In 1986 The Jerusalem Post published a most shocking report of families in Israel who had given birth to a child with Down syndrome. More than eighty-five percent of children born with Down syndrome in Israeli hospitals were being abandoned by their families and never taken home. An alarming statistic indeed!

Ernest Rothman is a special educator who grew up in Los Angeles and is currently living in New York with his wife and children. He holds both Rabbinical and Special Education degrees. He is the founder of the Count Me In Foundation, a not for profit organization he established as a vehicle to create awareness about disabilities and their successful inclusion in society. When Rabbi Rothman read the Jerusalem Post report he was terribly shaken. He wholeheartedly believed that many parents giving birth to a special child were making rash, uneducated judgments regarding whether to take their children home from the hospital to raise, or to give them up for adoption. These unqualified decisions were most often based on a combination of shock, fear, misconceptions, hearsay and popular myth. Rabbi Rothman argued that although parents do of course have the basic right to have the final say in the matter, and personal option of doing what works best for them, but shouldn’t they also should have all the knowledge and information necessary to make a wise, educated choice?

Rabbi Rothman realized that there was an urgent need to help educate parents to the vast potential of these unique children, and that for many families, taking their child home to raise within the family unit could be very productive and rewarding. He was determined to build a model educational and rehabilitative facility in Israel for children born with Down syndrome. Parents needed to see with their own eyes that by investing in the development of their special children they can truly enable and empower them to become independent, self-sufficient, and fruitful members of society and the community.

At that very same time, in the Southern part of Netanya, a little baby boy with Down Syndrome was born to Chaim Plato, a dear friend of Rabbi Rothman.. Chaim Plato was born in Brooklyn and studied at the Mirer Yeshiva in Brooklyn and at Beth Medrash Gevoah in Lakewood. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brooklyn College and later moved with his wife and family to Natanya, Israel. Rabbi Plato is the Rosh Yeshivah Emeritus of the Radin Campus in Natanya, founded by his late father-in-law Rabbi Londinski.

Rabbis Rothman and Plato, looking towards the future, began to investigate the efficacy of existing educational opportunities in a search for a top rate educational facility for children with Down Syndrome. Sadly, they did not find anything satisfactory. They collaborated together, and after much effort, toil, and sweat they built the Count Me In Center for Special Children in Natanya, which soon became one of Israel’s premier institutions for special children. Little Moshe Plato soon became one of the Center’s founding students. The opening of the Count Me In Center for Special Children, in conjunction with other vital Count Me In programs, generated tremendous public awareness which, over time, has been influential in causing the national rate of abandonment in Israel to plunge dramatically to well below 40% - and still falling.

Thanks to the efforts of Count Me In Foundation and the broad public support it enjoys, more and more people are realizing that special children need not be a burden to their families and society, but quite the contrary; special children are simply … special!


Rabbi Ernest Rothman is the Founder and Director of the Count Me In Foundation. He holds degrees in both Rabbinics and Special Education. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Rabbi Rothman currently lives in New York with his wife and children. He provides special education training and remedial assistance in addition to giving daily lectures in Talmud. Rabbi Rothman is proud to serve on the boards of many charitable Jewish organizations.

With Dr. Warwick J. Peacock, Professor Emeritus of Pediatric Neurological Surgery, University of San Francisco

With Dr. Leila J. Arens, Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Cape Town, South Africa

With Professor Dr. David Segal, Chair, Dept. of Orthopedic Surgery, Hadassah University Hospital

With Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss, Chief Rabbi of the Beis Din Eida Chareidit, Jerusalem

With a child at the Count Me In Center

Observing a music therapy session at the Count Me In Center

With Drs. Warwick J. Peacock & Paul Jordon

With Dr. Louis Lasagna, Dean, Tufts University School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Boston

Speaking to a group of prominent rabbis



Rabbi Chaim Plato was born in Brooklyn and studied at the Mirer Yeshiva and Lakewood. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brooklyn College and later moved with his family to Natanya, Israel where Rabbi Plato currently is the Rosh Yeshivah Emeritus of Yeshivat Radin.

Rabbi Plato and his wife have ten children. The Plato's youngest child, Moshe Plato, was born with Down syndrome. Moshe has grown into a delightful young adult and works in a local supermarket. He gives much pleasure to his family and the entire community.

With Rabbi Rothman at the Count Me In Center

Welcoming the Counsel General of the Netherlands

In the Classroom

In the Playground

In the Old City

With son Moshe at the Kotel

With students of the Count Me In Center

At the Bar Mitzvah of a student

With a student in the Factory Workshop