Performing in a school play gives any child a great sense of accomplishment and pride. But for the high school students at SINAI´s Rabbi Mark & Linda Karasick Shalem High School, it is both an enormous achievement and proof that they, too, can be just like other kids.
SINAI’s Shalem High School is very special. Located in Teaneck at Torah Academy of Bergen County and Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, it is the only Jewish high school in Bergen County for teens with developmental disabilities or profound learning disabilities. SINAI’s partnership with TABC and Ma’ayanot makes it possible for these children to receive a Jewish education and to be a part of a regular high school environment.
Still, the idea that these students, many of whom have profound difficulty with basic communication, could put on a play and perform for a live audience is remarkable. What makes it possible is the intense dedication and persistence of SINAI’s imaginative teachers and administrators, and their belief that with the right guidance and encouragement, their students can exceed expectations.
“Putting on a play like this takes a huge amount of work from the teachers and the kids themselves,” says Shira Greenland, the Director of SINAI Schools’ Shalem High School. Assistant Director Esther Klavan concurs. “In the course of working on this production, our students build skills that are extremely challenging for them, such as patience, teamwork, and social skills,” she says. “They learn to follow directions, accept criticism, and take risks. But the payoff is huge: by the end, they are swelling with pride and self-confidence!”
“This will be the fifth play that Shalem High School has put on,” says Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Rothwachs, Dean of SINAI Schools. “Every single production has amazed and inspired me. We know that the kids can do it, because we teach to their abilities. Their sense of pride and accomplishment really comes through. By the time the kids take their bows at the end, there is barely a dry eye in the audience. It’s really something special.”
The Sound of Music will play for one night only, Tuesday, May 7, at 6:30 pm in the Ma’ayanot Theater. It is free and open to the public.
Operating inclusive special education schools for Jewish children Grades 1-12 as well as programs for adults, SINAI is highly regarded as one of the country’s leading Jewish schools for children with learning or developmental disabilities whose needs cannot be met in a regular education setting. Each of SINAI’s schools is housed in a regular education partner Jewish Elementary or High School, providing an inclusion experience that is personalized for every single child. For more information, visit www.sinaischools.org or call 201-833-1134.