Mar. 29, 2013
Since 2002 Kehillat YOZMA in Modi'in has partnered with Beit Eden, a home for developmentally disabled children, to provide a caring Jewish community.
Community Contact Information:
Kehillat YOZMA of Modi'in, Israel
- Create a relationship between YOZMA and a residential group home for children and teens with special needs.
- Provide the residents and families with Kabbalat Shabbat services each week, holiday celebrations, and a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony and party.
"Beit Eden" is a group home for mentally challenged children in the town of Ramle. The facility houses approximately 60 children, age 7-21 with various degrees of mental retardation. Beit Eden serves as an actual home for these children, most of whom come from families of minimal socioeconomic resources. In 2002 the volunteers of YOZMA - the Reform community in Modi'in, together with the support of IRAC - Israel Religious Action Center, in Jerusalem, adopted this home. Since then, a dedicated core group of YOZMA's volunteers have created a comprehensive program of support activities for Beit Eden.
This program required planning within the administration of Beit Eden, YOZMA, and IRAC. It was determined that this was a relationship that would be mutually beneficial, firstly to the residents of Beit Eden, and then to the cadre of volunteers, and lastly to the residents of Modiin who pride themselves on the inclusivity and plurality of the city. There were no marketing efforts done at the time to promote this program.
In 2002, YOZMA "adopted" the residents of a special needs group home called Beit Eden in nearby Ramla. Under the auspices of the immediate past congregational chairperson Yuval Newman, the YOZMA community created a relationship which remains strong and vital. The program began with Kabbalat Shabbat visits from a group of volunteers of YOZMA. It has now grown into full participation by the families of the children of Beit Eden in any of the YOZMA activities which they care to attend. Beit Eden residents will be seen at taschlich in the park, dancing and celebrating at Simchat Torah and attending the Purim megillah reading.
As the Beit Eden-YOZMA relationship was strengthened, Mr. Newman introduced the idea of honoring those children who turned 13 by allowing them to have a communal, pluralistic Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. This is a unique aspect of the program, especially in the State of Israel, because not all mentally and physically challenged children are encouraged to celebrate this simcha. Some people feel that special needs children are unable to fulfill the mitzvot of davening as part of a minyan and/or taking on the responsibilities of a Jewish adult. Mr. Newman, under the leadership of the YOZMA rabbis, Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon and Rabbi Nir Barkin, created a comprehensive and meaningful program for the children of Beit Eden, and each year, those teens of Bar/Bat Mitzvah age participate in an Aliyah l'Torah at the Western Wall and celebrate this simcha. After the ceremony, families, volunteers, municipality leaders, and all members of the YOZMA community are invited to a grand celebration and party at the Modiin town hall in honor of the B'nei Mitzvah.
Mr. Newman works tirelessly each year to find donors who contribute food, money, and entertainment for this celebration. Many donors give willingly as they ar so impressed and touched by this initiative. The YOZMA students actively participate by donating to this party; they collect weekly tzedakah (4000 NIS collected during the 2010-2011 school year), and it is used to purchase supplies and food for the event. The entire YOZMA community and the residents of Modiin truly celebrates with these teens and their families and friends.
The result is that the children of Beit Eden are receiving wonderful, innovative, and organic religious services designed to fit their needs. The relationship between Beit Eden and YOZMA has resulted in an awareness for those who are usually marginalized but deserving of equality in all aspects of Jewish life. Both Beit Eden residents and YOZMA community members enjoy fulfillment and love in this unique relationship.