OurSpace is the perfect description of the programming that takes place every week & changes the way our children feel about themselves. It gives them an opportunity to be participants of a loving, caring community & they look forward to coming & seeing both friends & staff every week. This program has the most dedicated staff in helping families make friends, share ideas and teach their children Jewish traditions. Our Space is a blessing to all. Rosie, a parent of two children in the OurSpace Shaare Tikva classes.
OurSpace has made a profound impact on my 12 year old son. He now has a place where he can learn Jewish values and be accepted by a community. He has met friends that he enjoys spending time with.
As a parent I like that he is able to go to the synagogue that I grew up in and became a Bat Mitzvah. So much education must be done to help the general education population realize our children are unique, not to be feared but most important realize that they are similar to them. Our Space is a perfect venue to be able to carry that mission out.
The teachers have all been kind and gentle with my son. They have taken time out to process why he may do the things he does. I appreciate the program and the staff immensely. One of the best gems of my son being a member of the Our Space program is the fact that they have these monthly chat groups with parents that live a similar life to myself and my husband. It’s so easy to feel alone and isolated on the Autism journey. It’s refreshing and life changing to realize I am not. There are other families out there that are going through what I am and that thought helps more than I can express. Many times the fact that I have a “forever” child slaps me in the face with a cold realization and a sense of helplessness. During these chats I realize I am not the only one.
I see my son has the potential for a bright future. It may be different than what I had dreamed of, but it will be equally gratifying. That is what Our Space has done for my family. Deborah- Parent of a participants in OurSpace Learning Space Class and B’Yachad Alef Social Group.
We started our journey with OurSpace when our son Jacob, who has Down Syndrome, was 6. He was a little too young to benefit but he loved the T’filah part of the day. We took some time off from the program and started again this year. We are so thrilled with our experience! Jacob has been embraced wholeheartedly into the OurSpace program as though he had never left. It’s amazing, as a parent of a child with special needs to feel loved, understood and a welcome part of the Jewish Community. Needless to say, OurSpace has had a very positive impact on our family. Jody, a parent of a child in OurSpace Shaare Tikva
Anna has a big smile on her face — beaming like the sun — on the way to OurSpace activities on Sunday mornings. She has also written to us that she has sought (and found) a spiritual connection here, as well as enjoys socializing and her “new friends.” When we pick her up, she is usually participating in the songs/music with giggles and clapping. It is clear to “Abba” and me that her good mood has carried throughout the duration. Erica- a parent of a new participant in the OurSpace Shaare Tikva and B’Yachad Bet social group.
“OurSpace opened up a new world for us when Michael joined the program about five years ago. For a long time our family went back and forth about having Michael live a “fully included” life. That means different things to different families, but for us, up until Michael was about 11 or 12, that meant keeping the strongest of his physical, social and emotional ties to our local synagogue community, where he was born and literally grew up. OurSpace helped change our perception of what fully included means. Now, for us, fully included means that Michael is participating in every possible program, activity, course of study, occasion and joy that he can and wants to and to the fullest of his desires. Fully included means that there is nothing and no one holding him back or telling us what Michael cannot do. So when Michael wanted to read the Megillah on Purim with Rabbi Feinstein, Susan said “bring it on!” and Rabbi Feinstein fully (and we mean FULLY) embraced Michael’s reading. When Michael first crept, then pushed his way onto the bima for T’fillah services with the “veterans”, Julie happily made Michael a veteran as well. When Michael leads the way every year to the crazy dancing scene that is the best part of the Passover seder, everyone says, “Look at him go!” What could be more fully included than that?”
Now Michael is over 18 years old and in the Arts program: OurSpace has created a wonderful community of Jewish families with children and young adults with special needs. In our family, every week for the past five years, our son Michael has looked forward to his Sundays at OurSpace for the friends he has made, the projects he does, the holidays he celebrates, the prayer time, the songs. He has learned to be a prayer leader, and a helper for his friends who need more assistance than he does. For us, the parent chats have created an open environment for discussion of issues, which affect all our families, and closeness among all the OurSpace families as well. The program was also a gateway to Camp Ramah for Michael, as it made him comfortable with the idea of going away for a few weeks knowing that he would be among friends and teachers he already knew and loved. Currently he is part of the Artistic Spectrum, the group of young adults continuing their participation in OurSpace, and he is having the best time with the sophisticated and challenging art projects. He can’t wait to show us his work. The impact of OurSpace on our son and our family is invaluable and immeasurable. Rony- a parent of a participant in the Artistic Spectrum of Jewish Learning program, the B’Yachad Bet social group.
“Ten years ago, our vision became clouded and life was very black and white. So many of the typical or traditional plans we took so for granted – school, play dates, family functions, little league, tennis, travel and religious affiliation – all began piling on one another on a never-ending list of “pick the path of least resistance.” Some days that path was so strewn with the litter of life and disappointments in people we once called friends, we saw no path, had no vision but put whatever faith we had into taking one step at a time, remaining focused and leaving no stone unturned. Nearly four years ago, by chance, a social worker from Ha-Mercaz provided information about the Our Space Program with Susan North Gilboa’s phone number. Having previously inquired and tested other avenues in the spiritual community, we hoped and prayed that this might be “the one.” We had lost so much hope in finding a place to belong, spiritually and communally.
On Saturday, March 21, 2015 our son became a Bar Mitzvah. Before those closest to him, fourteen to be exact, he read two Aliyot flawlessly, calmly and with confidence. It was truly a miracle – and then, there was a second one. The reception awaiting our amazing son was filled with new friends and their families who walk similar paths, all part of OurSpace Parent Chats, and the newest OurSpace Havurah, families with whom we have already shared Shabbat dinners, swim parties and holiday dinners. The celebration was under the roof of the Temple Aliyah community, a synagogue that had the vision and heart to understand families like ours, by OurSpace educators and tutors that challenge themselves to find ways of reaching students who learn differently and by Clergy and Staff dedicated to sharing the love of the Torah and having the vision to see the world through different eyes. We are offered the light when we have the vision to see it, the passion to search for it and the love to embrace it. With profound gratitude, we are home.”
“Kenny and Danny so look forward to the holidays, in part because of the strong associations made here, that they start talking about them well in advance. The annual OurSpace model seder is a fun favorite. Bob and I have many fond memories of craft projects covered in wet paint, hand-made matzah covers enough to last a decade with no repeats, and a lot of singing in the sun. The friendships the boys have made here are priceless, as are those we’ve made with families we met through the Parent Chats, whom we still call friends. The OurSpace Shaare Tikva activities, excursions with B’Yachad Bet and social occasions helped expand the boys’ world, and made it a richer place for our whole family.”
Claudia, Sivan’s mom wrote:
“Enrolling in the OurSpace Shaare Tikva class was like going through a door that we never dared believe existed and the doors keep opening. Shaare Tikva led to B’Yachad outings and to a Winter Ramah weekend. These in turn led to summer camp at Ramah and USY Hevreh events that alternate with the long running B’Yachad social group. The monthly Parent Bagel Chats led to strong connections between the parents. There is now a moms’ night out where we go for dinner four times a year and celebrate our birthdays. At the last few dinners there were almost 28 moms in attendance. Several years ago Sivan graduated from Shaare Tikva and moved out of the valley, she stayed involved but not as much. Last September Sivan moved back to the valley and new OurSpace doors started opening again. Susan started an OurSpace Artistic Spectrum of Jewish Learning Adult Art class at Valley Beth Shalom and Sivan also joined the OurSpace Kolot Tikva choir at Temple Aliyah”. “As far as my daughter, Sivan, is concerned the OurSpace programs should be called the MyLife programs because her life really does revolve around these programs. And I would add that her life is truly full thanks to the hard work and dedication of the people who make this possible”.
Danielle’s mom wrote:
We wanted to thank you, Rabbi Vogel and Temple Aliyah from the bottom of our hearts for the wonderful “Kolot Tikvah “Choir and for hosting it. And a big thanks you to Robin and her girls for volunteering their Sundays to help the Choir.
Hazan Stein, you are so amazing with our kids and the way you connect with them and teach them the music is extraordinary.
We and our kids are truly blessed to have people like you in our lives.
Through this Choir that Danielle found her love and passion in life. She enjoys every minute of the Choir and looks forward to her next practice or event.
We also want to express our gratitude and appreciation to VBS and Susan North Gilboa for her vision and help in creating, developing and being part of the Choir program and all the other programs in place.
Thank you all for having a place where our kids can be special and loved with dignity and grace.
Lynn, Samantha’s mom wrote:
“Joining the OurSpace Shaare Tikva class gave Samantha a circle of friends, a support system, and our entire family the most embracing group of extended family members that anyone could ask for. Each Sunday we all cannot wait. Sam gets up at the crack of dawn and we all look forward to coming to our second temple….our second home. Since joining Shaare Tikva “the girls which by the way has grown from five to seven” have created a mom’s birthday group, they have had ski trips, dad’s camping trips, day outings, simchas galore and we have as families been there for each other during times of stress and sadness. Even the siblings feel an incredible sense of lifetime support as they will become the long term caregivers for their amazing sisters and brothers. The “girls” have matured into beautiful young woman and have even let the boys into their circle. Our weekends now revolve around their incredibly busy social life and we would not trade it for anything”.
“The program that Susan North Gilboa created continues to flourish we have learned from the speakers at monthly Parent Chats, from each other and from our children. Susan’s remarkable ability to hire teachers with compassion that truly “get it”…all continue to add meaning to the lives of these now, young adults. The Judaic life lessons they have learned and continue to learn at the OurSpace programs will help carry them into the future as they become the leaders in their own communities some day”.
Zach’s mom wrote:
“the first Parent Bagel Chat that I attended, Susan said that our kids should volunteer at SOVA because they need to know how important it is to “give back,” and the community needs to know that our kids CAN give back. With that statement, she reminded me to focus on Zach’s abilities – not just his disabilities. Susan also made me realize that we have a responsibility to remind the larger Jewish community that people with disabilities ARE a part of the community. It was eye-opening for me.”