In News

by Claudia Sherman

Shana Erenberg, Ph.D., is co-founder and president of the Board of Directors of the Libenu Foundation in Chicago. Libenu Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that addresses the urgent residential needs of Jewish adults with disabilities and provides the residents with opportunities to live independent, meaningful lives as members of the Chicago Jewish community.

Dr. Erenberg provides consult services to communities across the United States that wish to start similar projects in their cities. Through the generosity of the Glazer Family Endowment Fund and the Aaron H. and Ruth Somberg Krantz Endowment Fund of the JFO Foundation, Dr. Erenberg will spend Tuesday and Wednesday, May 27 and 28, in Omaha speaking to teachers of Omaha and Lincoln synagogue religious schools, the Pennie Z. Davis Child Development Center, and Friedel Jewish Academy. She will also talk with families of Jewish adults who have developmental disabilities and live in Omaha and Lincoln.

Established in 2009, Libenu opened its first group home in Skokie serving six residents in 2011. A second home, which serves young women, the first of its kind in Chicago, opened in 2013. A third group home opens this month. A day program provides vocational, recreational, and educational opportunities for the residents.

Lizzie, a resident of Libenu and Dr. Erenberg

Lizzie, a resident of Libenu and Dr. Erenberg

Dr. Erenberg is also the chair of the Department of Education and a professor at Blitstein Institute of Hebrew Theological College in Chicago. She maintains a private practice for the diagnostic evaluation, remediation, and advocacy of children and adults with special needs. Dr. Erenberg is the Special Needs Consultant to the Community Foundation for Jewish Education and the Board of Jewish Education of Chicago.

Additionally, Dr. Erenberg serves as a consultant and provides in-service teacher training for numerous day schools and public schools in metropolitan Chicago and throughout the country. She is co-chair of the International Consortium of Jewish Special Educators in Central Agencies and a frequent conference speaker.

Founder of the Keshet Sunday School, established in 1982 to provide programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and operating according to traditional Jewish values, she served as its director for 20 years. In addition, she is a member of the University Review Board for the Illinois State Board of Education.

In Omaha, Dr. Erenberg’s first teacher in-service is on Tuesday, May 27 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Friedel Jewish Academy. It is open, free of charge, to teachers and staff from the congregational religious schools, the Child Development Center, and Friedel Jewish Academy. The topic will be Best Practices in Special Needs, which, Dr. Erenberg explains: “refers to strategies and methods that facilitate student engagement to maximize learning. Typically, best practices are research-based and reflect accepted standards of instruction. Best practices include developing an in-depth understanding of students’ strengths, needs, and motivation; using authentic assessment to differentiate instruction and monitor student progress; applying positive, proactive principles of classroom management; effective communication with students, parents, and colleagues; sensitivity to diverse student populations and needs as well as other important practices that enhance learning and maximize potential.”

That evening from 7 to 9 p.m., in the JCC Community Room, Dr. Erenberg will present the second in-service for educators on the topic, Beyond Stickers and Stars – Proactive Classroom Management. She said, “Most discipline techniques are reactive, responding to crises as they occur. The emphasis of this presentation is on underlying causes and communicative functions of behavior as well as what motivates a student to behave in a certain way and what to do about it.” She will touch on characteristics and effective discipline techniques for students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, sensory integration challenges, non-verbal learning disabilities, and ocular motor problems which all have similar symptomology.

To attend one or both of the sessions on Tuesday with Dr. Erenberg, please contact Mark Kirchhoff with the Center for Jewish Life at 402.334.6463 or

Dr. Erenberg will meet with families of adults with special needs and other interested community members at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28 in the Community Room at the JCC.

“Young adults with special needs share the same desires as their neuro-typical peers: to live meaningful, independent lives with dignity and respect as fully included members of their communities,” she said. “I think that they all share a desire for fulfillment, self-sufficiency, and self-determination. There is also a need for social interaction with peers and companionship which group living can provide. We have seen the young men and women of Libenu thrive in their new homes, develop skills and relationships that no one believed possible. It’s the best thing we could have done for them and for their families.”

When Baruch Schur’s son Josh moved into Libenu’s first group home, Baruch noted that “a tremendous weight was lifted from my shoulders. I realized that my dream for Josh’s independent future was now becoming a reality. My wife and I are no longer the sole caregivers for our disabled son. We now have a partner who assumes the primary role for this lifelong responsibility. By taking on this responsibility, the Libenu Foundation has given me and my wife and our other children the freedom to explore and live our own lives without the need to be on fulltime alert. I no longer fear for my son’s unknown future, because I am now linked to an organization comprised of professional, experienced, and caring individuals who capably manage my son’s life.

“The Libenu Foundation has managed to create a warm, friendly, and spiritual home for Josh; a home where he will hopefully live out a long and happy life filled with love, dignity, and respect. I am overwhelmed by gratitude and emotion,” he said.

Dr. Erenberg added, independent living is “not just the right thing to do. It’s imperative, and in the end, it will be a blessing and a gift to your community.”

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