By Yaffi Spodek
Kulanu students with disabilities who attend public school programs visited local yeshivot last week as part of the school’s Holiday Inclusion Program.
Scheduled every year around the secular holidays, the program allows Kulanu students to spend time with their peers in yeshiva when their own schools are not in session.
“Kulanu students are paired up with shadows, students from older grades in a yeshiva, and they spend a good part of the day in an environment that they don’t get a chance to enjoy during the regular school year,” said Jonathan Cooper, LCSW, Kulanu’s program director of Inclusion Services. “They are immersed in a total school environment and they do everything that everybody else does except it has a nice Jewish twist.”
Over 20 Kulanu students visited the pre-school and elementary schools at HAFTR and HALB, enjoyed Chanukah activities and participated in a full schedule with the yeshiva students, sitting in on classes, learning, playing during breaks and eating lunch together.
In past years they have spent time at HANC and Yeshiva of South Shore.
“It’s a program which is seen as extremely important to their families,” Cooper said. Kulanu students usually don’t have a chance to interact with friends outside of school, he explained.
“Since their special needs preclude them from attending [yeshivas], they don’t have this quality of time being spent with other kids from their community.”
The Holiday Inclusion program allows Kulanu students to meet other children who are the same age, in the hopes that they will form relationships that can be developed outside of school.
“We want the kids to be known to the greater community so that when they’re in shul and on the street, they will be recognized and kids will go up to them,” Cooper explained.
For more information visit www.kulanukids.com or call (516) 569-3083.