December 22, 2014   30 Kislev 5775
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Share a Shabbat
Mar. 10, 2011
A monthly Shabbat service and dinner at a group home for people with developmental disabilities.

Community Contact Information:
Temple Israel of Northern Westchester
Croton on Hudson, New York 10520-2109
http://tinw.org

Goals:

  • To provide Jewish persons with developmental disabilities who reside in group homes with a Shabbat experience
  • To provide congregants with the opportunity to experience a more meaningful and uplifting Shabbat by sharing it with others
  • To regularly bring together synagogue families in a coordinated effort to enrich the lives of others

Overview:
A monthly Shabbat service and dinner at a group home for people with developmental disabilities. The service includes the blessings over candle lighting, grape juice and challah, as well as stories, songs, discussions and a festive Shabbat meal.

Preparation:
Temple Israel of Nothern Westchester was contacted by the local Jewish Community Services because of the synagogue’s previous involvement in hosting Chanukah celebrations for people with special needs. The synagogue was told that a new group home had opened nearby and the residents could benefit from Jewish outreach, leading congregants to develop an ongoing Shabbat experience for its new neighbors.

In order to create this program, the synagogue contacted the manager of the group home and set a calendar for the Shabbat dinners. The staff agreed to provide a traditional Shabbat meal for the residents, and synagogue families agreed to bring the challah, grape juice, dessert, candles and other materials. The synagogue developed a flier to inform the entire congregation of the plan and recruited families to participate in the program. The rabbi also volunteered to participate every month.

Project Implementation: 
Calendar dates are set annually and these dates are shared with the entire congregation. Many synagogue members take part, including families, the synagogue’s band, youth group and B’nai Mitzvah students. In addition to the monthly Shabbat celebrations, Temple Israel occassionally hosts a congregational potluck dinner in honor of the group home residents. The potluck dinners start with introductions, during which attendees share something special that has happened in the last week or something for which they are grateful. Jewish holidays are also recognized and celebrated at the monthly Shabbat events.

Results:
The Share a Shabbat program gave developmentally disabled adults the opportunity to experience a sense of spirituality and provided congregants with the rewarding experience of relating to a group of individuals who are different yet so similar. It has brought families closer together and given participants a greater sense of the meaning of “inclusiveness.”

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