by Gabby Kaplan-Mayer, Director, Whole Community Inclusion

This past Monday and Tuesday (August 3rd and 4th), our Whole Community Inclusion program held its first-ever training for B’nei Mitzvah tutors on how to make modifications and accommodations for students of all abilities. The inspiration for creating this training is our realization that more and more synagogues are welcoming and providing accommodations for students who have learning, physical and/or developmental disabilities in their education programs. However, when these children are ready to prepare for becoming B’nei Mitzvah, tutors and clergy do not always have the skills they need to address learning challenges and create appropriate modifications.

When we announced this pilot program in June, we hoped that we could interest 10-12 tutors from our area in joining us—knowing that it’s not easy to take two days away from regular work responsibilities to attend an intensive training. We were delighted by the response to our announcement and had to cap the program at 25 participants so that we could allow for optimal sharing. (We’ve started a waiting list and will do the training again for anyone who missed it!) Participants included cantors, tutors and educators from our Greater Philadelphia area, Cherry Hill, Manhattan, and even Boston! The energy, insights and wisdom in the room as we shared about the goals of B’nei Mitzvah and how to bring forward each child’s strengths were inspiring. Some of the take-aways that our participants shared include:

  • This training will help me approach students who may have special needs in a way that can help make Bar/Bat Mitzvah successful for them and meaningful for their family.
  • I will be better able to be an advocate for kids who need modifications.
  • This training will make me more effective with a wider range of students and families.
  • I will be able to increase the use of technology as an aid in my teaching.

Our training was created with and co-led by our WCI consultant, Rabbi Michelle Greenfield, who has worked with students of all abilities for a number of years on creating meaningful Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations. We are grateful for the feedback and ideas from Rabbi Margot Stein, for the professional development session led by occupational therapist Jaime Bassman and for an inspiring talk by Rabbi Charles Sherman, who shared about creating the Bar Mitzvah for his son Eyal, who is paralyzed. This training would not have been possible without our generous Whole Community Inclusion funders, including the Lasko Family Foundation, the Saligman Foundation, the Stein Family Foundation and the Bassman Family Foundation.

To learn more about the work of WCI and/or to be put on the waiting list of the next B’nei Mitzvah Tutor Training, contact Gabby Kaplan-Mayer at or 215-320-0376.