Kenneth Schaefler, longtime director of psychological and special education services at BJE: Builders of Jewish Education (formerly Bureau of Jewish Education), died March 10 at 68.
After earning a doctorate at the University of Southern California, Schaefler joined the staff of BJE in 1970 and devoted 38 years to making Jewish education available to students with diverse learning needs. He championed disabilities awareness, special education services at Jewish day schools and at regional centers (for afternoon religious school students), early detection and intervention as well as professional development for teachers.
Partnering with the Harold and Libby Ziff Foundation, Schaefler helped initiate resource rooms at 14 area Jewish day schools. Building on the “Kids on the Block” disability awareness program — using life-size puppets to help elementary school students understand diversity — Schaefler educated generations of students about individual uniqueness and the importance of inclusion.
Schaefler served as a consultation and referral service for thousands of families until retiring due to illness in 2008. He was a founding member of a national consortium of special education professionals at BJEs across the country.
He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Natalie, and sons Jonathan and Miles.