Severe neglect at Haredi-run home prompts NJ lawmakers to draft new legislation

At the Special Children’s Center, management tried to save money by neglecting children’s needs, employees told

The Special Children’s Center in Lakewood, N.J. Photo: Google Street View

Feb 8, 2024 4:00 PM


New Jersey lawmakers are drafting legislation to improve patient safety after an article in NJ Advance Media raised alarm about the treatment of disabled people at a Haredi-run institution.

A young autistic woman was neglected to the point of extreme tooth decay and alarming thinness at the Special Children’s Center, a state-funded group home in Lakewood meant to serve disabled adults and children, according to the report.

The 18-year-old woman, whom named only as “Leah,” lived at the center when employees informed her mother that no one was consistently administering Leah’s medication or brushing her teeth. Eventually, executive director Chaya Bender sent the mother an email saying the center couldn’t meet Leah’s needs, and she was removed from the facility.

Two former employees for the center told about systemic problems at the center, saying that management sometimes denied requests to take children to the doctor. They also said that when employees struggled to take care of children, they sometimes gave the children medication to put them to sleep or calm them down. 

Bender did not respond to calls and emails from

The Special Children’s Center was founded by Bender along with Jenine Shwekey, wife of the popular Orthodox musician Yaakov Shwekey. The center is expanding to Brooklyn and the Five Towns, the founders told the hosts of the Meaningful People podcast.