by Sydney Brown, BTBJ

When I walked into the classroom on my first day, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I sat quietly in one of the too small chairs, waiting for instruction. I tried to learn the names of the children as they walked in, although I knew it would take weeks. Ten minutes past, then fifteen. Then, a child with clear distress walked into the class. I approached him and asked what was wrong. He replied that he did not know where to sit, because nobody had told him yet. In a third grade classroom, this is a peculiar thing to be worried about. Knowing this, I concluded that this was the child I would be working with. I told the boy that he could sit anywhere, and in a small voice he asked if I could sit with him. After our initial introductions, I got to know the boy. I came to understand that doing something like Hebrew School every week is a difficult process for him. When he comes to the school, I use the strategies I have learned in TAP to help him to the best of my ability. From the smile on his face I know that I am helping, and that is one of the greatest satisfactions I think I will ever have in life.

I am proud to be a TAP teen because I am doing something to help my community, my kehillah. I am proud because it is not a school requirement, and I am not doing it to get into college. I participate in TAP because every Jewish child deserves the Hebrew School experience, albeit how much they’ll hate learning Hebrew at 9 in the morning on a Sunday. TAP is one of the most revolutionary programs I have ever heard of or been a part, and its really because of its simplicity. The idea is to put teens in a classroom with special needs children, to keep them in school. The whole program was created to simply allow children to have an experience non-special needs kids rarely enjoy. But to give this group the opportunity to embrace their Judaism, to learn about a religion full of inclusion and love, is a gift with no price tag. As we watched in the documentary “Praying with Lior,” typically the children who have no expectation to do mundane things like go to Hebrew School tend to appreciate it the most.

I am proud to be a TAP teen because I am part of this amazing program, which helps children get in touch with their religion in a way that does not require stress or backlash. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this program, and I hope everyone can understand how revolutionary its simple meaning is.