After 31 years of outstanding service to the local Jewish community, CAHAL, the special education program for children with learning disabilities, will not open classes for the 2023-24 school year.
The program was established in 1992 by the rosh hayeshivas and principals of local yeshivas, Bais Yaakovs and Hebrew day schools, and community leaders Dr. Norman Blumenthal, Richard Altabe and Paul Reinstein, who served as officers of the program until the very end.
The original principals were Rabbi Moshe Gottesman and Mrs. Pearl Greene of HANC; Rabbi Mordechai Besser of HAFTR; Rabbi Armon Friedman of HALB; Rabbi Yaakov Bender of Yeshiva Darchei Torah; Rabbi Chanina Herzberg of Toras Chaim of South Shore; Rabbi Moshe Weitman of Torah Academy for Girls; and Mrs. Judy Hartstein, Yeshiva of Belle Harbor. Mrs. Naomi Nadata was recruited as the program director; Rabbi Yaakov Reisman served as rabbinic consultant.
All the schools in the community had children who were not succeeding in mainstream classes and needed additional support beyond resource room and tutors. CAHAL was established to educate these children in classes with a 4 to 1 student to teacher ratio, a maximum of 12 students per class, and rebbeim and teachers who were certified in special education.
Since each school did not have enough students to open a class in a specific grade for their children who needed special education, they began a collaborative effort to combine students in each grade in a different school. The principals strongly encouraged the parents to send their child to CAHAL with the goal to mainstream him or her back to their original school.
As the program grew, Mrs. Alice Feltheimer was brought in as educational coordinator. Within 10 years the program expanded from one class with five students to 11 classes and 100 students.
Over the years additional yeshivas joined the consortium of schools in the program — Bnos Bais Yaakov, Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island, Mesivta Ateres Yaakov, Bais Yaakov Ateres Miriam, and Shulamith. At its peak, CAHAL had 12 participating schools, and as many as 13 classes and 120 students.
In 2003, Avi Weinstock was brought in as president, and Shimmie Ehrenreich was recruited to be executive director. Moishe Mishkowitz came on as a vice president in 2006.
After several years of declining enrollment, CAHAL announced in January that it would not open classes in September 2023. The Five Towns, Far Rockaway, West Hempstead and greater Nassau County communities are losing a vital program that has educated hundreds of children with learning disabilities these past 31 years.
The CAHAL administration and board of directors expresses hakorat hatov to the participating schools for hosting CAHAL classes all these years. They also thank the generous donors of the local community for financially supporting this outstanding program.