By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, Director, Whole Community Inclusion

Last week, Whole Community Inclusion, Jewish Learning Venture’s initiative that provides workshops, trainings, and conferences about the inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish community, held its second annual training on providing accommodations and modifications related to Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation and services. Lead by WCI Director Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer and WCI consultants Rabbi Michelle Greenfield and Rabbi Margot Stein (with a special workshop from occupational therapist Jaime Bassman), the two-day training brought together cantors, rabbis, tutors, and educations directors from the Greater Philadelphia area, along with participants who traveled from Northern New Jersey, Rockville, MD, Baltimore, and 13423892_1195830540448042_8907134367920541573_nWilmington.

The training focused on ways that learning prayer, Torah trope, Haftorah, and D’var Torah can be modified for students with learning and more complex cognitive disabilities. Real case studies of successful B’nai Mitzvah were presented and the strategies used to prepare students were shared. The training also included the sharing of parent perspectives, how to do intake and team-building, steps to changing synagogue culture towards inclusion and use of iPad technology in student learning.

Participants came away with tools, energy and a vision of how the training transformed the way that they will work with students.

Comments included:

–I am going back with a new set of eyes. I hope to have a better, more open dialogue with families and the Rabbi.

–I have a much greater understanding of the world of disabilities and respect for both teachers of and people with disabilities.

–I will look more broadly at the scope of inclusion at our synagogue.

–Bar/Bat Mitzvah doesn’t have to look “a certain way.” I’ve gained more knowledge, strategies and support.

–I plan to bring this training back to clergy and lay leaders and begin to create change.

To bring a WCI training to your synagogue, school, or organization, contact Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer at 215-320-0376 or