The Tikvah Center has an incredible team of caring, talented and dedicated professionals in their field. We are fortunate to have developed a partnership with the Center for Autism and Related Diseases (UM-NSU CARD) for their consulting expertise in the field of autism education. Rabbi Julie Jacobs, Founder of Tikvah Center has been an instrumental part of the vision, growth and success of this Gordon School program, ensuring the highest quality education for Tikvah students on the autism spectrum.
Michael Alessandri, Ph.D.
Executive Director, UM-NSU CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disabilities); Clinical Professor of Psychology
Dr. Alessandri is also Director of the Division of Community Outreach and Engagement and Clinical Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Miami. Dr. Alessandri has worked with individuals with autism and their families for nearly 30 years. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Rochester, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He attended graduate school at Rutgers University, where he obtained both his M.S. (1989) and Ph.D. (1992) in Clinical Psychology. Dr. Alessandri completed his clinical internship at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Development and Learning (CDL). Prior to arriving in South Florida in 1996, Dr. Alessandri was an Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Jose State University (SJSU) and Associate Director of the Stanford University Pervasive Developmental Disorders Clinic.
Rabbi Julie Jacobs
Rabbi Julie Jacobs, Founder of The Tikvah Center, plays an instrumental role in helping to guide the growth of an exceptional academic program for children on the autism spectrum at The Gordon School. Due to the increased need by members of the community for services specifically for children on the autism spectrum, a group of Beth David families led by Rabbi Julie Jacobs spearheaded a mission to open an additional arm of The Gordon School – a Jewish day school program for children with autism. The vision came to life with the opening of The Tikvah Center in 2010. Today, The Tikvah Center provides an integrated Judaic and secular program of academic excellence while maintaining a program of individualized education that meets each child’s needs in a nurturing environment that helped establish our school’s reputation.
Rabbi Jacobs’ personal experience as a parent with children on the spectrum propelled her to envision a place of hope for autistic children to be able to learn in nurturing school setting. As the mother of four young children, three of whom have an Autism Spectrum Disorder and one has Crohn’s disease, Rabbi Jacobs understands the many needs of families and children impacted by autism. In addition to all she does for Beth David Congregation and The Gordon School, Rabbi Jacobs has served on the Executive Board of Autism Speaks, and has raised over $70,000 for the non-profit. Currently, she serves as a member of Autism Speaks Advisory Board.
In January, 2015, Julie Jacobs, known as “CJJ” by her beloved students at The Gordon School, received her ordination as an official Rabbi at Beth David Congregation where she has served as Cantor for 10 years. Jacobs is the first female Rabbi/Cantor in all of Miami. A graduate of Indiana University, Rabbi Jacobs holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music specializing in Vocal Performance. Music brings her great joy and Gordon School students benefit from her musical talents. Each year, Rabbi leads a dazzling Broadway production with a cast that includes Gordon School Tikvah Center students.