By Sydney Chang
New York: Shema Kolainu-Hear Our Voices, a school serving the needs of autistic children and their families recently held its Annual Legislative Breakfast that was coordinated by The Friedlander Group, featuring an array of local elected officials and community leaders from across the city who all voiced their commitments to the special needs community.
Emceed by Menachem Lubinsky, CEO of LUBICOM MARKETING CONSULTING & noted political & community advocate Kalman Yeger, Dr. Joshua Weinstein, founder of Shema Kolainu, opened the event by expressing his deep gratitude to the dedicated parents, Shema Kolainu staff, elected officials, and management staff that have grown and developed the school into what is it today, proudly declaring that since “day one at Shema Kolainu, we started with miracles, and the miracles have never ceased”.
Also among those in attendance were NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, NY State Senator Felder, NYC Councilmembers Andrew Cohen and David Greenfield. The program commenced with Shema Kolainu parent who described the staff at the Shema Kolainu school “persistent” and “incredibly brave”. Dr. Weinstein lauded the extraordinary efforts of Council member Cohen who chairs the NYC Council Committee on Mental Health for ensuring that the budget allocates funding for the autism initiative-a sentiment shared by Councilman Greenfield who announced his and Cohen’s triumph in increasing funding for autism by $2 million as part of NYC after school programs.
Dr. Alan Kadish, President and CEO of the Touro College and University System was awarded the Excellence in Education Leadership Award and the artwork of Shema Kolainu students. As one of the leading higher education institutions, Touro College boasts of 18,000 students enrolled in 32 schools over 4 countries who go on to careers in the healthcare world. Touro College’s Autism Center and Dr. Kadish’s contributions to educating healthcare professionals to serve the needs of those with autism were also recognized.
Dr.Kadish eloquently captured the essence of the Breakfast in shifting the focus away from himself towards honoring children with autism and those at Shema Kolainu who dedicate their lives to serving them. Public Advocate Tish James emphasized the symbolism of the art presented to Dr. Kadish as it is “the best…and most effective way [the students] can communicate…this is artwork of their world that we should enjoy and share with others”.
Shema Kolainu also honored Dr. Herminia Palacio, NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, the City Leadership Award. Dr. Weinstein in presenting her with a painting by the children of Shema Kolainu, said to her, “I’m presenting you this humble award to a humble person.” She captured the importance of taking care of our youth and those most vulnerable by powerfully stated, “When our children and neighborhoods are healthy, our communities are healthy, and our city thrives”.
Comptroller Stringer commended the hard work of the honorees and others, delivering a heartfelt message that as “parents and grandparents and guardians…when we look at our children, we think they can do anything they want even if they don’t start the race of life in the same way as other kids. We always believe that they can aspire to be anything they want…and Shema Kolainu levels the playing field for all of our children”. He truly captured the heart of the school’s mission, and the life-changing ways in which our children all benefit from the care and compassion they deserve.
The genuine and candid atmosphere of this year’s event continues to exemplify the obstacles overcome and progress made when there is collaboration among various communities. The fight to raise awareness of autism and provide quality education to children with autism is greatly furthered by Shema Kolainu and all of the dedicated people who come together each year at these Breakfasts.