization of Jewish life in Odessa and built personal connections between our two communities. This year, our support was critical as we rushed to the aid of the Jewish community in our sister city. By making funds immediately available to our overseas partners and raising additional funds from our community, we were able to add heightened security measures for Jewish institutions across Ukraine and provide a much needed life line to the vulnerable in Odessa.

These are just a small sampling of all of the wonderful projects, initiatives and efforts that happened right here in Jewish Baltimore. The need is real and so is your power to make a difference. Together we are creating a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community – day by day and from generation to generation. Whether it’s providing care for the vulnerable, investing in our youth, enriching the quality of Jewish live or deepening our sense of global peoplehood, The Associated exists so you can give – and receive – meaningfully.

To read our 2013-2014 Report to the Community that includes the full FY14 Funding Plan, click here.

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Filed under Families, Israel & Overseas, Philanthropy, Seniors, Social Services, Special Needs, Uncategorized, Volunteering & Advocacy, Women, Young Adults

Live and Learn: Summer Tips from SHEMESH


The famous song says, “summertime and the living is easy,” but that’s not always the case. While most of us are shifting our focus from school, homework, carpools and academic stress to thoughts of a more relaxed day and some real vacation time, every parent of a child with learning differences knows that worry and concern NEVER take a break:

“My son needs to unwind and I want to help him with it. At the same time, I’m concerned that he’ll lose some of his academic gains over the summer. How do I walk that tightrope between getting a break and maintaining skills?”

“My daughter has been counting the minutes for school to end. Her anxiety level goes down immediately and it’s great that she’s taking a breather. I don’t have the heart to give her summer academic work. What should I do?”

There are so many possibilities to provide our children with learning experiences that don’t feel like school! For starters, sign up for the SHEMESH Summer Workshop Series for Parents.

There’s a two-part session about executive functioning, helping your child learn how to manage time and materials. On July 2 and July 16, Sarah Ottensoser, the SHEMESH executive functioning coach, will provide parents with an understanding of how even the brightest children can have difficulty with planning, organizing and remembering details, even finding their way from one room to the next – something that can be a major challenge in middle and high school. Along with understanding the obstacles some children face with these tasks, parents will learn how to help their children without causing more stress and tension.

Another two-part offering is about the behavior of preschool children, the challenges they present and specific tips for us as parents. “What Your Preschooler is Trying to Say” is offered by the SHEMESH Early Childhood Special Educator and Behavior Specialist Miriam Newmark, July 7 and July 21.There’s a facilitated video presentation about dyslexia (The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia) and one about motivation (The Motivation Breakthrough: Secrets to Turning on the tuned-Out Child). And for people dealing with a child with ADD or ADHD, SHEMESH offers a Tuesday night monthly support group in partnership with CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. Summer dates are July 1, August 12 and September 2.

When we see that most parents share our summer worries, we already feel less alone and embattled. When we receive actual information and practical approaches, we start to feel a lot less anxious and much more positive about helping our children make good use of the summer.
Here are a few easy summer lessons that won’t make your child feel like they’re at school:

1) At home, be sure to do your own reading, in full view of your children.
2) Get them to read street signs for you when you’re driving together and to help you figure out which product is more economical when you go shopping.
3) Cooking and baking together provide loads of opportunities to talk about measurements, to double some recipes (they’ll never know that’s really math!)   and to have quality shared time.
4) Read to your children and ask their opinions about the story.
5) If you go out to eat, let an older child calculate the tip and definitely get their help with making lists and then checking items off those lists.

The important thing is to maintain the summer relaxed atmosphere, taking subtle advantage of learning opportunities. You never want to invite children to the Maryland Science Center by saying, “Come on, you’ll learn a lot.” It’s much more inviting to tell them they’ll see dinosaurs and turtles and all kinds of fun machines; then you can quietly include the learning, asking which dinosaur is the largest, why the little boats at the museum slide down the waterway. Or just enjoy the moment, as information seeps into their minds simply by being there.

If you think your child needs some regular tutoring in order to maintain his or her skills, tie the learning to something they find rewarding, whether it’s an outing or making a special smoothie with them. You could offer to play a favorite game or give an extended bedtime. Whatever you do, get them invested in the tutoring and keep it low-key. After all, summer is about taking things a bit easy, isn’t it?

Please call Gila Haor, SHEMESH Professional Development Coordinator, at 410-843-7588 for further information on our summer offerings.

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What To Do This Week in Baltimore

Check out these great events for the whole family sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Sunday, February 9

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
The Big Picture, Movie

big picture

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia provides personal and uplifting accounts of dyslexia from children, experts and iconic leaders. Join in a panel discussion immediately following the movie.
Held at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, the program is presented by the Baltimore Jewish Abilities Alliance and SHEMESH. A donation of $5 is suggested. Learn more.

Sunday, February 9
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
PJ on the Town at the Science Center

pj science center

Connect with other families and learn about the Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge at a special PJ program at the Maryland Science Center, 601 Light Street. Enjoy story time, crafts and science activities. Then, tour the Maryland Science Center after the program. The event is sponsored by PJ Library, the Macks Center for Jewish Education and Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Tickets are $10 for 11 years and up; $5 for three to 10-year-olds and free for two and under. Click here for information.

Thursday, February 13
7:30 p.m.
Punk Jews Screening

Hasidic punk rockers? African-American Jewish activists? This is not your Zayde’s Judaism!
Stop by Hopkins Hillel, 3109 N. Charles Street to view this engaging documentary explores what being Jewish means in the 21st century. Contact for information.

Thursdays, beginning February 13
7:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Introduction to Judaism Course

The Baltimore Board of Rabbis is offering a weekly course at Beth El Congregation, 8101 Park Heights Avenue, to those interested in exploring Judaism’s rich history and traditions. In addition to classes combining scholarly insight with personal insights, enjoy special programs. These include a panel discussion with four rabbis from the different theological streams of American Judaism and a visit to the Hendler Learning Center’s Timeline of Jewish History at Chizuk Amuno Congregation to see 3,000 years of history come alive. The course is taught by leading rabbis of all denominations and runs through May 29.  Get costs and more information.

Future Events
Sunday, February 16
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Family Day: Lincoln Comes to Baltimore


In honor of Presidents’ Day Weekend, experience a Lincoln-themed family day at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, including Civil War crafts. Enjoy a special presentation by actor Jim Getty will bring Lincoln to life in a unique living history performance. While there, check out the Civil War exhibit, “Passages Through The Fire: Jews and the Civil War.” Program is free with admission to the Museum, which is located at 15 Lloyd Street. Contact Attwood at for more information.

Sunday, February 16
1:30 – 3:30 p.m
Family Farm Day
Bring your family to Pearlstone Center for a day of fun, family, friends, farming and festivities! Learn about Shabbat and Havdalah, make crafts and consider ways you can unplug as a family. The Pearlstone Center is located at 5425 Mt. Gilead Road in Reisterstown. For information, email

Sunday, February 23
10:00 a.m.
Sibling Time: Supporting Siblings of Children with Special Needs

Parents and siblings will have a rare opportunity to hear a candid account from Stacy Israel, director of special needs services at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue. Hear what it was like growing up with siblings of varying abilities. Separate discussion groups for parents and siblings will follow the program. Parents will discuss tools and techniques to balance the needs of their children, while the siblings will explore their roles, as well as the triumphs and challenges of being a sibling of a special needs child. Professionals from Jewish Community Services will guide the groups. For more information contact Jen Erez at 410.559.3613 or

Sunday, February 23
3:00 p.m.
Company E: The Jungle Book
Junglebook2 (3)
Internationally-acclaimed Company E performs a modern interpretation of this children’s classic at the Gorden Center for Performing Arts. Towson University Community Dance joins the company for a family-friendly matinee. Tickets are $10 in advance; $12 at the door and seniors and JCC members receive 10 percent off. For information, go to

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Inclusion In the Jewish Community

disabled woman in wheelchair enjoying hot drink at home

By Dr. Aviva Weisbord
Executive Director, SHEMESH

The very first Jewish leadership gathering focused on disabilities and inclusion took place this past Chanukah. Sponsored by the Ruderman Foundation, with subsidies provided by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion brought together 25 individuals from across the United States and Canada to share their work with People with Disabilities and learn from each other and from an array of presenters. Our goals were to learn about educational and vocational possibilities for People with Disabilities and acquire insight and skills for integrating these individuals into the community.

As we listened in awe to reports and personal stories from a range of people with disabilities, it became clear that our Jewish values are an imperative for us to advocate and institute inclusion in all aspects of Jewish life. Here are a few examples of what we learned, through a combination of thought-provoking lectures, challenging exercises and many, many informal conversations with our colleagues:

  1. People with disabilities can be included. With a bit of brainstorming accompanied by the commitment to make inclusion happen, our brothers and sisters with disabilities can be part and parcel of synagogues, schools, and general community events, children and adults alike. One conference participant, Baila Gansburg, told us about the school she founded in Coconut Creek, called the South Florida Jewish Academy. It’s comprised of 60 percent children with disabilities and 40 percent“typical” children who have no diagnosis, but find more success in a small classroom. When she saw people hesitating to sign up their children for the school, Baila and her husband enrolled their own “typical” children, showing by example that they believe inclusion and full integration in the community is a value and an achievable one, at that. The school now goes from Kindergarten through 12th grade and is certified by the state. Accomplishments like these can be replicated in housing, jobs, schools, synagogues and all areas of the Jewish community.
  2. We as a community can provide the supports needed by people with disabilities. Whether we work with people with disabilities or not, we can be part of a supportive community. We can help with planning more ways for people with disabilities to live their lives independently, certainly in the area of decision-making and choices. We can help our community systems develop more awareness, pointing out places where, for example, a ramp can make the difference for someone who uses a wheelchair, such as the Bimah in the synagogue.
  3. We can help People with Disabilities take a more active part in Jewish life. If we’re on a program committee at shul, for example, we can ask: Why have a special Shabbat for People with Disabilities? How about including people with disabilities in the synagogue Shabbaton instead? Think about integrating programs and activities, as opposed to maintaining their separateness.
  4. Be aware of attitude and language. We were all horrified to learn that the origin of the word “handicapped” is the way people with disabilities used to beg for funds with their cap in hand to receive coins. In her poignant book, A Life Not With Standing, author Chava Willig Levy writes about “becoming a wheelchair.” “I didn’t mind being a wheelchair user,” she says, “but being an inanimate object still bothers me.” She mentions the time she was leaving a concert at Carnegie      Hall when a man in front of her said to his companion, “Let the wheelchair pass.”
  5. “I smiled and said, ‘You mean, let the woman in the wheelchair pass.’” “Well, you’re a part of it,” the man retorted. “No,” I replied. “It’s a part of me.” As we become more aware of the hurtful, depersonalizing language often used, we can help others increase their awareness, as well.

The Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion taught us all the importance of advocacy. I am going to Washington, D.C., to advocate for legislation to help people with disabilities. My new awareness has spurred me to mention at board meetings and committee meetings that we make our programs readily accessible to people with disabilities and how about including people with disabilities in the planning? We all benefit when we make sure to include every Jewish person in every facet of our unique community.

Learn more about Shemesh.

Read these books for Jewish Disability Awareness Month

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