Siff Foundation Funds UCLA Education in Supporting Better K-12 Practices for Children with Special Needs

Endowment is named for Noah Erenberg, a successful California artist on the autism spectrum and the Siffs' grandson; research to be led by UCLA Education Professor Connie Kasari.

Noah Erenberg is an artist in his 40s who, over the past 25 years, has produced a vast body of work and has had showings of his art throughout Southern California and the Central Coast. What is distinctive about Noah is that he is on the autism spectrum, but he has developed an independent life on the Central Coast as a successful artist whose vivid use of color and brush strokes is getting him noticed in the art world.

In May of 2018, the Philip and Aida Siff Educational Foundation made a gift of $2 million to the UCLA Foundation, naming it the Noah Erenberg Endowment Fund as a tribute to Noah and the fulfilling life he has created for himself as an adult with special needs.  The income from this endowed fund will support UCLA Education’s work to strengthen K-12 settings for children with special needs.

“UCLA Education is honored to be the stewards of this gift from the Philip and Aida Siff Educational Foundation,” remarked UCLA Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco. “About 20% of children in each classroom have some type of learning difference and too often their needs aren’t adequately supported. We sincerely thank the board of the Philip and Aida Siff Foundation for investing with us in such significant work.”

Connie Kasari, UCLA professor of Psychological Studies in Education and an international expert on autism research and treatment, will lead work funded by the Siff Foundation on best practices for K-12 students with special needs. Photo by Jonah Light Photography

The Philip and Aida Siff Foundation was established by Noah Erenberg’s grandparents as a family foundation and they had for many years supported a fellowship for a graduate student at UCLA Education whose research work focused on children with special needs. Recently, when Noah’s mother, Elena Siff Erenberg, was serving as president of the foundation, she and the foundation board decided they would prefer to dissolve the foundation and instead use the resources to establish an endowed fund with a local organization that serves young people with special education needs.  UCLA Education was extremely honored when Elena and the board of the Philip and Aida Siff Educational Foundation chose to make their gift here.

“The Board of the Philip and Aida Siff Educational Foundation was pleased to make this gift toward UCLA’s work to create better learning opportunities for children with special needs,” said Elena Siff Erenberg. “This endowed gift is designated always to the UCLA Department of Education and their work to improve the way K-12 schools support children, like my son Noah, who have learning disabilities but also have the potential to lead fulfilling and successful lives.”

UCLA Professor Connie Kasari will oversee the work funded by the income from The Noah Erenberg Endowment Fund. Kasari has a joint appointment in UCLA Education and the UCLA Semel Institute and is regarded as one of the leading experts globally in autism research and treatment.  The type of work Kasari is doing to strengthen the ways K-12 teachers support children with learning disabilities was well aligned with the Siff Education Foundation’s vision for the impact of their gift. Dr. Kasari has developed innovative research-supported interventions for children with learning disabilities and is committed to working within the lowest resourced schools in Los Angeles.  She is the founder of The Kasari Lab, which was established in 1997 and works primarily in school and community settings.

“This gift from the Philip and Aida Siff Educational Foundation is an incredible investment in UCLA’s work on behalf of complex learners,” noted Dean Suárez-Orozco. “And we are honored to have someone as distinguished as Professor Connie Kasari to lead this work. Connie has a joint appointment in UCLA Education and the UCLA Semel Institute and is one of our experts at the very forefront of this new frontier of applying what we are learning from brain science to improve classroom practice for children with learning differences. Notably, the Siff Foundation has asked us to focus our work from their gift on low income communities, where children and families are most in need of resources and help. We are delighted and honored to carry out this work.”

Noah Erenberg will be a featured artist at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, October 19 to December 9, 2018.


Above: Noah Erenberg is a self-taught artist on the autism spectrum, who is honored by his family with an endowment to explore improvements to classroom practices for children with learning differences. 

Courtesy of The Good Luck Gallery