Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Empowering Special-Needs Kids.

Shira Greenland
There are some really great people in the world today. Shira is one of them. She is everything the following Jewish Week article says and a lot more. She also happens to be the sister of my son in law NCSY International Director Rabbi Micha Greenland:
At Shalem, a Teaneck high school for teens with developmental disabilities — part of New Jersey’s SINAI network of Orthodox special-needs schools — Shira Greenland’s official job title is director.
In recent years she’s also become the school’s theater director — and producer/playwright/choreographer — overseeing such productions as “Newsies,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and, most recently, “The Sound of Music.”
She first tried a production five years ago, inspired by an autistic student who “had a natural ability to act, and I wanted to try and create that opportunity for him. And I felt his peers could do well in supporting roles.”
After that student graduated, Greenland wasn’t sure the show could go on. But because the kids had enjoyed the experience so much, she decided to try.
“What I’ve learned is how capable the kids really are,” she says.
A native of Chicago, Greenland began working with developmentally disabled kids the summer after her freshman year of high school, volunteering as a “shadow” at a day camp.
By the time she started college, at Stern, she knew “this was a population I wanted to work with, I just wasn’t sure in what capacity.” While pursuing a master’s in social work at Columbia, she began working at SINAI, first as a school social worker.
Greenland organizes a variety of chesed projects where her students “are the do-ers of chesed.”
She explained, “I’m trying to teach society that [these students are] capable of giving, not just receiving.”
Before running the SINAI high school, Greenland worked in its group home for adults, where “I’ve made it clear that a developmental disability is not an excuse to sit on the couch and watch TV. They’re adults and part of our community, and there are all sorts of ways they can contribute, whether it’s going to a shiva house and completing the minyan or comforting a mourner by your presence, or delivering meals on wheels.”
Bittersweet move: This summer Greenland, who is single, will make aliyah, something she’s been wanting to do for 15 years. “Last summer I decided I’m not going to wait anymore, I’m going to take the plunge,” she says. “But it also means saying goodbye to my students.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Another Chilul HaShem

I really think that most Yeshiva high schools - including this Modern Orthodox one - simply do not teach their students how to behave in public. And that can only end up in Chilul HaShem. Furthermore, I don't buy the argument made by one of those students at the end of the following JTA article. In fact I think he increased the Chilul HaShem with those accusations! What is the matter with these people?
We’ve all been there before. You’re on a flight and a teenager wearing a Dave Matthews Band t-shirt, headphones and a neck pillow walks down the aisle still wearing sunglasses. Then another one. And another.
Or maybe you’ve been the teenager on a flight, excited to hang out with your friends and schmooze en route to some sunny destination.
Either way, it can be frustrating: for the adult passengers, who just want the damn kids to sit down and shut up; and for the kids, who keep being told to sit down and shut up.
That frustration apparently boiled over on Monday, when 101 Jewish high school students and their eight chaperones were ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight to Atlanta, CNN reported.
The facts of the matter remain, shall we say, up in the air. The crew claims the students, from Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn, were thrown off because of their disruptive behavior, refusing to sit down and shut down their phones prior to takeoff. The teachers and students claim the crew blew the situation of proportion and that they were acting well within normal expectations. Predictably, one student felt that it was their visible religiosity that drew unwarranted attention.
“They treated us like we were terrorists,” student Jonathan Zehavi said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m not someone to make these kinds of statements. I think if it was a group of non-religious kids, the air stewardess wouldn’t have dared to kick them off.”
The group was put on other flights within the hour.