Photo Credit: courtesy, The Shefa School
Children learning at The Shefa School in Manhattan, a Jewish day school for students with learning disabilities.

New York City’s Shefa School partnered this month with the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan to mark Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) with a workshop aimed at educating the community on language-based learning disabilities and how to help Jewish kids with these issues to succeed in the classroom.

Some basic facts: At least one in five children in the United States and about one in ten children in Israel struggles with a learning disability (such as dyslexia) and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).


A 2021 study conducted in Israel by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, Israel’s Ministries of Education, Health, Finance, Welfare and Social Affairs, as well as the National Insurance Institute and JDC-Ashalim found that 10.9 percent of all Israeli children are struggling with disabilities; 9.4 percent of children in Israel are struggling specifically with learning disabilities and ADHD.

One to two percent of Israeli children were found to also have mental or emotional disability, difficulty with speech or language, developmental delay, conduct disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. Fewer than one percent of Israeli children were struggling with chronic illness, motor disability, intellectual-developmental disability, and visual and hearing impairments.

Multiple disabilities were reported for about one-third of Israeli children with disabilities, according to the findings reported in 2021.

It is important to note that children with ADHD and learning disabilities who grow up without receiving services for those issues often end up with more, not fewer, difficulties in adulthood. This seems obvious to some, but readers may be surprised to discover that many families still prefer to ignore their children’s difficulties rather than get them the help they need, including in Israel. Their children often pay a heavy price for that choice later in life, struggling with difficulties and failures across the board in their interpersonal relations (ie: marriage, family relations) as well as in the area of employment and social interaction (ie: Jewish community life, synagogue).

“Shefa is a place where Jewish special needs, as well as the values of acceptance and inclusion, are deeply embedded both in the raison d’etre of the school as well as everything that is taught, learned and lived in our walls,” Yoni Schwab, Ph.D., assistant head of The Shefa School told

Decades of research studies have shown that early intervention can make a tremendous impact on the education of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities.

“It’s important that these students are being taught through methods that are customized to the way they learn,” Schwab noted.

Students at the Shefa School are provided with instructional programs and classroom environments that focus on multisensory reading instruction (also known as the Orton-Gillingham approach) as well as structured expository writing that teaches students to write, build their language, and deepen their understanding of whatever they’re studying or writing about.

“This allows students to be supported and enriched in a language environment to address their learning disabilities throughout the day,” Schwab said.

“Parents should also make sure to provide their children with the space they need to develop their strengths, rather than work on their weaknesses. For example, if your child is an artist, make sure to provide them the opportunity to take an art class or express their creativity. If your child is interested in sports, sign them up for various sports teams.”


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.