By Gabby Kaplan-Mayer, Director, Whole Community Inclusion

I regularly receive communications from local clergy and educators who are struggling to find the best way to support and prepare students with disabilities for becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Questions that I’ve fielded over the last year have included:

  • We have a young man in our congregation who has Angelman Syndrome and is non-verbal. He uses a communication device on his iPad and I am wondering how we can use the device in his Bar Mitzvah service.
  • We have a young woman in our Hebrew school who attends a special school that focuses on her reading issues (she has dyslexia). I am wondering whether we should push her to read from the Torah in Hebrew or use English transliteration?
  • I’m working with a Bat Mitzvah student who has extreme anxiety. She is very capable at reading one-on-one, but freezes entirely when reading in front of others. How can I help her?

More and more, synagogues are welcoming and providing accommodations for students who have learning, physical and/or developmental disabilities in their education programs. But when those children are ready to prepare for becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah, tutors and clergy do not always have the skills they need to address learning challenges and create appropriate modifications.

The inquiries that I shared above have led to fruitful conversations, sharing of resources and ultimately successful B’nai Mitzvah experiences for the students and their families. I realize, however, that in order to make significant change in a systemic way, we need communal training to support the clergy, tutors and educators working with B’nai Mitzvah students.

Whole Community Inclusion is offering a two-day training that will provide information about understanding different types of learning challenges and resources to create accommodations and modifications for children of all abilities as they reach this significant milestone. Experienced educators will share real life examples of successful adaptations for trope, prayer learning and working on Divrei Torah.

Participants will also have an opportunity to problem-solve one-on-one with instructors about specific students, both during and after the training.

I am delighted to partner with Rabbi Michelle Greenfield, an experienced educator who has prepared hundreds of students of all abilities for becoming B’nai Mitzvah and am grateful for the support and consultation of Rabbi Margot Stein, who also has extensive experience preparing students with special needs for becoming B’nai Mitzvah.

The training will take place August 3rd and 4th, 2015, 9am–4pm at Jewish Learning Venture. The training fee is $118.

For questions and more info: Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, Director, WCI, 215-320-0376 or,  You can register online here.