Matan is proud to have a uniquely qualified staff, bringing together professionals with diverse backgrounds in order to meet the needs of Jewish institutions, families and children. For Matan’s dedicated staff members, creating Jewish opportunities for children with special needs is much more than a job.
Dori Frumin Kirshner, Executive Director
Before becoming the Executive Director, Dori served as Matan’s Associate Executive Director for a year and a half. Prior to joining the Matan team, Dori was at UJA-Federation of NY for seven years, in both planning as well as fundraising capacities. Dori served as the Director of The Jewish Leadership Forum, a department which seeks to cultivate and engage the “next generation” of philanthropic leaders, raising $3 million annually from fewer than eighty donors. Dori began her professional career at The Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan as a bi-lingual educator (Hebrew and English), upon completion of her MA in Education from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Dori received her BA in sociology and Judaic Studies from Emory University.
Orlee Krass, Director of Education
Orlee Krass obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Judaic Studies from the University of Massachusetts and her Master of Science degree in Education from Mercy College in New York. She taught students with a wide range of special needs at elementary schools in Manhattan and the Bronx for 8 years. Orlee has taught students with special needs in multiple formal and informal Jewish educational settings and has been with Matan since 2010.
Meredith Englander Polsky, Director of Training and Advocacy
Meredith was one of the co-founders of Matan. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan, a Masters degree in Special Education from Bank Street College and a Masters degree in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University. In 2001, Meredith was one of eight national recipients of the first fellowships awarded by Joshua Venture: A Fellowship for Jewish Social Entrepreneurs. She currently resides in Gaithersburg, MD with her husband and three children.
Maya Blank, Site Supervisor
Maya Blank was born in Israel where she completed her theater studies at the prestigious Thelma Yellin School of the Arts. She was seen in leading roles in several films and stage productions, among them at the National Habimah Theater. Upon completing her military service as a film producer in the Israeli Defense Force Film Unit Maya went on to design and direct theater and storytelling workshops for children ages 3-13 in Israel. She moved to New York where she earned a Bachelor’s degree focusing on Psychology and Media Studies from Hunter College and a Master’s degree in Special Education with a concentration in autism from Columbia University’s Teachers College. After working for several years as a teacher delivering special education services to children and their families at home and at school, Maya became the head teacher and designer of a unique Jewish tradition program for children with autism at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue.
Chava Kadosh, Site Supervisor
Chava Kadosh, LMSW, holds Masters Degree in Social Work from New York University and Child Development from Sarah Lawrence College. She has had a wide range of clinical and educational experience working with children. Last year, she was the Child and Maternal Health Fellow in neurodevelopmental and related disabilities at the Rose Kennedy Center of Albert Einstein College. In addition to serving as a Matan site supervisor, Chava is currently working in a clinical capacity with children, adolescents and adults at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services.
Sandy Miller-Jacobs – Matan Institute Mentor
Dr. Sandy Miller-Jacobs has spent most of her adult life working with teachers and future teachers to provide successful educational opportunities for students with special needs. After teaching students for five years, she began a 28 year career as a teacher educator at Fitchburg State University in Special Education that included serving as department chair and interim Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Academic Personnel. From 2001 to 2007, as Director of Special Education Services at the Bureau of Jewish Education, she turned her energy to initiate and expand services for students with special needs in Jewish schools. For the past five years she has returned to teacher education at Hebrew College in the only Jewish Special Education program in the US. She consults to Jewish schools and provides professional development programs on differentiated instruction, the impact of disabilities on academic and social behavior, and behavior management. She has written articles and text chapters. She earned her BA from Queens College, CUNY, MEd from Boston University and EdD from Boston College. She received a Keter Torah award from the BJE in 2007. She currently holds the title of Professor Emerita in Special Education at Fitchburg State University.
Elana Naftalin-Kelman – Matan Institute Mentor
Elana Naftalin-Kelman is the Tikvah Director of programs for children with special needs at Camp Ramah in California and the Founding Director of Rosh Pina. At Camp Ramah she helped start the vocational education program for young adults with special needs and started the Ohr Lanu camp for families that have children with special needs. She received her MSW from Columbia University and her Masters in Special Education at Bank Street College in New York City. Elana has taught in both public and private school settings, in Day Schools and After-School programs for typically developing children as well as for children with special needs. She has served as a behaviorist, supporting students in their mainstream classrooms as well as served as a play therapist with young children with special needs. Elana has helped to create multiple models for supporting different types of learners in varied Jewish Educational settings, including at multiple Synagogue schools in the Los Angeles area. Elana is the Ruderman Fellow of The Joshua Venture Group. Elana lives in Berkeley, California with her husband Adam and their three boys, Yair, Nevo and Etai.
Fran Pearlman, Professional Development Consultant
Frances B. Pearlman has been working in Jewish education for over twenty-five years. She is currently pursuing an EdD at the Jewish Theological Seminary in the areas of Jewish Education and Special Education. She holds an MA in Jewish Education Administration from Spertus Institute of Chicago and a BA in Hebrew Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fran also holds an RJE (Reform Jewish Educator) certificate from the Union for Reform Judaism. Fran has worked in Jewish day schools, congregational schools, Jewish summer camps and public schools. She has extensive experience with curricular development (particularly in adapting curricula to accommodate diverse learners), teacher training, as well as in training shadows to work with students with special needs. Fran is a past President of CAJE (the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education).
Abigail Uhrman is an advanced doctoral student in Education and Jewish Studies at New York University. Abigail graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Los Angeles with a major in history and a minor in education studies. Following graduation, she spent two years as a fellow at the Drisha Institute of Jewish Education. Abigail then worked as a fifth grade teacher at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan and, later, a literacy coach and new teacher mentor. Upon completing her coursework, Abigail worked at the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life and was adjunct faculty at NYU. Abigail is currently in her second year of a doctoral fellowship at the Davidson School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Abigail lives In New York with her husband and 2 children.