For Kids with Special Needs and
there are 200 families in Sonoma County who are Jewish or mixed-faith,
and whose lives are bound up in raising a child with special needs. And
yet it has remained difficult for families with special needs children
to connect Jewishly. Few synagogues offer religious school tracks
devoted to the intense needs of these kids, many of whom cannot succeed
in a mainstream religious school environment. Families with special
needs children sometimes find themselves unwanted at services and other
synagogue events. Their children may be noisy or behave in atypical
ways, bringing on a chorus of shushing, criticism or both.
Ner Shalom, however, is committed to welcoming
needs, and considers it both a mitzvah
and a great privilege to offer the Celebrations
Program. Celebrations offers monthly events designed to meet the
needs of children with disabilities and their families. Most sessions
are associated with a holiday and involve music, art, ritual food
preparation, storytelling, games and teachings about the holiday. Most
The children represented in the program have disabilities that include
Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy and severe autism. Celebrations tries
to employ all five senses to create strong impressions and lasting
connections with Jewish ritual.
sessions also include a Parent Break. This is an opportunity for private
conversation, study and respite while our children continue to
celebrate with our staff. Parents have a chance to connect with each
other, offer support, ideas and resources, and even discuss some Jewish
In addition to Sunday morning sessions, Celebrations
hosts an annual Havdalah with the Horses at the Renaissance
Center, among other special events. Havdalah
special kind of magic; this ritual is uniquely
suited to the Celebrations community. It is brief, musical, and
specifically designed around sensory input – taste, smell and sight.
Here is a comment from one of our participating families:
In many other settings, our son is treated
like the elephant in the room, but at Celebrations and at other Ner
Shalom events, like Pesach seder, he is calm, happy and getting so much
out of being part of what is going on. He can't express this verbally,
but you can all see the delight and joy in his face being with the
Celebrations students, being with the Dor Hadash students, marching
around the shul with the Torah and in every other wonderful activity
offered at Ner Shalom.
This is truly what I think our religious practice should be--it is
meaningful to me beyond any way I could ever express. Thank you
from the bottom of my heart for being so welcoming and for giving me a
little more hope that my son can be part of a welcoming community now
and when I may not be around to watch over him.
|September 25, 2016
|Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur
|October 23, 2016
|December 18, 2016
|February 12, 2017
|March 12, 2017
|April 9, 2017
|June 4, 2017
|9th Annual Havdalah with the Horses
Shalom membership is not required
for participation in Celebrations.
If you are interested and would like
more information or to register,
please contact Jennifer Lorvick
or Leslie Gattmann.
Oh, and join our Celebrations community on Facebook!
Celebrations is supported by a generous grant from the Jewish Community
Federation (JCF) of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and
Sonoma Counties. JCF works to care for the vulnerable, educate
and engage the Jewish community, and promote Israel and Jewish
peoplehood around the world. For more information, visit the Federation website.
Photos above from Havdalah with the Horses 2011.