Congregation Rodeph Sholom has a long commitment of meeting the needs of individuals with special needs. We evaluateall activities and programs with the goal of making our community as accessible as possible.
To ensure that our worship spaces are easily reached, there is an elevator opening to West 83rdStreet that allows entry directly into our building and an elevator allowing access onto our Main Sanctuary bima. On request, we have large print prayer books as well as devices available for those with hearing loss. We have sign language interpreters at our Friday night services once a month and at every Shireinu Worship Service for families with special needs.
The Religious School’s Steinman Center is a program that provides individual attention and one-on-one tutoring in Hebrew and Jewish Studies to students with a variety of learning needs. We guide the children through the B’nai Mitzvah process, creating an appropriate and meaningful environment that meets the needs of each individual student.
In our continuing effort to build a fully inclusive community, Congregation Rodeph Sholom has developed our Special Needs Worship Services, SHIREINU, ”Our Songs”, open to members and non-members, providing families and children the opportunity to worship together in an accessible, interactive, and sensitive environment for five holidays- Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot.
SHIREINU grew out of our Congregation Based Community Organizing conversations, during which some congregants who have family members with special needs expressed the desire for a sensitive worship environment for their family. Our inclusion goals include sensitizing the Rodeph Sholom community to the presence and needs of congregants with disabilities; bringing in speakers on related topics; training staff and special needs participants to be leaders in the program, and introducing special programming at some weekly Shabbat services and other holidays.
If you are interested in receiving more information, getting involved, or if you have a particular need that you want us to be aware of, please email gro.cynsrcnull@unierihs or call (646) 454-3124.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom’s Shireinu Worship Services in the News:
Candid Talk On Challenges Of Disability, The Jewish Week
Best. High Holiday Service. Ever., The Jewish Week
Synagogue Inclusion: A Mother and Her Son Say Why It Matters, UJA Website
UJA-Federation of New York Announces Winners of Synagogue Inclusion Awards, UJA Website
Kids With Autism at a Synagogue on Purim? Not a Prayer, Right?, Huffington Post
Kol Hanshama: Every Soul Reaches towards God in Its Own Way, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion News Center
Recognizing Synagogue Inclusion, The Jewish Week
A Reform Judaism Service for Special Needs, Reform Judaism Magazine
Hanukkah, Autism and One Temple’s Run at a Miracle, The New York Times
‘Morphing’ To Hit New Audiences, The Jewish Week
Creating Special Needs Worship Services at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in NYC, RJ.org
Feeding A ‘Spiritual Hunger’, The Jewish Week
In addition to the press coverage about our inclusion efforts, we are gratified to have received these honors:
2011 Union for Reform Judaism Incubator Grant winner
2011 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial Learning Session Presentation on “Serving Special Needs Within Our Synagogue Communities”
2012 UJA-Federation of New York First Place Synagogue Inclusion Award winner
Also of Interest
“There Are No Outsiders“, Sari Biddelman, RJ.org
“Just Give Us A Chance“, CRS Senior Rabbi Robert N. Levine, D.D., sermon for Jewish Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Awareness Shabbat, 2012
2011 URJ Biennial Speech presented by Nancy J. Crown, Ph. D., Special Needs Committee Co-Chair, at CRS Learning Session: “Serving Special Needs Within Our Synagogue Communities”
“A Place For All: Faith and Community for Persons with Disabilities“, CRS Senior Rabbi Robert N. Levine, D.D. featured in this Emmy nominated interfaith documentary
Comments from Participants
“I wanted to thank you so much for the Hanukah service. William and Emily had an amazing time. I was impressed by not only all the supports (from the social story to the volunteers) and interactive nature of the service but by the warmth and patience that you and the other leaders showed to our kids. It was so nice to watch Will respond to the various segments, and have a choice as to how to participate. Will had the freedom to decide how he wanted to participate –for example, while he got up to put the light on the menorah, he did not wish to dance with the Torah. For me, it was so nice to not have to worry about his behavior or if he was making a noise or if he wanted to participate, and instead to actually have a chance to listen to the service and to enjoy it. This may sound strange, but you have no idea as to how relaxing it is to have your child at a place that is 100% accepting. I could not get over how the service was really designed for him – it was very clear to me that a lot of thought went into making the service as accessible and interesting and relatable as possible. The various gifts were a lovely added bonus – Will was absolutely thrilled with getting a dreidel! And being obsessed with stickers, he loved the gift at the end. Emily’s mother (who is not Jewish by the way) enjoyed it so much that she plans on attending the Purim service with us. I really cannot thank you enough for having this service and allowing us to attend.”
“I have not been able to stop raving about your special needs service… It felt wonderful to have my son be a part of it. I was really impressed with your understanding of the various diagnoses – in terms of the quiet area; of the rabbi warning about the loud sound before blowing the shofar; of the various senses used in the service – the visual, the auditory, the tactile. Really and truly I was blown away…Sitting in your shule gave me renewed hope that there is a place for my son in Judaism, and there is a way to get from here to there, even if I can’t see it yet. So thank you, not only for the services but for the hope you gave me for my son’s Jewish identity.”
“My child is twelve years old. We have never been able to comfortably attend High Holiday services until just now.”
“It was such a lovely experience for us and it was so disability-friendly. The storytelling and music was wonderful! You could feel the joy in the room…In the past, there was nothing at our temple for our son, so this is a treat for us.”