Koleinu: Special Needs
The Book of Psalms tells us, "Ivdu et HaShem b'Simcha" - "Serve God with joy." Among Temple Beth Am's many Shabbat morning services, one boasts an abundance of joyful worship: Koleinu, the service for children with special needs. Meeting twice a month in a classroom of the Rena E. Ganzberg Education Center, Koleinu (Hebrew for "our voices") serves a diverse group of children - with autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental challenges. The children are often joined by parents, siblings, relatives and friends who have come to love this warm and spirited service.
Koleinu's participants have varying abilities: Some are more verbal than others; some have sensory challenges that make it difficult to be in noisy places; some need a bit of help to move about the room, while others literally can't sit still. What they all share is an enthusiasm for the service, a love of Judaism and life.
Using a siddur inspired by Camp Ramah in California's Tikva program - which serves special-needs children - the service makes davening accessible and fun. It includes familiar elements of the Shacharit service, as well as unique elements that inspire creativity and ruach. One highlight: "Thank You, God" song, in which each child lists something for which he or she feels grateful that week. (Some favorites: family pets, upcoming animated movies, and Shabbat itself!) Each participant also has the opportunity for an aliyah to the Torah. Some do this on their own, some get help from a talking machine or by repeating after an adult helper. Over time, the children become more comfortable with aliyot and with all of the aspects of the service. They also take turns leading various prayers.
Koleinu fills an important void in our community and recognizes that every person is created b'tselem elohim -- in God's image. We are all the stronger for having such an inspirational and special service at the synagogue.
Koleinu is under the leadership of Michael Becker who has brought energy, creativity, and a big smile. New participants are always welcome, ages 9 and up, and at any level of ability. Come have an experience of truly serving God with joy!
For upcoming dates, contact Reut Sklar at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (310) 652-7354, ext. 212.