At Congregation B’nai Israel, we are committed to making EVERYONE feel welcome, secure and a part of our community. We are consistently working to create an environment that meets all needs. Access to Judaism has been a hallmark of the Reform movement since our first congregation began seating women and men together over 120 years ago. Today, access involves such things as large-print prayer books, bar and bat mitzvah training for children with special needs, and increasing sensitivity to the scope of needs within each community. Our congregation’s clergy, educators and lay leaders have always worked thoughtfully and creatively to adapt our worship, curriculae and programs to reach out and embrace students with a range of disabilities.
Special Needs Students at the Preschool
Bonim Preschool at Congregation B’nai Israel will attempt to meet the needs of all children. The needs of most children can be met within the traditional program of regular classrooms. Some children may require specialized or individualized modifications that may be provided within the classroom. In a very few instances, a child’s needs may not be able to be met by reasonable modification or accommodation. If necessary, the school may request a meeting with the parents to discuss the educational program for each child with special needs. The Bonim Preschool director and staff reserve the right to make the decision as to what educational program would be appropriate for the particular child. The expense of any specialized accommodation will be the primary obligation of the parents.
KESHET: For Children With Special Needs, ages 3-5
Keshet Means “Rainbow”
Keshet is a program of Jewish enrichment for children with special needs and their parents. It engages children ages 3-5 years old with special needs in a creative, structured learning and social environment. We connect with children who may not be able to participate in typical early childhood programs, yet need a framework to encounter the synagogue community in a thoughtful, supportive way.
Students begin their own connections to Jewish holidays, symbols, stories and music, all of which foster strong Jewish identities. Simultaneously, their parents meet in a “support group” environment. (Parents of kids with special needs often feel isolated from other parents because they deal with such different learning styles, behaviors, fears, etc.)
While the students have their group, the parents meet with an expert to share information and insights about children with special needs, or the parents just have an opportunity to talk amongst themselves to seek support and share resources.
For more information about Keshet or to register, please contact Ira Wise at (203) 336-1858. Space is limited.
Special Needs in the Religious School
Our Religious School teachers have three overall goals:
In that light, we have long made it our policy to find a place in our school for all Jewish children who are in mainstream secular classrooms, no matter their learning needs. We have, where needed, brought additional madrikhim (classroom aides) into a room. We have teachers in most grades with varying degrees of training and experience in working with these children.
Bonnie Appel serves as our special needs coordinator and is on hand Sunday mornings for our children in K-3rd grade. She observes and consults with teachers and parents about their children and provides teacher and madrikhim training workshops. We also use specially trained madrikhim to assist in classrooms with children with special needs. She is also available to observe children on other days of the week. In our middle grades (4-6) we have our Panim el Panim (Face to Face) Hebrew tutorial program. This enables students who need more one-on-one interaction to be successful in learning Hebrew.
If you are enrolling a child with special needs, please complete and submit a Jewish Educational Action Plan. That will help us understand your child, your hopes and expectations, and will enable us to better serve all children in our school.
Our URJ camps host Camp Chazak, a one-week overnight camp in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. The program aims to provide a recreational and therapeutic camping experience for campers whose significant social delays impair their ability to function in a “typical” camp environment. It strives to teach these campers core skills that will improve their day-to-day functioning. Many of these campers are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, High-Functioning Autism, and other disorders involving social developmental delays. If you have or know of a child who might benefit from a Camp Chazak experience, please contact Ira Wise.