Hineinu: B’nei Mitzvah Inclusion

B’nei Mitzvah Inclusion guidelines as suggested by Hineinu, an Interdenominational Inclusion Initiative:

The bar or bat mitzvah of a young person with a disability demonstrates vividly what Judaism is, or should be, about. The ultimate success of such a ceremony is a triumph, not only for the individuals involved, but for the entire Jewish community. The challenges are not insurmountable; it only takes the willingness to plan ahead, flexibility, and creativity. In this way, we can truly “educate each child according to his or her ability,” and fulfill our obligation to provide a Jewish education for every child.

  •   Provide him/her with the opportunity to declare his value and dignity before God and their community
  •  Recognize that many with disabilities have emotional and psychic ties to the Jewish people and therefore wish to become a participant in the community.
  • Understand that those with disabilities may not reach the same level of learning of a child without disabilities.
  •  Modify the conventional training as well as the actual service.
  • One should acquaint one’s self with the learning challenges and styles of the student.
  • As educators, you must recognize your learning challenge, which is to be open, nonjudgmental,

    creative and compassionate.

  • Meet with the student and his/her family and discuss goals and what they hope to get out of the

    ritual.

  •  Willingness to incorporate the learner in a conventional classroom with additional assistance (an

    aide).

  • Provide a resource room that the student may learn in during part of the day, allowing for some individualized education.
  •  Around 4-6 months prior to the b’nei mitzvah, meet with the student and asses the student’s

    progress and begin sketching out the day and the accommodations needed. The group should take into consideration the following:

  • Has this child ever performed in front of an audience before (such as, at dance or choral recitals or in school plays)?
  • How long can the child be expected to stay on the bimah or even in the sanctuary? o Will the child follow directions to participate in various portions of the service?
  • If the child can verbalize portions of the service, how much should he or she be expected to do on that day (lead the congregation in prayers, read Torah and haftarah, deliver a d’var Torah)?
  •  If the child is nonverbal, what is an alternative way for him or her to have an active part in the service (such as, accept and put on a talit, open the ark, carry a small Torah)?
  • Can the child (with adult assistance) prepare a small speech to express what this event mean sto him or her? If not in words, can the child draw a picture or make another artistic rendering of his or her experience?
  • What makes this child happy? Even a child with the most severe limitations may take joy in tapping on a tambourine as the cantor sings or holding the Kiddush cup while theblessings are spoken by another person.
  •  One may record the b’nei mitzvah’s speech or even the some of the blessing before the service.
  • Family members may speak on behalf of the student, connecting the b’nei mitzvah to the

    family/friend.

(Adapted  from MyJewishLearning.com. )

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