Why Shutaf?
“We first started giving to Shutaf because of our connection to the Steinberg Skop family. We like to support any good work that our friends do. We also had tremendous faith in Beth (one of Shutaf’s co-founders). We knew that she would use her intelligence and passion to make a substantial difference to the disability community. We were right. On an even more personal note, donating to Shutaf was particularly important because of Akiva (Beth youngest son, who has disabilities). Neither one of us had really ever known or interacted with someone with Down syndrome before and we started to realize how limited we were because of it. He has taught us a lot.”

What’s made you happy about giving to Shutaf on a regular basis?
“Initially we would give periodically — a special campaign, to honor or remember someone, around the holidays — or just when we remembered. This was all good, but over the years we have come to believe more and more in Shutaf’s mission as we continue to see the impact its programs have had on so many others, both disabled and typically abled. This called for a different kind of commitment on our part.”

How has getting involved with Shutaf made you think about inclusion and disability issues differently?
Naomi: “Speaking only for myself, my exposure to people with disabilities was through my experience in a NYC public school. There were a couple of Special Ed classrooms in the basement of the elementary school I attended. We would pass these classrooms on our way to and from the lunchroom. These kids were kept completely isolated. I remember the other kids always trying to sneak a peek at the “retards”. I purposely never did, because of how this behavior upset me and, in all honesty, I was a bit scared of the Special Ed kids. My response then became to look away. I realized that this had carried into my adult life — one of looking the other way at this kind of difference. Shutaf celebrates individuals for who they are, not what they’re not. What a wonderful way to view our fellow human beings.”

Jay: “Watching Shutaf’s growth and expansion over the years has made me a true believer in inclusion, both for the disabled and the typically-abled. If creating this type of environment leads to a fuller and richer life for all participants, then I want to support it as fully and completely as I can, and I urge others to do the same. Thank goodness for the Shutaf model and the vision, hard work and dedication of Beth, Miriam and their team.”

What made you decide this year to amplify your gift via monthly giving?
Monthly giving is a way to show our ongoing commitment to Shutaf. It’s also easy. Set it up once and it’s done. We are people of modest means and this is a way to give a fixed amount that we can work into our monthly budget. More importantly, because it is a regular gift, Shutaf can count on it in their budgets.

We have been married 32 years and have three daughters. Ariel is 28 (29 in May), Eve is 25 and Iliana is 21.

By Naomi Berger and Jay Brodsky