A 1974 ICJA graduate, Shana Erenberg has been involved in Jewish education and special education throughout her long career. A founder of Keshet, Shana ran Keshet’s Sunday school for twenty years. She’s also the Chairwoman emeritus of the Department of Education at Hebrew Theological College, and an emeritus professor there. Shana maintains a private therapy practice, diagnosing and testing patients, and providing advocacy for children and adults with disabilities.
Shana is also the founder and CEO of Libenu, which provides kosher residential services for Jews with disabilities in Chicago. “We provide kosher, shomer Shabbat housing for Jewish adults,” Shana explains. Libenu also provides Lev Respite, an afterschool program for children with disabilities. “For some of the kids who come, it’s their only Jewish experience.” Participants receive a kosher dinner, enjoy activities, then return home at bedtime. Libenu’s newest venture is Lev Laila, an overnight Shabbat program for children with disabilities. “They come and it’s joyous and magical,” Shana explains.
Also starting in November, Libenu is partnering with No Shame on U to begin a program focusing on the mental health needs of caregivers. “We’ve been on a passionate journey to bring people and organizations together,” Shana notes. She gives credit to her amazing Board Members and colleagues who help Libenu thrive.
Shana draws on her experiences at ICJA to inspire her in her work. Shana’s mother, Mary Ann Bell z”l, was ill with cancer while Shana was in high school. (Mrs. Bell passed away when Shana was 18.) “The extra compassion and care that a number of the teachers showed me at a time that was very difficult in my life,” was life changing, Shana explains. “They were so understanding, and they really held my hand during this time in my life. I’m eternally grateful to them.”