But lest we think otherwise, B’nai Mitzvah for kids with special needs is not out of the ordinary, at least at Congregation Or Ami:
[Rabbi Paul] Kipnes emphasized that no matter what a child’s needs are, it’s never a question of if a child can have a bar or bat mitzvah- it’s when the ceremony will take place.
“There are two values being played out, simultaneously,” Kipnes said. “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.”
Congregation Or Ami has programs geared toward helping families with special needs children. One major program involved a coordinator calling all appropriate families to prepare them for the program or find ways to change it to make it work for them, Kipnes said.
Or Ami also has a support group for parents with special needs.
“There is a sense that children with special needs, physically, emotionally, mentally, don’t have a place in the synagogue, in the Jewish community,” Kipnes said.
“That’s just not true, particularly here. We have celebrated b’nai mitzvah with children with autism, emotional developmental problems, intense dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome – the Torah and Judaism are available for all of them.”