Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, director emeritus of Yachad/The National Jewish Council for Disabilities, was named professor and Lucille Weidman Chair of the newly established graduate program in Jewish General and Special Education at Touro College.
Recognized for more than three decades of visionary leadership where he grew Yachad into a worldwide force for innovative inclusion programs serving children and adults with disabilities, Lichtman is responsible for launching and directing this new Touro graduate program, recruiting students, and teaching key courses.
“We believe Torah is the birthright of every Jew and so we must make sure it’s accessible for those with learning differences and special needs,” said Lichtman. “My goal in offering this program in Jewish special education is to give those who teach children with special needs the tools to provide their students with a proper Jewish education. Anyone who works with this population, whether he or she is a rebbe or a teacher, should be a highly trained and qualified professional.”
The new graduate program is designed for undergraduates seeking advanced training as they begin their careers as well as those in the first five years of their careers—those who do have some teaching experience but have not yet earned a master’s degree and are particularly interested in special education.
“The secret to special education is just good education,” said Lichtman. “This program will provide students with the training to become good educators, those who like Rav Prayda, of Talmudic times, are able and willing to teach a student the material 400 times if that is what he or she needs in order to master it.”
Students in the new Touro MS program will be prepared to serve and educate children with a variety of special needs—mild to significant learning and intellectual disabilities as well as those on the autism spectrum. The program will prepare students to work with children at mainstream Jewish Day Schools as well as those in special education programs such as Ivdu, Sinai, or Kulanu.
Lichtman previously founded Ivdu, an elementary and high school that serves a wide range of children with different needs. “I spent a lot of time training teachers who weren’t familiar with different styles of learning. I realized that too often, children are not thriving in school because teachers were not adequately prepared. We can equip teachers with the proper tools and enable them to help all children. At Touro, we will train teachers to be top notch educators so they can provide a meaningful and quality education in Torah and secular studies and every child will have a chance to learn. Over time, I know we can have a positive impact on professionalizing Jewish Education and Special Education while improving lives and maximizing potential for so many children,” said Lichtman.
In addition to the MS program, Lichtman seeks to create a post-masters certificate program that would create a master teacher level in Jewish Special Education. “This will enable people who already have a master’s in education to learn Jewish special education. In any profession, if you want to serve a specific need, you need to specialize and earn advanced training,” said Lichtman.
Dr. Lichtman earned his masters’ degrees in psychology and education from St. Johns University and New York University. He received his undergraduate and rabbinical training from Yeshiva University, where he completed his doctorate in psychology as well. His areas of expertise include individual and group counseling, social skills training, and teacher training. Dr. Lichtman is a member of the New Jersey Department of Education’s Non-Public School Advisory Commission and served as President of the Kushner Hebrew Academy. He resides in West Orange with his wife Helen, their two children and five grandchildren.