One on One with Gali Dabbah

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Ellen Geller Kamaras

“I knew I wanted to work with children. I checked out various fields in college, did internships and shadowed different professionals before I made my decision. I love what I do and definitely made the right choice in becoming a speech-language pathologist.”

~~ Gali ~~

Gali Dabbah, née Dahan, is one of the young female leaders of our community who I was blessed to interview. Our young women strive and succeed in finding their purpose and raising their beautiful children in an environment infused with Torah values.

A Little Background

As you read Gali’s life story, you will see that she is a positive, hard-working individual who decided on a career path after careful thought and research. She opted for speech-language pathology, a profession that allows her to accomplish her goals of connecting with kids and helping them to be the best version of themselves.

Gali, born and raised in Brooklyn, is a proud graduate of Yeshiva of Flatbush, studying there from pre-school through high school. Her parents, Yaffit and Henry Dahan, were born in Lebanon, lived in Israel, and met and married in New York. Gali is the oldest of three children and has a brother and sister.

The Dahan’s consistently emphasized the importance of education.

“My mom especially encouraged us to aim for success and reach for the stars. The three of us are all professionals: I chose speech, my brother is a doctor, and my sister became a business and finance specialist.”

Gali shared that she was always studious and is still close with a group of friends who all pushed each other to do well academically. School was a very positive experience. Her sister describes Gali as bubbly and friendly and shy at the same time. Gali herself says she is easy-going, hard-working, down to earth, and connects well with people.

Gali started working with children as a tween and always felt that she wanted to pursue a career centered around working with children. Gali just wasn’t sure what that would be. “I have always had a knack with children.” She babysat, worked as a camp counselor, and did peer tutoring and private tutoring in high school. As a junior, she tutored freshmen in her brother’s grade and as a senior, taught sophomores. “I made so many friends through tutoring who I am still in touch with today.”

Gali also got involved in other high school extracurriculars. She was on the volleyball team, yearbook committee, and Tehillim commission. “I signed up for the maximum teams/committees, wanting to soak up as much as I could.”

College and Grad School

Gali’s inquisitive nature, which drove her to get involved in diverse endeavors in high school, continued to motivate her in college. She enrolled at Brooklyn College and took many types of courses to help her clarify what major she wanted to choose. Gali believed she needed to be well-rounded before deciding on a career path. She found her classes to be too large to connect with her teachers individually, so she reached out to people in different fields to have one-on-one discussions about experiences working in different fields. Gali was a substitute teacher for a few months at Barkai Yeshiva, where she also shadowed a speech pathologist. Gali then felt prepared to elect majors in speech pathology and psychology and a minor in education.

Why Speech?

“It was a big decision. I spoke to teachers, psychotherapists, and speech therapists to pinpoint which track was right for me. My mom also guided me in determining which discipline was a good fit. I enjoyed the one-on-one relationship that comes with speech therapy and was also fascinated by learning about the brain, which is a huge part of speech and language. People often think of stuttering and articulation when they hear the term ‘speech therapy.’ They forget the language aspect. It’s also so diverse, you never get bored. You can work with newborns, children, adults, and/or elderly people who are recovering from a stroke.”

Gali studied at Brooklyn College’s graduate program in speech-language pathology. During graduate school, Gali stretched herself to absorb as much as possible and volunteered to work on Sundays for her mentor, Professor Carrie Idler. Professor Idler was looking for a grad student to go to patients’ homes to set up and then run a computer program for students with auditory processing disorders. Gali stepped up to the plate ensuring the program was operating correctly.

Gali graduated with a Master of Science in speech-language pathology and did her clinical fellowship at the Chehebar Academy, Magen David Yeshivah’s special education program. Gali was thrilled to have Prof. Idler as her fellowship supervisor. After completing her requirements, Gali received an offer to work at Chehebar Academy and she stayed there for eight years.

Gali’s Position at Gesher Yehuda Yeshiva

For the past two years, Gali has worked with children on a one-to-one basis at Gesher Yehuda Yeshiva. The students she works with range from kindergarten through eighth grade. Gali’s focus is language-based disorders, comprehension, vocabulary, executive functioning skills (such as organizing and planning) and social functions (for example, how to read a room, and how to maintain friendships).

What excites Gali about her current position?

Gali’s response was quick and enthusiastic. She gets to see the whole picture relative to her clients. Gali shares the strategies she uses with a specific child, with his or her classroom teacher and sits in on “IEP” (Individualized Education Plan) meetings. “I enjoy being part of the entire team, interacting with the occupational and physical therapists, reading specialists, the principal and directors, and reaching out to parents.”

Gali recently became a supervisor and she mentors and supervises clinical fellow students who completed graduate school.

Gali is on vacation from her school job in the summers and her girls are in day camp. She explores other areas of speech pathology, including taking on private patients. Gali thrives on knowledge sharing with the large community of therapists that she meets on Instagram. She also takes many continuing education courses to sharpen her skills.

Family and Career Balance

Gali first met her soulmate, Jimmy Dabbah, in 2013. They have been married since 2017, live in Brooklyn, and have two daughters, two and three years old.

Gali is impassioned about her family. “My kids are amazing, and I love doing everything for them.” Listening to Gali describe her work as a speech-language pathologist, I could tell that her career most definitely fulfills her and lights her up.

Gali works full-time and is grateful that her work hours match her children’s school schedule. “It’s a balancing act. My husband is a huge help! We drop them off at playgroup and Yeshiva in the morning and I pick them up from school at 3:00 pm. When I bring them home, I switch gears from speech-language pathologist to mom and begin a new marathon, cooking dinner and concentrating on my daughters. Although the girls are very young, they are beginning to understand that Mommy works.”

Gali explained that she is a mom 100 percent but also enjoys professional achievement and personal growth development. To her, what is important is the quality of time she devotes to her family and not the quantity. “Even if you only get to spend one hour with your children after school, make sure to engage with them, be fully present and put aside distractions,” Gali advises.

Both sets of grandparents are on standby to step in when needed, such as when a child needs to be picked up early. “I couldn’t be a working mom without their loving support.”

Covid

When the pandemic hit, Gali began zooming with her students and her husband was also working from home. With her young daughters at home, Gali and her friend Leah Lati developed activities to keep their own children occupied and engaged. Gali got to use skills that she had learned about but had never used.

Guess what? The two moms crafted “My Activity Kit” and their business was born. They sell kits with targeted skills for kids, “fun activities to enhance learning.”

Gali was fortunate that her school had a limited shutdown, and she was able to return in person before many others.

Hakarat Hatov

Gali feels very fortunate to live in the community. “What we have really doesn’t exist in other places. Our community is a special one to be a part of. There are so many resources, and everyone helps each other.”

Unwinding

To relax, Gali enjoys traveling and spending time with friends and family. She absolutely loves to walk, particularly to the beach. With her girls in a double stroller, she heads to the Coney Island boardwalk. The girls adore the aquarium.

Her advice to teenagers? Take time to explore different fields. If you are undecided on a college major, volunteer and talk to a range of professionals.

Please visit Gali’s Instagram pages, @thesavvyslp and @my_activity_kit to find out more about Gali’s specialties. You can contact Gali by messaging her on Instagram @thesavvyslp or emailing galidabbah@gmail.com.

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching. Ellen works part-time as an entitlement specialist at Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. She can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com (www.lifecoachellen.com).