Access to Judaism for all people (and especially children) with special needs has been a hallmark of Congregation Or Ami since Rabbi Paul Kipnes first joined our congregation in our second year of existence. The first policy he asked to be put in place was clear and simple:
"Any child of a member who works to the best of his/her ability has the right to a Jewish educational experience. Also, any child of a member who works to the best of his/her ability has the right and privilege to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Or Ami."
Today, access involves such things as individualized bar and bat mitzvah training for children with special needs, support group for parents of children with special needs, large-print prayer books, an Education Intern who acts a liaison for special needs families within the Mishpacha program, and increasing sensitivity to the scope of needs within each community.
In conjunction with the Union for Reform Judaism's Department of Jewish Family Concerns and the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance's Mercaz Center (one-stop program for Jewish families with children with special needs and developmental disabilities), Congregation Or Ami strives to create and enhance inclusive environments and accessible spaces to ensure that everyone is included. Every congregant has a right to a rich Jewish life in a welcoming environment.
You may be wondering about…
The Or Ami Center for Jewish Parenting Support Group meets twice a month, mainly on Sunday mornings 10:00 – 11:30 am.
Some meetings will be on Thursday evenings at 7:00 pm. Thursday meetings held in collaboration with the K.E.N. Project.
The group offers support and valuable information to parents, relatives and others who support children with special needs.
Child care is available on Sunday mornings.
For more information click here.
To celebrate the awesome experience when our member Brandon became a Bar Mitzvah, we have established the Brandon Kaplan Honoray Special Needs Fund of Congregation Or Ami. The Fund serves to:
In case you were interested in more...
Rabbi Paul Kipnes teaches that "There is a sense that children with special needs, physically, emotionally, mentally, don't have a place in the synagogue, in the Jewish community. That's just not true, particularly here at Or Ami. We have celebrated B'nai Mitzvah services with children with autism, emotional developmental problems, intense dyslexia, Tourette's syndrome... The Torah and Judaism are available for all of us."
Or Ami emphasizes that no matter what a child's needs are, it's never a question of ifa child can become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, it'swhen the ceremony will take place.
Rabbi Kipnes explains, "With special needs children, there are two values being played out, simultaneously. Working with Brandon Kaplan, for instance, we saw that Brandon is a kid like any other kid created in the image of God, worthy of love. But Brandon is also a special kid and there is an honor and joy to the congregation that he participates to the fullness of his abilities. So he's normal and special, but here's the secret: so is every other kid."
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