During my time at The Jewish Link, I’ve been blessed to meet many people and get to know the work of many outstanding nonprofit organizations. As a Bergen County resident, however, there were a few I knew about and supported even before my involvement with our paper. One such organization is SINAI Schools, which started 40 years ago as an auxiliary school inside yeshiva day schools for children with special needs, and now operates eight such schools across the region.
Aside from having been neighbors with its dean, Dr. Yisroel “Srully” Rothwachs and his wife, Wendy, for the last dozen-plus years, my husband and I first came to be supporters of SINAI in 2013 as a direct result of Tuvia Minchenberg and his family’s story—as shared in SINAI’s documentary “Heroes”—presented for the first time at its annual dinner that year.
As I told Sam Fishman, SINAI’s managing director, and Abigail Hepner Gross, SINAI’s communications director, a couple of years later when I interviewed them for the first time, I was one of the legions of people who had been struck by the power of SINAI’s viral video—someone who, quite literally, turned into a donor after watching it. I had never met, and still have never met any of the Minchenbergs, but their story has remained with me and my family, even today.
“Heroes” is a story of one boy and one family. It followed Tuvia from very early in life as a child struggling to learn and communicate, to his beginning school at SINAI at RYNJ and responding to the myriad approaches the school takes to educate and support children with special needs. At the end of “Heroes,” we are “guests” at a simcha, celebrating Tuvia’s bar mitzvah with the minyan at RYNJ and watching him lein his parsha beautifully as his parents look on with tears of joy.
What was truly amazing about “Heroes,” I learned, is that while Tuvia and his family are certainly unique and wonderful, the SINAI stories keep coming. Reporting on SINAI’s annual dinners over the past five years, I have never failed to be moved to tears, either by the work of the people being honored, by the students that SINAI helps, by its documentary presentations, or by the inspirational work of its cadre of specialized professional educators.
But this year, because of the pandemic, SINAI is not able to hold its annual dinner. In its stead, we at The Jewish Link are proud to partner with SINAI to present an annual campaign that will be featured in our pages, called “A Season of SINAI Stories.” Also, every Motzei Shabbat from now through February, SINAI will release a video or story about its children and families. SINAI shares these stories to illustrate the power of community and to help its supporters feel proud of the impact their generosity has had.
It is our hope and fervent wish that those who have given to SINAI Schools each year will give again, extra-generously, this pandemic year. For those who have not yet become supporters of SINAI, I invite you to enjoy and be inspired by the wonderful change-makers who work there. SINAI, for me and my neighbors, offers a uniquely special education for all the yeshiva day and high school children in our community who have complex learning or physical challenges.
But SINAI can’t provide its consistently high level of services without our help. Please see the Season of SINAI Stories this week on page 44, and visit SINAIstories.org or on social media for its video release. I hope you will be inspired, as I have been.