Project Lev of Congregation Beth El, Voorhees NJ
Congregation Beth El's Project Lev, now in its 7th successful year, is a unique Religious School Program open to the Jewish Community for Children with Special Needs. Specifically, it is a program for children who are developmentally and/or physically challenged; children with autistic spectrum disorders, Fragile X Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder and children with cognitive, physical, social and emotional challenges. The students we serve are of all grade levels and are both verbal and non-verbal communicators.
Our program runs on Sunday mornings, from 10 - 12. The curriculum is rich, varied, and individually designed to meet the needs of each of our students. Each child has an individual education plan with goals and objectives, works with an aide and is monitored by our Special Needs coordinator. All students are included in school-wide events, grade-level events and weekly specialty subjects such as, music, art and Chugim (clubs).
Launched in September 2003 with a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, Project Lev is the only program of its kind and is open to all children in the Jewish Community. About 50 percent of our population comes from other synagogues in the community. Some require partial or full scholarship, which we readily provide.
Our program has enriched not only the lives of our Project Lev children and their families, but also the lives of all those who are associated with the program, such as our cadre of volunteer student mentors. Our efforts have been nationally recognized by United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism , we have been awarded the coveted Solomon Schechter Gold Award for excellence in the area of Special Needs.
Since Project Lev's inception, we have celebrated the Bar/Bat Mitzvah of five of our students in various ways and in various synagogues; we are looking forward to celebrating many more in the years to come. Our most recent Bat/Mitzvah was a first for our synagogue, a non-verbal Bat Mitzvah celebration that spoke volumes. The young lady, unable to speak, communicated via a computer device that sang out her prayers and songs.
Hebrew Resource Program
The Hebrew Resource Program, partially funded by the Saltzman Foundation, addresses the needs of children with moderate learning disabilities such as ADD, ADHD, NI, etc. Our Hebrew Resource Coordinator assesses the needs of the students by reviewing their IEP's, meets with parents, public school professionals and teachers, and together with the Director, develops an individual Jewish Learning Plan for each student. Students are taken out during class time and given remedial help in a learning environment suited to their learning styles.
Madregot Program - (Steps)
This program addresses the needs of children who are caught in the middle; who are too high functioning for Project Lev, yet who have difficulty handling the demands of the regular Hebrew School curriculum, even with the availability of the Hebrew Resource Program. Madregot addresses the needs of children with autism, border-line Aspberger Syndrome, HDAD, ED or ODD by providing a self-contained program, which meets Sundays and one weekday. There is moderate inclusion at first, focusing on building basic skills in a more intimate setting. Given the parameters of our school, the program is small and multi-leveled.