Rabbi Jake


Jonathan Marks’ article “More Needed for Jews With Special Needs” (Dec. 16) highlights an important issue in our community that often resonates only with those families who have severe special-needs children themselves.

My father-in-law, Jacob Eckstein, z'l, was known as Rabbi Jake on Long Island, and renowned as a tutor, mentor and friend to those children that no day school or Hebrew school would enroll. Some of his students could not put a sentence together in English, but he managed to teach them the Shema and made b’nai mitzvah ceremonies for them. They came from some of our wealthiest families, as well as those who could not pay, but they all shared the sense that the community had failed them, and they were right.

When Rabbi Jake got sick, parents came to visit him and cried over their teacher, but they also must have been thinking about where can they now turn for help. I hope that your article spurs new Rabbi Jakes to take care of those who have been left out of our communal institutions and that we better understand the unique needs of this population in our midst.