2018-08-29 / Local News

New special needs coordinator at M’kor Shalom felt a calling

Voice staff

FAMILY: Husband Eric Sherman- Roth; Parents Alan and Cindi; Grandmother Helene Roth; Brothers Andrew, 31, and Alec, 26; Aunts and Uncle Michael and Helen Roth and Andi Loew: dogs Jaxx and Tucker

SYNAGOGUE: Cong. M’kor Shalom

HOMETOWN: Voorhees


FAVORITE FOOD TO BAKE: Banana chocolate chip bread

Born into a family of entrepreneurs, Adam Roth developed a passion for business while helping out in Bill’s Meat Market in Northeast Philadelphia. Not surprisingly, he decided early on to forge a career in commerce.

However, during his sophomore year at Cherry Hill East, Roth had his first hunch he was meant for a different calling. In the same year he traveled to Israel for the first time with Cong. M’kor Shalom’s Confirmation class, he was a teen assistant in M’kor’s religious school. Roth really shined while working with children who needed extra help and encouragement, recalled M’kor’s Religious School Director Merle Steinberg.

“He was really among the best Madrikhim ever,” Steinberg said. “He was very compassionate, related really well to kids, and got along with everybody: Parents, students, teachers. He was going to go to college for business but I told him he really needed to be a teacher.”

There was another clue too. In the summer between high school graduation and college, Roth worked in the JCC Camps at Medford Open Hearts/Open Doors special needs inclusion program. The bond he formed with his Hilltop camper was so instantaneous and strong that they still keep in touch today.

A current M’kor Shalom board member and the synagogue’s new Special Needs Coordinator, Roth eventually did become a teacher. However, Roth did it in his own roundabout way. After graduating from Farleigh Dickinson University with an MBA in management and corporate communications in 2007, he landed his first post-college job marketing high-end jewelry and watches. This involved international travel, trade shows, and hobnobbing with celebrities, who would wear watches that would then be sold off as fundraisers. It was a great time— that is, until the economy crashed in 2008.

Next, Roth took an insurance job with the idea of specializing in estate planning for the LGBTQ community, but realized quickly it wasn’t for him. This was also around the time that his father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and he moved back to South Jersey.

“I was inspired by (then) Senator Obama. I felt like I needed to make a deeper mark and do something that would make me more fulfilled,” he said.

Among his first career switching moves, he called Steinberg, who was happy to both add him to M’kor’s teaching staff and to highly endorse his application as a Philadelphia Teaching Fellow. The intensive program allowed him to teach by day while taking education coursework through Holy Family University.

Roth considers it bashert (destined) that he was assigned as a special education history teacher at Frankford High School; in the very neighborhood that Bill’s Market served families since 1920. Although the Roth family sold the business in 2000, it was special to be teaching children of families who grew up as customers.

Two-and-a-half years later, when one of his professors alerted him to an opening at Moorestown High School, he landed his dream job teaching business. He primarily teaches honors-level courses, including entrepreneurship and global business, while working with special needs students on life skills during summers.

Meanwhile, at M’kor Shalom, Roth taught sixth and ninth grade and served as a chaperone on five Confirmation trips to Israel. Switching to special needs coordinator offers him a chance to work one-on-one with any child with learning or health issues, most intensively during their yearlong preparations for bar or bat mitzvah. In addition, he will be supervising the training of Madrikhim, who receive community service credit or salaries as well as certification to teach Hebrew school.

“It’s about meeting the students where they are and figuring out how to make them feel like members of our Jewish community no matter what the issues are,” he said. 

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