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Bagels & Bytes for January 3rd, 2003
January 3rd, 2003
We shared a bagel with Milwaukee mensch Jody Margolis, advocate for children with special needs.
Shes all about kids all kids in the community.
Jody Margolis has been working to help Jewish children with special needs since she moved to Milwaukee 12 years ago.
A native of Chicagos north shore, she earned her bachelors and masters degrees in special education/learning disabilities at Indiana University where she also met her husband, Milwaukeean Dr. David Margolis.
After we got married, we couldnt decide if we should live in Chicago or Milwaukee and wound up here. Though I already have 20,000 miles on my new car because I travel back and forth to see my family, we love it here, she said.
The couple settled in Milwaukee at the time Hillel Academy was launching a new resource program for children with special needs.
Before I was hired as a learning specialist, the school tutored kids with problems. The new concept was a pull-out program where the children came to me from a mainstream class for special help. It was a perfect fit, and I worked there for seven years. However, as I started my family, I weaned down my hours until eventually I stopped working altogether.
But she didnt stay uninvolved for long. With her own children, Rachel, now 11 and Melissa, 8, enjoying many programs offered by the Jewish Community Center, Margolis, too, became active as a volunteer and board member.
I got hooked into supporting the J after I stopped working because my kids love being there. Growing up in the Chicago area, there wasnt a local JCC, so it wasnt a part of my life. But, here, when we ask our kids what they want to do on the weekends, they want to go to family gym, swimming or something else at the J.
Also, David and I found it to be a great place to network, socially. Our good friends are all involved, too, she said.
Margolis, 39, was chair of the JCCs Early Childhood Committee, volunteered in the Parenting Center, was vice president of the executive board and served on various other committees.
Just when she began feeling it was time for some new blood at the J, opportunity again came knocking.
At that time, Keshet of Wisconsin was becoming more involved in the Jewish day schools. What was very nice was that Jay [Roth, executive vice president of the Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC] recommended me for the job of Keshets education director.
With her younger daughter in first grade, she was ready to get back into her profession and was hired by Flora Abramson, Keshet director, with whom she said she gets along like bread and butter.
This year, Margolis will supervise the teachers and aides at all three elementary day schools Hillel Academy, Milwaukee Jewish Day School and Yeshiva Elementary School and at Childrens Lubavitch Living and Learning Center. Two aides at YES and five at the Karl Jewish Community Campus work with the children in Judaic and general studies.
This year, we are servicing 14 children with special needs in Jewish schools from pre-school through eighth grade, she noted. Its very exciting.
Keshet, a program of Jewish Family Services, provides the resources that enable Jewish children with disabilities to be included in Jewish educational, social and cultural programs.
All the children have been identified with special needs through either private or public school testing. Our job is to develop an IEP individualized education plan to meet their special needs. Without Keshet, these children would not be serviced in a Jewish school, she explained.
Since all the childrens needs are different, some take regular classes and some do not. We run numerous programs, which we adapt and tailor for each child, she said.
Margolis meets weekly with staff to discuss each child. I give them strategies to try in the classroom because special ed means unpredictabilty. Every day is different. Some things work and some dont, so we stay on top of each challenge.
Shes been with Keshet for three years and notes that each year the program has grown. The more funds we raise, the more children we can serve. Since we are entirely privately funded, there are some children not being served. We do our budget in the spring, so if a need arises over the summer, we dont have any extra money.
She loves what she does and has only one regret: I wish more people knew about Keshet.
Margolis had a toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese at Einstein Brothers Bagels in Mequon.
By Mardee Gruen