It is the terrifying news no parent ever wants to hear—“It is likely your child will be born with Down’s Syndrome.” After telling these life-altering words to us, the physician proceeded to seek to persuade us to consider an abortion. He outlined the many difficulties and poor quality of life faced by those afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, all the while pointing us in the direction of an abortion.
My wife and I responded immediately and resolutely that we would not abort the child. After hearing the infant’s heartbeat in utero, we would not consider even for a second the option of an abortion. The stinging warning, though, ringed in our ears for many years.
Nearly 16 years later we have a full response to the doctor’s grim prognosis. Due to a wide variety of excellent programming and institutions in our community, foremost being the SINAI schools, we must say that our daughter Chaya Ziporah enjoys a better quality of life than most youngsters. From her beginning in first grade and now in high school, Chaya Zipporah loves SINAI.
Chaya Ziporah, who by the way can read both Hebrew and English at this point, is upset when school is not scheduled. She enjoys her classes, teachers and classmates so much, that she loves attending school. How many other teenage children are upset at having a day off from school?
It is not easy to educate a youngster with Down’s Syndrome. Such youngsters are often stubborn, and for good reason. Hashem makes these children with an inclination to be stubborn for their protection—the stubbornness makes it difficult to take advantage of them. On the other hand, it is challenging to manage the behavior of a stubborn child in a classroom.
It takes a teacher with excellent motivational skills to encourage a child with Down’s Syndrome. SINAI administrators and teachers have dramatically exceeded our expectations in the growth they have fostered in our daughter. Chaya Ziporah is prospering intellectually and socially due to their incredible talent and dedication.
Chaya Ziporah and other children are not the only beneficiaries of SINAI Schools. As a Rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County for the past 22 years, I witness every day the manifold benefits and blessings that SINAI students bring to Torah Academy students. Widespread daily acts of kindness are the order of the day at TABC. The plethora of acts of kindness transforms and ennobles mainstream youngsters into kinder and more sensitive individuals (just as Chaya Ziporah has added an extra measure of joy and love to our family). What a beautiful and heartwarming sight to see adolescents treat SINAI students with kindness and love!
I must confess that I have wondered why Hashem created Down’s Syndrome. While we can never fully grasp the inscrutable will of the Almighty, we certainly can grasp the potential positive impact on individuals and community. SINAI facilitates the realization of the potential benefits that can be reaped from Down’s Syndrome.
SINAI is a gem in the crown of our community. It also crowns the community as a noble society. It is extraordinarily expensive to conduct the specialized program presented by SINAI schools. Proud is the community that sustains such a righteous endeavor. May Hashem bless our community, especially its children, for the community’s generous support of the most vulnerable and needy children.
If I could once again meet that doctor who was nudging us towards an abortion, I would tell him about SINAI. I would tell him that children with Down’s Syndrome can have an extraordinarily high quality of life. All due to SINAI schools!
A note from the editors: Rabbi Jachter and his wife Malca are honorees at the upcoming SINAI Schools Benefit Dinner on February 26. Donations and reservations can be made at www.sinaidinner.org.
By Rabbi Haim Jachter
Rabbi Haim Jachter is Rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.