June 13, 2012|By David A. Schwartz, Staff Writer
Shaul Shifrin’s son Avignor, 15, attended a main stream school before coming to the South Florida Jewish Academy in Coconut Creek, a school for children with special needs, three years ago.
“He didn’t fit the cookie cutter mentality of the school,” Shifrin said after a graduation ceremony for five 8th graders, including Avignor, and one senior.
The first school helped his son “build the tools to go on,” Shifrin said. “This is the school that helped him to use the tools.”
Shifrin said Avignor was “very closed, very sheltered” and never talked about his problems or issues.
Now, he has a lot of charm, Shifrin said. “You shake his hand, count your fingers. He’s good out of pressure. He knows how to think out of the box. If you saw him three years ago, you would not think it was the same kid.”
“I’m getting there fast, especially with the help of my teachers,” Avignor said. He had an anger problem and was far behind in his classes, he said. Now, his favorite classes are Judaic studies and math and he likes the science experiments.
Lori Lesser, whose son Matthew also graduated from the 8th grade, said he was a student at the Summit Montessori School in Boca Raton before coming to the South Florida Jewish Academy two years ago.
“I wanted a small, nurturing environment,” Lesser, of Boca Raton, said. “He needed to find a middle school. When I found South Florida Jewish Academy, I just felt at home and so did Matthew.”
Her son has “changed a lot,” Lesser said. “He’s more independent, his self-esteem is better and he’s made friends.”
“South Florida Jewish Academy has changed my life,” Matthew said from the podium during the graduation ceremony. He said he was behind in reading and math. He said he learned aboutcomputers and Hebrew grammar.
South Florida Jewish Academy has 50 children in kindergarten through 12th grade and will have a separate high school with 15 children when classes begin next fall, Baila Gansburg, the school’s director, said. Students come from throughout the tri-county area — from Boynton Beach to Surfside — she said.
“This school is meeting my son’s needs,” said Emmanuelle Freedman of Hollywood, the mother of 7th grade student Avinoam, 13. It has helped him build self-confidence and social skills, she said.
South Florida Jewish Academy has small classes and a warm, nurturing environment, Freedman said. “They take it case by case and they really try to push the children to be their best.”