Special Needs and Disabilities

 

At the core of Beth El’s caring culture is our commitment to accommodate the special needs of congregants and guests facing physical or mental health challenges or developmental or intellectual disabilities. Several wheelchairs are available at the synagogue entrance. The main sanctuary and the chapel have ramps to enable individuals needing a wheelchair, walker, or cane to go up on the bimah, which is especially appreciated by grandparents or older relatives of B’nai Mitzvah who have their hearts set on participating in such a blessed life cycle event. An audio loop is available in the main sanctuary for hearing impaired individuals for religious services and secular discussions. In the chapel, we offer hearing assistance using an FM receiver. Sign language interpreters are available upon request. There is a “quiet room” in the back of the sanctuary where a parent can take a child (with or without a disability) during services if the child is not able to sit quietly but the parent would like to be able to pray. Services in the main sanctuary and the chapel are live-streamed, so that anyone who cannot be there physically can watch them live.

Inclusive multi-sensory Havdalah service

Our clergy and staff devote special attention to creating uniquely tailored services for B’nai Mitzvah who confront developmental or intellectual disabilities or mental health challenges that make a typical service surpassingly difficult. Their objective is to create an experience that will be memorably meaningful while at the same time comfortable for the child and his or her entire family and loving friends.

We offer special services during a Shabbat each February, when Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month is celebrated. In 2017, Justice Richard Bernstein, the first-ever visually-impaired justice to be elected to the Michigan Supreme Court, addressed the congregation and shared his personal account of the obstacles he has faced as a person with a disability. You can read a special issue of the Beth El Scroll, the monthly newsletter, devoted to Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion month here.

In addition, Beth El and JSSA (Jewish Social Service Agency) are partners in helping Beth El congregants with personal and family issues. Synagogue liaison Ellen Levin, LCSW is an experienced clinician who can offer support, guidance, strategies, and referrals by phone or in person. All services are free and confidential. You may contact Ellen by phone at 301-610-8332 or at elevin@jssa.org.

Beth El has a Disabled Access Fund to which donations can be directed.

B’ruchim Habaim Committee

The mission of our committee is to welcome and accommodate people with disabilities and their families in our synagogue and in the Jewish community.

The Beth El B’ruchim Habaim committee was formed in early summer 2005. We are proud of the progress we’ve made in addressing physical barriers and communication issues. We are turning our focus toward welcoming people with mental illness and people on the autism spectrum. We meet regularly with congregants at other synagogues who share our goals and with professionals at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington as part of the Synagogue Disability Inclusion Network.

If you have any concerns about how a family member’s special needs or disabilities are interfering with full inclusion in our community, or if you would like to join our committee, please contact Andrea Golden of the B’ruchim Habaim committee at andreag71061@comcast.net.