TRIBUTES TO JANE TAUBENFELD COHEN
Day school leaders from across the country share their reflections on Jane Taubenfeld Cohen and inclusion in Jewish education.
Sweet Sounds is one of the highlights of the year for Jews in Boston. The event is symbolic of the special community that we live in. We come together from all parts of the Boston area in great numbers and with passion and energy to support those of all abilities. Together we embrace our Jewish values of caring and inclusion.
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen is one of our leading lights as a thought leader and innovator around disabilities and inclusion both locally and nationally. Jane and Gateways, working in partnership together, have truly transformed the way that we approach Jewish education for all, enriching the lives of those with disabilities and their peers. Mazel tov to Jane as well as to Arlene and the entire Gateways team!
Leslie and Alan Crane, Co-Chairs, Sweet Sounds 2018
To say that Jane Taubenfeld Cohen is a hero to our family and our entire Jewish Community is actually an understatement. Jane has taught so many of us that we and our children are all special. The North American Jewish Day School field shines brightly because of your pioneering work and empathy. So, Jane, for all you have done, and will always do, we love you and thank you. No one could be more special to us.
Lori Barnet and Jeffrey Savit, Co-Chairs, Sweet Sounds 2018
Jane Cohen is a teacher’s teacher, a leader, and a mentor who makes everyone around her better. She leads with both her head and her heart, which is why she is beloved by everyone who meets her. Because Jane sees the Tzelem Elohim (the Image of God) in every human being, she has led the way for the inclusion of every child in Jewish education and the Jewish community. Her passion for inclusion and belief in the potential of every child have changed the face of Jewish day schools here in Boston and around the country. Thank you, Jane, for being my teacher and a beacon of light for all of us.
Rabbi Marc Baker, President and CEO, Combined Jewish Philanthropies
The Mishnah in Massechet Sanhedrin notes that one human was created at the beginning of the world to teach three distinct lessons. One of these lessons extols the greatness of God for creating everyone human uniquely. Not one person is identical to the next. For a human coin maker mints a coin, and every one looks identical to the next. But God mints every human with the same stamp, of the first human, and none is identical to the next. Therefore, everyone must declare for themselves, "The world was created for me."
Jane has the uncanny ability to bring out the uniqueness and the divine spark in everyone with whom she interacts. At her core she is a listener, one who can sense the unstated and deeper questions that lie beneath the surface. She recognizes the gifts of the person in front of her and seeks to maximize them, both for the sake of that individual and for the group as a whole.
Rabbi Zach Silver, Rochelle Zell Jewish High School, Deerfield, IL
"Eshet chayil mi yimtzah (Mishlei 31:10)?" (“Who can find a woman of valor?”)
I found you, Jane. Choosing you to be my DSLTI mentor is one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. You guide, question, probe, nurture and challenge me (and countless others) in your inimitable way. We are so very fortunate to be the beneficiaries of your wisdom, expertise, compassion, and kindness.
You have a gigantic heart, and it just keeps growing. You care so passionately about children and about each child. You consistently have asked, and taught me to ask, “What will it take to get to yes?” and “What needs to be true about our school to serve every child?”
“By your light, do we see light” (Ps. 36:9). You give of yourself tirelessly, and countless children and so many organizations are the better for it. I feel profoundly blessed to call you my mentor and my friend. May you go from strength to strength.
Susie Tanchel, Ph.D., Head of School, JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School
In the early years of our school, I traveled east for the annual PEJE conference. I wanted my leadership team, lay and professional, to see a great school in action as part of our journey east. Josh Elkin recommended South Area Schechter, “And make sure you get time with Jane, the Director.”
Our team from out west left completely impressed, and all roads led back to Jane. She empowered others, leading from both the balcony and the grassroots. Her creativity, commitment to ongoing learning, and passion helped shape our strategic planning from start-up to established school.
Fifteen years later, I am honored to work with Jane as a Day School Leadership Training Institute Mentor. Those same qualities I witnessed that day in the early 2000s continue to inspire.
Dean Goldfein, Contra Costa Jewish Day School, Lafayette, CA
Camp Ramah in New England, through its Tikvah Program, believes that our Jewish values require us to include people with learning challenges and disabilities in our camp community. By continuing our efforts to widen the circle of people who attend and work at Ramah, we work diligently to honor the principle that everyone is created in God’s image.
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen has always inspired me because she is a careful observer and listener who utilizes her knowledge to figure out how to say “yes” to ensure that every child is valued and can receive a Jewish education.
Mazal tov, Jane and Gateways, for the important work that you do to serve young Jews.
Rabbi Ed Gelb, Director, Camp Ramah in New England
One only need speak to Jane a few moments before knowing her passion for reaching and teaching each and every Jewish child. Jane rightly puts the responsibility of achieving this mission on the school and asks consistently, “What needs to happen so that we can make this student successful?"
In her purest place, Jane believes that each child deserves a positive and strong Jewish education, and she is shaping a generation of leaders that share her vision.
Jennifer Groen ’91, Director of Enrollment Management and Strategic Initiatives, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Bryn Mawr, PA
Jane, congratulations on this well-deserved honor. Thank you for your sage counsel and valued friendship.
Todd J. Sukol, Executive Director, Mayberg Foundation
I have been honored to work with Jane Taubenfeld Cohen for the past 15 years. Jane was an early pioneer in the work of inclusion in Jewish education, and Gateways owes its existence to her passion and commitment to firmly establishing an agency for Jewish special education in the Boston region.
Jane’s early collaboration with the Jewish Special Education Collaborative (JSEC), and later with Gateways, enabled students with learning challenges to receive the support they needed to thrive at South Area Solomon Schechter Day School, where her visionary leadership fostered a vibrant culture where each child was met where they were and where the word “no” never entered into the conversation.
After Jane retired from SASSDS, I was privileged to work with her on the B’Yadenu Project, a whole-school approach to Jewish day school professional development. That project and schools across the continent have immeasurably benefitted from the invaluable skills and deep understanding of school culture.
Jane’s vision, passion, advocacy and leadership has had a profound impact on students, parents, educators, and administrators far beyond Boston. Gateways is honored to carry on Jane’s vital legacy of commitment to all Jewish students.
Thank you, Jane, for your leadership, your dedication and your friendship.
Arlene Remz, Executive Director, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education
As a high school principal in a high achieving Jewish Day School, I had the opportunity watch our Director of Student Support Services mold a program for academically challenged students. In a school where students were earning A’s and B’s, I saw the more challenged students be taught on their level and more importantly, be inspired to work to their potential. The track for these students was not only integrated for about half of the day with the mainstream students; even the specialized classes were not watered down: they pushed students to meet higher expectations than they thought they ever could.
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen embodies this philosophy of inclusion. As my leadership coach for two years, Jane taught me to push my students and my staff to achieve excellence, but always with an individual eye to help support each individual be successful. My weekly meetings with Jane were priceless.
I wish Jane Mazal Tov on this much deserved honor for her work on inclusion and for all of her work in improving the Day School movement in all of North America.
Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Rothman, Executive Director, Yeshivah of Flatbush
To know Jane is to love Jane. She inspires those around her with her words of wisdom, her strong vision, her passion for Jewish education, and mostly, with her incredibly big heart.
Jane epitomizes what all leaders should strive to be- selfless, devoted and guided by a strong sense of moral and ethical values. She leads by example and has paved the way for countless Jewish educators to follow in her footsteps and make a difference in the lives of future generations of Jewish children.
I am honored to call Jane my mentor and blessed to call her my friend.
Marnie Stein, Co-Head of School and Principal of JPPS Elementary School (Montreal)
When I took over the Initiative for Day School Excellence (“Peerless”) at CJP, I was excited that we would focus on excellence, access, and affordability. The “access” agenda put me in a direct, intensive, and wonderful relationship with Arlene Remz and Gateways.
At the time, Jane was the beloved Head of School at South Area Schechter. Through her example in the community, her work on CJP’s Special Education committee, and the personal and professional relationship we forged, I was constantly learning from Jane about Jewish day school excellence, leadership, and communal responsibility.
In those days, the growth and strengthening of Gateways and the thriving of South Area Schechter were intertwined. Likewise, as Nancy Kriegel and Elisa Deener-Agus joined the day school team at CJP, Gateways, South Area Schechter, and CJP’s day school work were intertwined. And so were we.
My work with Jane has continued ever since. I will forever be awed by what Jane has contributed to intensive Jewish education in the community and in the nation. I will forever be grateful for all that I have learned from her work, her example, and her friendship.
Mazal Tov on this beautiful honor, Jane. And special thanks to Arlene and everyone at Gateways for your gorgeous and critical work.
Susan M. Kardos, Senior Director, Strategy & Education Planning, The AVI CHAI Foundation
For the past 25 years, Jane has been a partner and source of inspiration and reflection for The AVI CHAI Foundation. The Foundation partnered with Jane when she was an extraordinary school head, as she came to lead the mentors at the Day School Leadership Training Institute at the Jewish Theological Seminary, again as the director of the Yeshiva University School Partnership, and then again as a founding leader at Prizmah: The Center for Jewish Day Schools. No one has influenced a more diverse mix of schools.
We also watched in awe as Jane personally coached tens of school heads, building trusting relationships and enabling them to flourish. Jane has inspired us with her amazing entrepreneurial spirit, deep integrity, and profound caring.
Thank you, Jane, for the impact you have had on children, educators, leaders, communities, foundations and the national day school field.
Yossi Prager, on behalf of The Trustees and Staff of AVI CHAI
Yossi Prager, on behalf of The Trustees and Staff of AVI CHAI
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen's name is synonymous with excellence in Jewish education.She has touched the lives of countless students and teachers with her wisdom, leadership, and caring. Whether she is teaching in a classroom or conference room, Jane joyfully engages with students of all ages. Her talented school leadership and unwavering commitment to professional development has enabled hundreds of teachers and administrators to promote change, build strong schools, and engage with their communities.
Thank you, Jane, for all that you have done for past, current, and future Jewish day school students.
Amy Gold, Head of School at Epstein Hillel School
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen has had a profound impact on my life. I was first introduced to Jane when I had the privilege of participating in an educational leadership program offered by Yeshiva University. After an incredible year of learning, I was given the opportunity to join the professional staff of the program. This was my first chance to see Jane’s thought process, approach and perspective on display in many different ways. Her warmth, support, wisdom and humility have allowed her to influence educators in a variety of ways. After becoming an administrator, my first item to negotiate was to ensure that Jane would be my coach. That was one of the best decisions I ever made. Her insight and guidance in my professional career has been invaluable. My wife would joke when she would see me on a work call and ask, “Is that Jane?” because that would be my first call when an issue or concern arises.
Jane’s ability to understand situations and appreciate nuance within different schools has allowed us to all benefit from her incredible knowledge and sensitivity. I am so grateful for all that she has done for me personally and professionally, and I look forward to continued growth under her guidance.
Rabbi Moshe Schochet, Head of School, Hadar High School for Girls
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen was an early partner in the DeLeT teacher education program at Brandeis University. A visionary school leader, she understood what it means and what it takes to build a strong culture of teacher learning in her school. Over the years she promoted serious and sustained professional development for day school teachers at every career stage. Jane has also been a tireless advocate for inclusion as a fundamental value and practical principle in creating humane learning communities. She leads with an embracing warmth and wisdom, affirming the divine spark in each individual and creating a whole that is greater than its individual parts. I feel blessed to count Jane Taubenfeld as a colleague and friend.
Sharon Feiman-Nemser; Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Professor of Jewish Education, Brandeis University
I first met Jane when Gateways began work on the B’Yadenu project. She was instrumental in writing the proposal for what would become a seven-year project that brought day schools in Boston and around the country on a journey toward meeting the needs of all of their learners.
Jane brought a level of professional wisdom and expertise to every aspect of her work in the schools. However, most importantly, through her enthusiasm and passion, she was able to deeply connect with and inspire teachers and school leaders.
Jewish day schools have been blessed with the opportunity to be touched and moved by Jane’s magic. And I personally have been privileged to work with such a remarkable educator and leader.
Beth Crastnopol, Director of Professional Development Initiatives, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education
In almost everyone's life, there are people who do good things for others, whom we rightfully admire. This is Jane Cohen.
There are those - typically fewer - who achieve great things, who lead others and bring about remarkable change and thus deserve both our thanks and our praise. This, too, is Jane Cohen.
There are those – even fewer – who, in their way, constantly inspire us and help us be the best selves we can be:
- Selves hidden from our view, which they see clearly;
- Selves we might be scared to admit, which they encourage us to embrace;
- Selves we might prefer to avoid, which they help us to confront.
These precious few arouse the angels in us and make us proud of ourselves. This, too, is Jane Cohen.
And how many are all three? We’re lucky if we meet them once in our lives. This is Jane Cohen.
Dr. Michael Berger, Atlanta, GA
Jane is a leader, a mentor, and an inspiration. Like a rock dropped into water, her work widens and extends far beyond the initial impact. In nurturing and strengthening so many educators, she empowers them to sustain the many children and families they serve, who, in turn, are creating the future of the Jewish people. She has, indeed, raised up many disciples and is a blessing to me and the many, many others she has gifted with her wisdom, patience, and vision. Thank you, Jane!
Nancy Leaderman, Head of School, Shalom School
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen is a leader amongst leaders. Her desire to move Jewish education – for all learners – forward has been both remarkable and inspiring. To have had the opportunity to work with her and see this passion and dedication first-hand is something for which I am eternally grateful.
Through her example, Jane has shown the world of Jewish education what it means to expand our thinking and work to meet the needs of as wide a range of students as we possibly can. She has taught us all to believe in the individual talents of every single student and has inspired us all to be better leaders and better people.
Adam Shapiro, Head of School Golda Och Academy
For the past six years, I have had the privilege to know and learn from Jane Taubenfeld Cohen. Her empathy, her capacity for seeing the world through the eyes of others, and her ability to push me to challenge myself with honest reflection, humility, and vulnerability has helped unlock my potential; I have become the leader I am largely due to the support and guidance of Jane. Jane’s belief in me, and in all the educators she supports, and her ability to “think big” about a person’s potential is a model for us all to follow, especially when it comes to inclusion. At its core, inclusion is the ability to see beyond the differences or challenges, to focus on the strengths of another as their guide to achieving success. This is what continues to inspire me about Jane and what I try to emulate with those I teach and lead.
Rabbi Allan Houben, Instructional Team Leader / US Judaic Studies, Atlanta Jewish Academy
Life as a Head of School is deeply rewarding, rich in meaning and a beautiful expression of one’s belief in the continuity and viability of our people. It also can be daunting, lonely at the top and a magnet for all those who just know better, if we would only heed their sagacious advice.
Sometimes one just needs a wise and kind mentor who can help us navigate the sometimes-tumultuous waters, while believing that there will be sunshine in the future. It requires a rare combination of wisdom, life experience, some well-placed words and deep insight to convey an aura of reassurance that it can and will work out.
Jane Taubenfeld ’s multi-faceted talents and warm, gracious personality make her this perfect mentor. May you have continued hatzlacha in all your endeavors as you continue to gift all of us in the field of Jewish education with your wisdom and kindness.
Rabbi Avraham Glustein, Head of School, Politz Day School of Cherry Hill
Dear Jane: If there were one particular quality of your wisdom and counsel that I have come to appreciate the most, it is your ability to offer perspective. Since our first meeting, I’ve valued your wisdom; I’ve benefited from your stream of podcasts, books, articles, and personal knowledge about education, leadership, culture, and the field. All are carefully curated to illustrate an issue, and not only answer questions or solve challenges, but teach in the process. You are one of a unique class of leaders with not only impact, but an indelible imprint on Jewish life.
Rabbi Marc Wolf, Vice President: Field Advancement, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools
Jane is a treasure; as brilliant as she is kind, as inclusive as she is diplomatic, as grounded as she is visionary.
I have often wondered and worried about the disconnect between our Jewish mandate to have foremost amongst our priorities our relationship with others and the exclusion of individuals and groups from participation in Jewish institutions. If we are to accept the great sage Hillel’s reasoning that “do unto others as you would have done to you” is the entire Torah, then we need to welcome others, no matter their challenges and differences.
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen has brought the message of inclusion directly to settings where she served in leadership capacities, and her skillful mentorship of leaders and developing leaders has given her passion and ideas exponential impact in the field. I suspect and hope that, despite Jane’s well deserved retirement, we will continue to find avenues to have Jane’s wisdom inform the sacred work we do.
Rona Milch Novick, PhD, Dean, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Yeshiva University
Jane has had a major impact on my growth and development as a Jewish educational leader. I had the privilege of having Jane as my coach for three years, and she opened my eyes to a different type of leadership.
In a world where loud people abound, Jane taught me about a vision for leadership that can be quiet, respectful, and focused on giving and building others up. Talking with Jane is like getting a graduate level course in the art of respectful communication and empathy. Being able to think strategically about leadership while maintaining the Jewish values of respect for others has been a gift that Jane has bestowed upon me and countless colleagues.
The field of Jewish education has been immeasurably enriched by Jane’s contributions, and it is inspiring to see her wisdom put to action every day in schools around North America.
This is a well-deserved honor, both because the Torah asks each of us to express Hakarat Hatov (appreciation), but also because it will serve to further spread the crucial Jewish educational values that Jane holds dear. Chazak Chazak, V’Nitchazek!
Rabbi Dov Emerson, Director of Teaching and Learning, Yeshiva University High School for Boys
So many of us speak to the value of inclusion, but Jane looks into the eyes of children and sees the potential they bring. It is more than recognizing that each child is b’zelem elohim and can benefit from being a part of the educational enterprise. Jane is able to help teachers chart a course that will allow the non-traditional learner to be an integral part of the school community. She has done this child by child, teacher by teacher.
I have also seen Jane’s courage in asking the skeptical to grow and think of possibilities for inclusion, to nudge funders to contribute to the enterprise. Jane has been both a constant reminder for me to have the courage of my convictions regarding the building of diverse learning communities and the model to go beyond words and live these values. Thank you!
Ray Levi PhD, Director, Day School Leadership Training Institute, William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, The Jewish Theological Seminary
I had the pleasure of first meeting Jane many years ago, as part of a group of concerned parents and professionals working together to create a day school in the south area, and later as colleagues passionate about inclusion. I quickly learned that Jane is a master at creating diverse learning communities where each person is a valued member of the community and appreciated for their unique strengths and differences. While this language may seem more familiar today, it wasn’t always part of the thinking in the Jewish community.
At the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School (SASSDS), Jane created a unique school and community. This inclusive community didn’t happen by chance; instead, it required hard work and a clear vision and philosophy. It meant giving students and staff the assistance they needed to be successful, while demonstrating that the learning experience was not diluted, but enriched for all. Making all of this happen was no easy task, especially when you and your school are among the first to adopt this. It takes unwavering passion, creativity, and a commitment to ongoing learning and inclusion, all of which Jane exemplifies.
Jane, as one of the first supporters of the Jewish Special Education Collaborative and later Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, I personally appreciated your support and encouragement as one of our earliest and continuous supporters. You always shared our vision and commitment to providing innovative programs that assisted students and staff and answered the question, “What does the student need to be successful?”
Jane, may you continue to inspire the Jewish community and go from strength to strength.
Sue Schweber, Past Program Coordinator, Jewish Special Education Collaborative
Past Gateways: Access to Jewish Education Day School Program Director
Jane Cohen has been such an inspirational teacher and mentor for me. She is a bastion of wisdom and has been such a valuable resource for me when working through difficult professional situations, and in developing my leadership capacities.
It is an honor to have worked with Jane in the ways I have been able, and am so happy she is being recognized for incredible work she does in service of the Jewish community.
Joshua Gold, Principal, HAFTR Middle School
We are all enriched when a diversity of perspectives, outlooks and abilities make up the communities in which we live and learn. It is leaders like Jane Cohen who continue to push us all to choose to include rather than to exclude, and to always strive to think about and then actualize what is possible, rather than to focus on what can’t be done.
I am proud to live and work in a Jewish community that expressly values the inclusion of people with all abilities. It is in this way that we can ensure a strong and vibrant people - am echad lev echad - one people, one heart.
Nancy J. Kriegel, Director, CJP Initiative for Day School Excellence
Jane was critical as a partner in helping me craft the vision for Yeshivat Frisch going forward as I became principal. Her kindness, her support, and her guidance proved invaluable to helping me both navigate the everyday issues that arise as head of school as well as in being able to create a culture of intellectual curiosity, religious growth and kindness so that adolescents can thrive every day at Frisch. She’s a leader in the world of Jewish education, and Frisch is deeply fortunate to have had time with her while shaping our community.
Rabbi Eli Ciner, Principal, The Frisch School
Earlier in my career, I was guilty of saying to families, “I just don’t think we can accommodate your child in our school. We’re not equipped to help him.” Working with Jane has helped me shift my perspective and become a radical inclusionist. She told me a story of a family whose child she helped integrate into her school. In her telling, she never described wavering about the decision or wondering if they would succeed. It was a given. The child deserved a Jewish education at her school, and Jane’s job was to figure out what would need to be true to make it possible. God gave these wonderful children not just to their families, but to our community. We must do everything and anything to include them.
Rabbi Maccabee Avishur, Senior Director, Leadership Development
Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools
Mentor, coach, “therapist,” and friend, Jane Taubenfeld Cohen has indelibly impacted the professional practice, style, and mindsets of hundreds of Jewish educators, and through them, hundreds of thousands of Jewish children. In her empathic, unassuming manner, Jane builds the capacity and confidence of school leaders, empowering them with tools and strategies that they play forward for the betterment of their own students, faculties, and parents. Most remarkably, Jane has the range to guide a wide range of professionals from a diverse spectrum of schools, while crafting a uniquely personalized approach for each individual mentee. Her sagacious wisdom and penetrating understanding of disparate people and situations form the foundation of Jane’s singular talent in relating to, inspiring, and uplifting those privileged to consider themselves her acolytes, her “groupies.” What an honor it is to count myself among them!
Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, Head of School, Eitz Chaim Schools, Toronto, Ontario
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen makes a difference for Jewish day schools around the country. I know, because I work at one of them. As my mentor, she holds me up. During the moments when I don’t think I have it in me to be a head for one more day, Jane reminds me to get on the balcony. During the days when I don’t have the courage to face leadership challenges, her words make me stand tall. Even on days when I have everything together, she makes me engage intelligently in study about leadership by sending book recommendations and articles. She knows my strengths and weaknesses and helps me be the best day school leader I can be. And I’m only one of her many mentees and admirers, blessed to be touched by her greatness. Jane is most deserving of this beautiful honor. Mazel tov to Jane and Gateways!
Cheryl Maayan, Head of School, Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School
Jane is a trailblazer. Before it was widely accepted in our community, she recognized the importance of including all Jewish children in our day schools. In the beginning, when we had few resources and little community interest, Jane led the way and inspired us to keep pushing toward full inclusion for all. She set the goal that success will be achieved when any Jewish child can access a day school education regardless of their challenges; that each child we include benefits from being a full participant in our community.
Inclusion is about neurodiversity, the idea that every human being has different strengths and challenges and that these differences are just part of the normal and essential human variation. G-d created everyone with an important part to play. Every Jew has a vital contribution to make to our community, and our community benefits from the full participation of all of its members.
Julie Gordon, M.A., Director, REACH
In Pirkei Avot 1:6, we learn: "Yehoshua ben Perachia says, "Make for yourself a mentor, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person favorably."
Over the last seven years, Jane has enabled me to fulfill all three of these instructions. There is nobody whose mentorship guides my actions more than Jane's. It is her voice that I search for when I need professional guidance and direction, and her wisdom that guides my moments of sound decision-making.
Though our early relationship was professional, Jane quickly became more than a supervisor and mentor. She is a dear friend with whom I have had the privilege to celebrate and struggle. Her constant refrain, "we are in this together," extended well beyond work and has enriched every aspect of my life.
Jane has always judged me favorably. She sees the best in me and enables me to see the best in myself. Her ability to see the potential in others and to draw that out is unparalleled. I aspire to the example she has set.
Thank you, Jane, for being my role model, my mentor, and my friend.
Shira Heller, Director of Teaching and Learning, Manhattan Day School
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen is one of my heroes. No words can truly capture the impact that Jane Taubenfeld Cohen has had on the field of Jewish education. Jane’s legacy is vast, but the unit of measurement is, as you would expect…the individual. Jane’s greatness can be seen in each individual child impacted by a teacher she has mentored, by a leader she has coached, by a parent she has counseled, and by a colleague she has guided. Her influence on teachers, leaders, parents, and colleagues across the entirety of the Jewish community and the broader educational community testifies to her ability to listen to and understand each individual. Jane’s belief in each individual fuels his/her growth and her personal care launches him/her towards unique greatness.
Scott J. Goldberg, PhD, Yeshiva University
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen inspires me by her unflagging commitment to Jewish education. She has improved the state of Jewish schools nationwide by mentoring and supporting countless educators and lay leaders. Jane is a steadfast source of wisdom, encouragement, professionalism and realism – so vital for those working in the trenches of our communal institutions.
Thank you for all you have done and all you do. You truly guide our people from strength to strength. Mazel Tov on this well-deserved honor!
Rachel Berke, Immediate Past President, Akiba Academy of Dallas
Being engaged in K–12 education, I believe that including children with special learning challenges and disabilities into the Jewish community is crucial. One major reason is related to the core Jewish goal of bringing up a child for Torah, Chupah, and Ma’asim tovim.
This means that even if students have learning challenges, helping children to cope with them actually leads them to build up a Jewish home. And this is a big goal for every Jewish community.
Another important factor in communities and schools that focus on the inclusion of children with learning challenges and disabilities is the degree to which they strengthen their culture of Derech Eretz. When engaged in interacting and learning with children with learning challenges, everyone masters the important mitzvah of Derech Eretz. Hence, each individual begins to reveal more Derech Eretz in everyday interactions with community members, classmates, and family members. In other words, the inclusion of children with disabilities is a sure way to bring up socially responsible members of the community who are deeply and naturally involved in Chessed.
Additionally, inclusion of people with disabilities also develops a growth mindset culture among teachers, students, and community members. When one believes in a child with special needs, s/he notices even small progress in his/her studies and continues to encourage that child. In doing so, everyone who interacts with that child begins to utilize that mindset with all the other people with whom they interact.
The most remarkable thing about children with learning challenges is that most of them are happy, positive, shining children with great interaction skills and warm friendships and aspirations and joys—until the time when they begin to identify themselves with their particular type of disability. We should be aware of this potential danger. This is why including students with learning challenges in the educational process and in community gatherings is a great responsibility for everyone involved: We want to maintain the positive mindset and the self-belief in each child with learning disabilities.
By realizing this responsibility, developing Derech Eretz, positive mindset and Chessed, our Jewish communities become stronger! Think of it! Our children with disabilities make our communities and schools stronger! Isn't it amazing!
I am convinced that every child should have at least one grown-up who passionately and irrationally believes in him!
So many people are blessed to be able to take this passionate and irrational belief in them from Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, the person who inspires minds and lights hearts by being able to see people's strengths when they are the weakest!
This belief enables Jane to reach out and support so many educators all over the world, and by doing so, gives our children in our Jewish communities hope to be reached, supported, and inspired. This, in turn, makes our Jewish homes and communities places of growth, belief, and inspiration!
Yulia Asinskayaj, Eitz Chaim Moscow
I think there are many days when Jane is the one getting us through the challenges of leadership. Even if it's not that day for that supportive phone call, we may find ourselves in an internal conversation that very much includes her wisdom. We find ourselves wondering, "What would Jane say?" and the answers give us strength. Those of us blessed to benefit from Jane's clarity, her empathy, her deep listening - we are beginning to internalize that unique "Jane voice." We are becoming stronger because she helps us build authentic strength on a foundation of honesty, vulnerability, self-awareness and trust. We are so grateful, and we know we are learning how be the "Janes of the future."
Tania Schweig, Head of School, Oakland Hebrew Day School
The answer is not "no". The answer is: What does it look like when your vision is attained? What does it look like when you are reaching more of your students more of the time? What can we do together to move your vision to an actual plan? When you can see the steps, create the plan, share a vision, the answer will always be "yes...and". Jane has taught me to look for the steps and map out the plan and to share the vision, so we can all push each other to move the needle of Jewish education one step at a time, one idea at a time, one student at a time, one family at a time.
Melanie Eisen, Director of Educational Innovation, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools
For anyone who even tangentially knows Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, there is no question that she has spent her career advocating for all Jewish children to have access to a Jewish education. Through her wisdom, passion, and compassion, Jane has made me a better educator and enabled me to help grow Striar Hebrew Academy into a school that could accommodate many more students with a much wider learning profile. Her impatience for positive change, and yet patience as a teacher of educators, has made Jane an outstanding mentor for so many in the field and a visionary who has helped shape Jewish education throughout the country.
I want to thank Jane for her leadership, her drive, and her friendship over these many years that I have known her.
Rabbi Yehudah Potok, Head of School, Katz Hillel Day School
Long before I entered the field of Jewish education, I had heard about Jane’s work at South Area Schechter. As a day school parent, I’d fret when I heard stories of students having to leave my children’s school because their particular learning needs were not being adequately addressed. But then I’d hear about those same students enrolling at Jane’s school and, as if by magic, starting to thrive. But it wasn’t magic; just lots and lots of hard work. The success of these atypical learners sprung directly from Jane’s single-minded vision for how to organize an entire educational program to challenge and enrich all students—not just those who fit into a narrow box. At Gateways, we do our best to follow in Jane’s footsteps by demonstrating to day schools around the country that the pursuit of excellent education for all rests on nothing more and nothing less than meeting the needs of each.
David Farbman, Senior Director of Education, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education
In thinking about how Jane has inspired me, it occurred to me that she has been the single most inspirational figure in my school leadership life. Jane has been my coach for the last five years, and we are still going strong (leaving aside my notoriously late call-ins). I started learning from her back when I was transitioning into my first head of school role, and I’m learning even more from her today.
Jane listens, clarifies, probes, analyzes, pushes back, guides and holds up “a mirror” in front of you like any good coach would do. But it’s the way she cares deeply about me (and all people) and my success that really makes the difference and leaves me feeling inspired and confident after each phone call. Jane will send me a "good luck text" before some significant school event, check in with me after a tough conversation she knew I was having, and shows that she cares about my family and personal life.
Aside from the positive impact that has had on me personally, I pride myself on trying to follow her example with the people I have the privilege of serving. I am so grateful to Jane Taubenfeld Cohen for all she has done for me and all that she has done and continues to do for the Jewish community.
Mazal Tov on this well-deserved honor!
Rabbi Adam Englander, Head of School, HALB Elementary School and Lev Chana
Jane is a tireless advocate for what she knows and believes will make this world a better place. Jane is a dreamer with a plan. She is not content to just imagine the world as it could be. She is deeply committed, with every fiber of her being, to taking concrete steps to making it so.
If you talk with Jane for a few minutes, you will likely hear her ask you a question. It will start off as a simple question that will inspire a new way of thinking. Jane sees what is possible, in the world and in individuals, and she always has an idea for how to make it better. But perhaps more importantly, she helps people understand that they have within themselves all they need to succeed. Her role is simply to help people realize their own gifts.
I met Jane as I was starting a career in Jewish education. Jane and I will often joke that she wasn't even my official mentor; and, yet, we are 15 years and counting, and I feel blessed to have found in Jane not just a mentor, but a close friend. When I feel stuck, Jane knows how to help me imagine what might be true if I think differently or imagine what is possible. Jane’s love, kindness, empathy, deep listening and belief in what is possible, creates conditions where everyone can succeed. I could not be more proud to celebrate Jane. Mazal tov!
Ilisa Cappell, Vice President, Leadership Development, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen has mentored a generation of Day School leaders, and thereby had an impact on a generation of Day School students who may never know that their education was better because of Jane. And how has Jane done this? By holding you up on the tough days, bringing you back down to earth when necessary, and always telling you what you need to hear.
Mazal Tov, Jane, on this extremely well-deserved honor!
Rabbi Harry Pell, Associate Head of School, Schechter Westchester
The musical orchestra is the epitome of inclusion. Each individual instrument creates its own unique sound; yet, when played together, they have the power to create something magnificent.
Honoring Jane Tauberfeld-Cohen at an event named "Sweet Sounds" is so befitting. Jane doesn't just talk about inclusion: she lives it. It is her legacy. One cannot help but feel like you are the only person in the world that matters when talking to her.
Jane's unique ability to see and name things is a gift--a gift that has revolutionized Jewish educational leadership. She is not afraid to ask difficult questions nor to ask you to lean into discomfort. I am a more courageous, daring leader as a result of her mentorship and guidance. Brené would be proud!
Rabbi Yossi Kahan, Middle School Principal, Brauser Maimonides Academy
Jane has dedicated her professional life to making sure that all children are able to have a quality Jewish education. From working toward building and inclusive Jewish educational community to mentoring and coaching educators who serve all students, Jane has and continues to leave a significant mark on our field. Mazal Tov, Jane, on this wonderful honor.
Valerie Mitrani, Director of Day School Strategy and Initiatives, Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE)
Jane has helped me humanize my work. She reminds me that I need to be moved in order to move others and that I need to let myself be seen in order to see others. Jane has helped me understand, see, feel, cry, and think. She has helped me inspire others to take risks, show their vulnerability and be courageous because she showed me how to take risks, how to show my own vulnerability and how to act with courage. She taught me that I can do great things, not despite my imperfections, but because of them. Because if there's one thing I learned from Jane, it's that being real is more important than being perfect.
How has Jane inspired me? She has inspired me to lead with authenticity, speak with passion and collaborate with respect. She has inspired me to show up, to let myself be seen, and to dare greatly.
Rabbi Yossi Kastan, Ed.D., Head of School, Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy
Jane’s is one of those rare voices that offers truth whenever its heard. It may be tough truth, even an uncomfortable truth – but always truth. I envy my friends and colleagues who have logged more years than I have with her, because the longer I’ve been privy to her advice and her insight, the more I’ve learned and grown. Chaval that I didn’t have the fortune to meet with her, much less work alongside her, years ago.
Jane can’t be anything but passionate – adamantly passionate – about her students, about schools and the sacred work that takes place within their walls. She wears that passion on her sleeve for all to see, and I’m pretty sure that she just doesn’t understand how anyone else can’t be just as enthusiastic about all that we do. She shares her wisdom and experience, never out of arrogance or hubris, but out of a generosity of spirit that celebrates someone else’s successes as much as her own.
We’ve occasionally disagreed on a few issues, and I’m glad for that. I’ve learned more from her when she’s challenged me to think again and to think differently. It has been a kavod to learn from her.
Mazal tov, Jane – and thank you.
Jerry D. Isaak-Shapiro, Head of School, Florence and Joseph Mandel Jewish Day School
When Jane Taubenfeld Cohen received the Covenant Award in 2006, these are just some of the attributes that made her a stellar educator: dedication, perseverance, creativity, love of Judaism and Jewish learning.
A dozen years later, these attributes remain true of this unique and inspired Jewish educator.
Jane was in the ninth grade when she was faced with a test harder than any she had yet experienced in school. She was asked to tutor three boys who presented classroom behavior problems and were having trouble learning Hebrew. Jane’s work in differentiated instruction began that day, when she went home and created a workbook for each child, geared towards his individual learning style.
As a professional, Jane went on to revolutionize how Jewish day schools engage students who have special learning needs through the creation of a culturally receptive, differentiated teaching model and a supportive, skills-rich environment where students are embraced and inspired to achieve their fullest potential, irrespective of their learning styles.
Jane is a focused, strategic thinker. She enlisted the support of her community to share her vision that a Jewish day school education must be accessible to a wide range of children.
In 2006, upon receiving the Covenant Award, Jane remarked, “What I know is that I deeply believe in children and that every child deserves a Jewish education.”
You want inspiration? That’s inspiration!
Harlene Winnick Appelman, on behalf of The Covenant Foundation family
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
In many homes, the Woman of Valor (Eshet Chayil) composed by Abraham as a eulogy for Sarah is sung on Shabbat in praise for the Jewish woman. The verse above, one of my favorites in this alphabetical prayer describes the rare person who blends wisdom and kindness, head and heart seamlessly.
That was Sarah the mother of all Jews.
That is Jane, a champion for all children, especially those with differences.
She leads with wisdom and compassion, genuinely determined to make a difference in the most transparent way. She believes in Gateways as they believe in her, proving that one can change the mindset towards people with disabilities, one person, one leader, one community at a time. There is a reason that for so many she is a shoulder to cry on, a pillar to lean on.
It’s not easy being a champion for those not “in the box”, but it is what makes Jane an unparalleled “Woman of Valor.”
Chanie Geisinsky, Associate Head of School, Silverstein Hebrew Academy
Jane has been a wonderful resource for me as I have made the transition into the Head of School role (from the for-profit secular world). Her wisdom and advice are always on point, given her breadth of experience (She has seen it all!), and she has sent me such interesting articles about leadership that have made me reflect deeply on my own effectiveness. I am so grateful for Jane's commitment to helping me and others develop as leaders in the Jewish world!
Rebecca Lurie, Head of School, Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston
I have known Jane in my work as a Head of School and through my work with the AVI CHAI Foundation, my work with Prizmah and also with DSLTI. I must have had hundreds of interactions with Jane, and, quite literally, on every occasion, I come away from the interaction with something that allows me to improve myself or my work. Sometimes it is a suggestion for looking at something differently, sometimes it is advice for getting my priorities better organized, sometimes it is asking just the right question that allows me to learn from my answer and sometimes we share a joke.
What is more impressive is that tens, if not hundreds, of Jewish educators, can articulate similar experiences, and each of us feel that when we have Jane's attention, she is there just for us. She listens carefully and her response is unique to the person and situation.
It is so very appropriate that Jane Taubenfeld Cohen is being celebrated at Gateways, an organization that she loves and whose mission she personifies. Every child and adult is a unique individual who deserves the opportunity for success, and every student, however she, he or they learn deserves a Jewish Day School education of excellence.
Mazal Tov Jane on this well-deserved recognition!
Jonathan Cannon, Head of School, The Ramaz School
Tzelem elokim (all people are created in the image of Gd) is a notion that we teach our students and speak of regularly. For Jane, it’s hardwired. She looks at a person and instantly sees their potential and uniqueness. It’s no surprise that she is an advocate for the inclusion of children because Jane recognizes and internalizes the infinite value of every human being.
If I had to isolate the core of who Jane is...she authentically and deeply cares about every person with whom she engages. Jane often says that it is about the people, relationships, trust, and vulnerability. These are the attributes that inspire me on a daily basis and have inspired so many others.
For all of the accolades she has achieved, for the countless leaders she’s cultivated and mentored - we celebrate her today.
Mazel tov on an honor well-deserved!
Your friend, your colleague,
Rabbi Ari Leubitz, Head of School, Atlanta Jewish Academy
Jane, you are the quintessential Jewish educator, an inspirational leader and the menschiest of mensches!
As the former director of the Day School Leadership Institute (DSLTI), I had the privilege and pleasure of working closely with you for over 10 years. You have guided, challenged and helped shape a new generation of leaders whom you have imbued with your wisdom, vision and values.
It is fitting that Gateways has chosen to honor you for your deep passion for inclusion in bringing out the best of children with special needs. You have enriched the minds and lives of so many.
A friend to all, Jane, you are an avid listener, with an open mind and an empathetic heart.
Mazal tov on this much deserved honor. It is a blessing to call you my colleague and friend.
Frances Urman, Former Director of the Day School Leadership Training Institute
“Don’t ask what it will take to fit a child into the school. Ask what it will take for the school to fit the child.”
This is the motto by which Jane Taubenfeld Cohen lives and breathes. She is a powerful advocate for the individual, and a messenger of justice for all. Her strong belief that every single child has a place in the community is put into her practice every single day. She has inspired hundreds of educators and heads of school to live up to her high standards of including students no matter their learning differences.
She is a role model, an inspiration, a relentless pursuer of justice and community unity.
Jane - may you continue to hold us to your standards and inspire us to break the barriers to achieving your dream of Jewish schools that include every Jewish student.
Lianne Heller, Director, Sulam
As a young Head of School, searching for best practices in a variety of areas, the one thing I learned quickly is that there is rarely one clear cut answer to any of my questions. There was rarely even a sense of broad agreement amongst schools pertaining to approach, process or results. We are simply that dynamic.
This is true in all cases but one. When surveying my friends and colleagues for names of professional coaches that they recommend as I entered my new position, I was not only amazed at how one after the other each recommendation began with "If you can get her, you gotta work with Jane", but even more so how wide and varying the group of educators was. Spanning all sects and styles of our Jewish Day School system, Jane's imprint was felt loudly. I have now been blessed to work with Jane personally, and the deliberations and decisions that I experience on a daily basis constantly draw upon our conversations and shared thinking.
Jane, may Hashem continue to bless you with the incredible zechut to continue teaching, empowering and inspiring all of the leaders of Am Yisrael! We feel blessed to have you as our guide and forever grateful for your commitment to each and every one of us.
Rabbi Yahel Tsaidi, Head of School, Yeshivah of Flatbush Elementary School