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special needs

We believe there is no better way to express Tifereth Israel’s commitment to special needs than to share this piece, written by congregant Nancy Brody.

When a child is born with a special need, your world as a parent is changed forever. Sometimes your expectations of what you thought your life would be like with your child needs to be adjusted to meet the changing needs of your child. When a child is born into a Jewish family and you as the parent have the same hopes and dreams as any other that you want your child to hit all of the Jewish milestones, from consecration to Bnai Mitzvah to Hebrew High School graduation. When you get the diagnosis or you suspect your child has a special need, you start to wonder if these milestones will be possible. For my son, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (a high functioning form of Autism), my husband and I had all of these worries. We felt very strongly that we wanted to do anything we could to guide him on a path towards finding strength in Judaism and G-d, so that as he faces some social challenges he will also have faith to guide his way.


Congregation Tifereth Israel's Hebrew School is THE place for your child if he or she has a special need. While my son's special need displays itself in terms of needing extra guidance in navigating the social expectations of the classroom setting, the Hebrew School staff under the direction of Interim Education Director, Miriam Berk, and Special Needs Coordinator, Lynn Tallan, work tirelessly to make sure that programming is adapted to meet the individual needs of each child in the school. My son has had a kesher aide to be there as his buddy to guide him through Hebrew School since second grade. The kesher aides are high school and college students who give of their time to accompany their student and meet their needs. A great bonus for my son is that through this process he has bonded with three wonderful Jewish young men who have not only helped him navigate the Hebrew School classroom but Jewish life outside the classroom, including accompanying him to Kinnus events.


Perhaps one of my husband’s and my greatest joys in life was when he was called to the bima as a Bar Mitzvah on his 13th birthday (on his exact birthday, which was a great bonus!). He read his Haftarah and participated in the service with the audience filled with all of his teachers and intervention specialists from kindergarten-through 6th grade. Most of his teachers had never been to a synagogue or a Bar Mitzvah and a team of his teachers pulled me aside during the Kiddush and told me that they could tell how the entire congregation embraced him, special needs and all.


My son is now 15 years old, attends Tifereth Israel's Hebrew High School accompanied by his kesher aide. He has made us the dishes he learned to make in his elective Kosher Cooking class. He attends services regularly and even when his quirkiness comes out during services he is accepted as a member of the congregation. He may never want to go to Kiddush because of the socialness of it, but he always shares with me after services the message he learned from the Rabbi's sermon. For his 8th Grade Career Shadowing Day, he choose to spend the day with one of the Rabbis at Tifereth Israel and he recently shared with me that when the time comes for us to search for colleges that will provide him with the social support he needs to navigate college life, we MUST make sure there is a kosher butcher nearby.


One of the best gifts a Jewish parent can give to their child, is the love and security of knowing that a community of faith is there to surround them through both through the good times and the struggles of life. For a child with a special need that need could be even more significant. Congregation Tifereth Israel is a place where all are welcome and where a child with a special need can thrive and become an active part of the Jewish Community.

Mon, June 17 2019 14 Sivan 5779