JCC’s “Opening the Doors” has helped kids of varying abilities grasp Judaism.
JCC Detroit’s Opening the Doors (OTD) program holds its 25th Anniversary Celebration virtually on Tuesday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. Event honorees include Anita Naftaly, Susie Citrin and Peggy Frank.
OTD enables children with diverse learning differences and abilities to participate in inclusive Jewish education with their peers. Master level special educators and para-educators are present in preschools, congregations and religious schools to engage students and empower staff with strategies.
OTD also provides disability awareness and resources for families, educators and professionals through development programs, community conferences and a teen leadership program.
OTD has increased its impact over the years through collaborations with Jewish schools, hospitals and mental health clinics, Jewish Federation, Friendship Circle, JVS, JFS, Kadima, JARC and more.
The honorees have been with OTD since the beginning. Naftaly was the original director and founder of the program, Citrin was the chair of all the OTD committees and Frank was involved in OTD committees and was almost like its “historian,” according to Ellen Maiseloff, OTD’s senior director since 2007.
“We believe each child was unique, had their own ability, and we had to help them reach their potential.”
OTD helps people reach that potential with more than 10 different programs within the umbrella, such as Doors to the Future, funded by the Jewish Women’s Foundation where para-educators provide one-on-one, short-term early intervention for students in early childhood centers.
OTD’s School Inclusion Program, partially funded by the Zuckerman Klein Family Support Foundation Grant, provides students with full-time classroom assistants for Jewish day school education.
The Enhanced Learning Initiative provides day school teachers with professional development and other services. The program is partially funded by the Jewish Fund.
A featured film for the event will be The Influencer, featuring discussion with Elaine Hall, founder of the Miracle Project, an inclusive theater, film and expressive arts program for individuals off all abilities.
“It’s exciting for us to have a public forum and share what we do, but we’re really hoping other families will say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know. Maybe I will give them a call,’” Maiseloff said.
For information, visit jccdet.org/otd25.