Our journey is a compelling story filled with pioneers and heroes who fought for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves.

Our timeline chronicles Reena’s growth from the humble beginnings to one of the largest and most influential support service agencies in the developmental and mental health sector.

Every week this year a captivating new story about Reena’s unique history of leadership, innovation, and compassion will be featured including important milestones, stories of individual achievements and ground-breaking partnerships.

  • 2010

    An Intentional Community: Lebovic Campus Reena Community Residence

    By 2010 the excitement was literally building for Reena’s  new Community Residence on the Lebovic Campus in Richmond Hill. The Sandy Keshen Reena Residence, embodies #inclusion in an environment where people of varied abilities come together to live a meaningful life, connected to their families, friends and neighbours. 

    Read about how this intentional community came to be and how it provides a home and supports an integrated community where people can live, work and play

  • 2009

    Saying Goodbye To Rabbi Kelman z”tl

    Visionary, scholar, champion, and humanitarian are just a few of the words used to describe Reena’s founding chair, Rabbi Joseph Kelman z’’tl who was the driving force of the Jewish community’s advocacy work on behalf of individuals with diverse abilities.  

    In 2009, Reena says goodbye to its spiritual leader and celebrates his life and work. Read about how Rabbi Kelman

  • 2008

    Celebrating Reena/Reena Celebrates

    In 2008 Reena celebrated its 35th year of promoting dignity, independence, community inclusion and fun. At Reena accomplishments large and small are not only recognized but celebrated.

    Read about how Reena strives to create a social, fun and inclusive environment for all by celebrating birthdays, holidays and each other.

  • 2007

    Tikun Olam: Healing The World

    How did a Jewish Agency in Toronto, Canada end up spearheading a project to help an orphanage and school in Islamabad, Pakistan? For Reena, ‘Tikun Olam’, repairing the world, doesn’t just mean in your own neighbourhood.

    Read about how Reena’s expertise is sought after as a leader in the developmental sector and how Reena’s reach extends beyond its borders.

  • 2006

    Integrating Residential Jewish Summer Camps

    Providing individuals with diverse needs the opportunity to enjoy the Jewish summer camp experience has been an integral part of Reena’s philosophy from the beginning. From integrating Camp Reena in the 1980’s to helping facilitate the integration of children with developmental disabilities into residential Jewish camps, Reena has always been at the forefront of ensuring inclusion in the Jewish camping experience.

    Read about how Residential camp integration began and how it gives individuals supported by Reena the opportunity for personal growth and independence.

  • 2005

    Continuing To Age Gracefully: The David & Luba Smuschkowitz Elderhome

    After the success of Reena’s first elder home, ground-breaking takes place on the second house in which older individuals with diverse needs, many who have been with Reena for 20+ years, can continue to live at home in independence.

    Read about the way even the most medically complex individuals supported by Reena enjoy their retirement.

  • 2004

    Learning and Development

    Reena has always been a leader in developing training for staff and volunteers in the developmental health sector for both its own staff and volunteers, and those from many other organizations. In 2004, the Developmental Disabilities Counsellor Program is re-instated at George Brown College.

    Read about how Reena’s Learning and development has grown from the early days to becoming the industry standard and how Reena continues to develop and share new and innovative training.

  • 2003

    Yetta Berg Family Home

    In 2003 Reena once again recognized a need in the community and began to work towards filling that need. The Yetta Berg Family Home was built to offer a permanent residential programme for children with autism.

    Read about how the Yetta Berg Family home offers families in crisis a haven of support.

  • 2002

    Striking for Gold: Reena and the Special Olympics

    Special Olympics is an international movement with more than 1 million athletes’ participation in over 140 accredited programs on every continent. Its mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition for those with developmental disabilities giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and share friendship with their families, other special Olympics athletes and the community.

    Read about how Reena has always encouraged team sports for individuals with diverse abilities, and how Reena supported individuals came to compete at the Special Olympics in a variety of sports.

  • 2001

    Loyalty: Employees who Love their Job

    What makes employees want to stay in the same organization for decade after decade? Reena boasts a list of 40+ employees who have worked with Reena for over 25 years.

    Read about how and why Reena employees continue to stick around year after year with love and devotion to the individuals and families supported by Reena.

  • 2000

    The Art of Reena

    Art has always been a way for people to express themselves. The same is true for individuals with diverse abilities. Reena has always nurtured art as a way for individuals to celebrate the world and their place in it.

    Read about how Reena has encouraged and utilized art throughout the years from everything to art shows and greeting cards to inspiring artwork and murals in homes and residences.

  • 1999

    Leading The Way: The Ontario Partnership on Aging and Developmental Disabilities

    In 1999, in honour of Reena’s 25th anniversary, the first symposium on aging and developmental disabilities was held. Some 25 years later, Reena is still an integral part of the Ontario Partnership on aging and developmental disabilities. 

    Read about how Reena came to lead the way in developing partnerships between the developmental sector and other various supports and services for seniors.

  • 1998

    Aging Gracefully: The Al & Faye Mintz Reena Elderhome

    In 1998, one third of individuals supported by Reena were 50 years old or older. Knowing that most nursing homes and residences for the elderly do not meet the needs of seniors with developmental disabilities, Reena recognized the need to address the issue.

    Read about the first Reena Elderhome and how it was the first of several projects aimed at dealing with the aging population.

  • 1997

    Extending Our Reach: Reena Resource Office

    In 1997, Reena hit another milestone opening the Reena Resource Office to address the growing waiting list of families in search of assistance.

    Read about how Reena began reaching out to families in a different way by connecting them to resources and how Reena has continued to improve upon the way it assists families and individuals with diverse abilities.

  • 1996

    Preserving Our Culture: Faith Alliance Group

    In 1996 Reena helped establish the Faith Alliance Group to ensure that the faith and cultural aspects of agencies like Reena are recognized and maintained by the government.

    Read about how the Faith Alliance group was just one of many efforts that Reena has been a part of to support families and individuals’ rights to select and receive services that reflect their faith and cultural values.

  • 1995

    Community Integration: The Toby And Henry Battle Developmental Centre

    Toby and Henry Battlez’’l wanted individuals supported by Reena to have access to facilities that their daughter’s with developmental disabilities did not have. The Battle centre was the first facility of its kind in Canada to offer integrated special needs services.

    Read about how their generous donation built a centre that offers daytime social and recreational activities for individuals with diverse abilities and learn how the Battle centre was Reena’s next step in working to integrate individuals into every aspect of community life.

  • 1994

    Reena Responds To The Aging Population

    Recognizing the reality of the aging population of individuals with diverse abilities Reena, once again, begins planning for the future needs of those whom they support.

    Read about the development of programming for older individuals in its various forms and how it eventually led to Reena’s first Elder home.

  • 1993

    Building The Future: Batay Reena

    Providing low rent accessible housing for Reena supported individuals has always been at the forefront of Reena’s work. 1993 not only marked Reena’s 20th anniversary, but it also marked the establishment of Batay Reena, a new building arm for Reena.

    Read about how Batay Reena’s leadership literally paved the way for many new Reena homes, community residences and facilities.

  • 1992

    The Re-Birth Of Reena Foundation

    In 1992, as the organization continues to grow, the decision is made to restructure. The service arm officially becomes Reena, with Reena foundation representing the funding development arm.

    Read about the work of the men and women who have led the way on both Reena and Reena Foundation boards and worked diligently to continue to help build a bright future for Reena supported individuals.

  • 1991

    L’dor V’ador: Young Leaders

    By 1991, Reena’s Young Leadership Division was in full swing fundraising through various annual events and volunteering throughout the year.

    Read about how Reena’s Young Leadership Division evolved and bred Reena board members, and how Reena continues to depend on young volunteers today.

  • 1990

    Thank You For Being A Friend: Pal-Unteers

    Everybody needs a friend. Luckily, in 1990, Reena’s Pal-unteer program was in full swing with direct service volunteers developing one-on-one friendships with Reena supported individuals.

    Read about how the program was win-win, with both volunteers and Reena supported individuals reaping the benefits of spending quality time together.

  • 1989

    Volunteer Appreciation

    From the very beginning Reena has relied on volunteers to help build an inclusive community and help Reena supported individuals in a variety of ways. In 1989 Reena begins to formally recognize and show appreciation to those who give of themselves so freely.

    Read about how volunteerism at Reena has grown over the years and how our many volunteers have been honoured for their work with individuals with diverse abilities.

  • 1988

    Celebrating Passover Reena Style

    Reena has always been about creating a world that includes people with diverse abilities in every aspect of life including Jewish life. Passover has always been a time to come together in celebration at the Reena Community Seder.

    Read about how Reena’s seders have evolved over the years and learn how Reena strives to include every individual in Jewish life.

  • 1987

    Reena Moves North

    As Reena’s reach begins to extend north of the city of Toronto into York Region, so does Reena’s annual Fun Day. In 1987, the event moves from its original home in Yorkdale Shopping Centre to the Promenade Mall.

    Read about the iconic fundraising event and how the shifting Jewish population combined with a welcoming city and municipality helped lay the groundwork for future partnerships in York Region.

  • 1986

    Mazel Tov! Reena Celebrates Its Bar Mitzvah Year

    Even before Reena officially existed, Rabbi Joseph Kelman z’’tl  was committed to providing a Jewish experience for individuals with developmental disabilities, including bar and bat mitzvahs.

    Read about how Reena has led the way towards inclusion in the Jewish community and what a Reena Bar mitzvah celebration is all about.

  • 1985

    Recognizing The Heroes: The Tammy Gutstein Humanitarian Award

    Reena would not be where it is without the hard work and devotion of its many volunteers. The Tammy Gutstein Humanitarian award was established in memory of a dedicated young volunteer and is presented annually to a person who has involved him or herself in improving the quality of life for individuals with diverse abilities.

    Read more about some of the recipients over the years and how Reena continues to recognize the tremendous efforts of staff and volunteers.

  • 1984

    Outreach: The Reena Cartwright Resource Centre

    Reena hits a milestone in 1984, opening an adult learning centre for individuals with developmental disabilities. The Reena Cartwright Resource Centre offers vocational training, life skills and recreation for many individuals, some of whom were still coming straight from institutions.

    Read about how Reena’s resource services have grown since then and how Reena continues to work with its employer partners towards inclusiveness.

  • 1983

    Nimby-Ism In North York

    In 1983, the concept of group homes was still a fairly new one that not everyone was in favour of, especially in their own neighbourhood. When Chai-Tikvah, Reena’s mental health program, wanted to secure a house for the rehabilitation of psychiatric patients, NIMBY-ism (not in my backyard) took hold in North York.

    Read about the many champions who stepped up for Reena and Chai-Tikvah and how Reena continues to thrive in residential neighbourhoods and communities today.

  • 1982


    In 1982, Chai-Tikvah, a mental health program was established under the Reena umbrella. Born, once again, out of the concern of a small group of parents, their goal was to establish a Jewish group home for the rehabilitation of individuals with mental health issues.

    Read about how Chai-Tikvah became one of the first organizations fostered by Reena and how it has grown to not only help individuals and their families through support services and programs but has helped change policies and practice through advocacy and research.

  • 1981

    Putting the Fun in Fundraising

    Reena has always had the support of generous volunteers and donors who have come up with a multitude of unique, fun, and inclusive ways to raise money to help meet the needs of individuals supported by Reena.

    Read about Reena’s signature Fun Day and the people who made it happen. Learn how the event was not only fun for all attendees but also for all the volunteers who worked on it too.


  • 1980

    Irving & Sylvia Ungerman Sports Complex

    In 1980 Camp Reena, Reena’s 52-acre summer retreat just outside Orangeville, was thriving and growing. As part of the largest fundraiser at the time, Irving Ungermanz’’l, successful businessman and one-time professional boxing manager and promoter agreed to be roasted by professional comedian and roast master Don Ricklesz’’l.

    Read about the historic event and how the Ungerman family has built a legacy at Reena that continues today.

  • 1979

    Promoting Inclusivity In Jewish Life

    Rabbi Joseph Kelmanz’’tl was at the forefront of promoting inclusivity in Jewish life for individuals with developmental disabilities. In 1979, Reena sponsored a conference for rabbis and clergy from all denominations to discuss the issue.

    Read about how panelist and Reena parent Syrma Kochberg spoke from her own experience and learn how Reena’s advocacy role has grown since then.


  • 1978

    Creating Opportunity

    Reena begins to receive funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services and invests in training individuals with developmental disabilities for gainful employment in an inclusive environment. Creations by Reena silk flower designs becomes one of the first of Reena’s supported employment programs and serves as a model for many future endeavors.

    Read about how Reena has strived to help garner a sense of independence and self confidence for supported individuals while promoting inclusion in the workplace.

  • 1977

    Reena Goes To Israel

    Reena’s focus on inclusivity working within a framework of Jewish culture and values inevitably led to a trip to Israel. With the guidance of Rabbi Joseph Kelmanz’’tl, the first inclusive trip to Israel with Reena individuals took place in 1977 and was a huge success paving the way for many future trips.

    Read about those who have helped guide Reena’s faith and cultural services and how Reena continues to provide a Jewish experience for supported individuals and their families.

  • 1976

    Sandy Keshen Takes The Lead

    In 1976 Sandy Keshen took the helm becoming Reena’s executive director and helping drive the vision of community inclusion with her unwavering belief in social justice for individuals with developmental disabilities.

    Read about her diligent work to ensure the rights of all individuals over her 41-year tenure and how the word “impossible” was not in her vocabulary.

  • 1975

    Creating A Joyful Summer: Camp Reena

    The generous donation by Joe and Helen Bermanz’’l of a 52-acre camp just outside of Toronto became a haven for individuals with developmental disabilities. With 50% of the campers coming directly from institutions, a summer break at the retreat near Orangeville was an amazing experience for both campers and staff alike.

    Read about how Camp Reena grew, evolved, and became a model for outreach programs year-round.

  • 1974

    The House That Started It All

    Reena Founding Chair Rabbi Joseph Kelmanz’’tl liked to call Reena’s first group home on Luverne Avenue “the house that started it all.” However, the road to Luverne Avenue was a bumpy one filled with NIMBY-ism (Not in my backyard), prejudice and municipal red tape.

    Read about how the determination of those who were fighting for our communities most vulnerable, and their supporters, overcame numerous obstacles to prevail.

  • 1973

    The Beginning

    Reena was officially incorporated in 1973, however the groundwork for Reena was laid years before when a few parents of children with special needs approached Rabbi Joseph Kelman z’’tl of Toronto’s Beth Emeth Bais Yehudah Synagogue for help.

    Read about how Toronto’s Jewish community stepped up to deal with Ontario’s de-institutionalization of individuals with developmental disabilities in the early 1970’s and how Reena Foundation was born.

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