We are committed to inclusion for people with disabilities in all aspects of community life. As we aim to ensure that our communities thrive, it is vital that we continue to make our spaces welcoming, inclusive and engaging to all. It is important to remember that around 20% of the population have a disability, whether it is visible or not. If someone feels that they are not able to participate in an aspect of community life, this could prevent them and their whole family from attending.

Below you will find details of our siddur for adults and children with disabilities and ideas for inclusive Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies. If you have any queries or want to talk to us, please email inclusion@theus.org.uk.

We are extremely proud to have launched a ground-breaking new siddur (prayer book) for adults and children with disabilities, both physical and learning.

Siddur Lakol, ‘A Siddur for Everyone’, features clear print with simplified translations and accessible transliteration of core prayers. It is the first ever orthodox prayer book to use the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), a set of graphic icons to help those with autism spectrum conditions convey their thoughts and needs.

The use of PECS offers a more meaningful prayer experience to those dependent on them.

The siddur has been produced in partnership with JWeb working in collaboration with Gesher School and Kisharon and with the endorsement of Norwood and Langdon.

The siddur is available in both A4 and A5 formats, providing options to support people with a wide range of disabilities. Larger font sizes will help people with visual disabilities and the larger edition may help people who find it difficult to hold and read smaller siddurim.

The siddur has been made possible by the generous support of the Daniels family from the Pinner United Synagogue community, in order to honour the life of Sonya Daniels, their wife, mother and grandmother. Sonya Daniels was passionate about both Judaism and education throughout her life including working with children with diverse educational needs in school.

Click here to order Siddur Lakol.

This publication offers suggestions that help to create a meaningful and welcoming simcha for people with varying abilities and challenges. It opens the discussion around a family’s additional or particular needs.

It is important to remember that around 20% of the population have a disability, whether it is visible or not. If someone feels that they are not able to participate in an aspect of community life, this could prevent them and their whole family from attending.

Some parents may be concerned that their child with additional needs will not feel welcome or able to participate, or that there is some template way in which this milestone is to be recognised. We hope that this guide will “break the ice” for early communication with your Rabbi, Rebbetzen and lay leaders.

Click here to download the guide
Click here to download a version of the guide which is friendlier to your printer

For a printed copy of this guide, or for any other queries, please email inclusion@theus.org.uk

1. Physical Adaptations to Building & Accessibility

  • Adapted classroom layout to ensure a pupil with Cerebral Palsy has full access to all the facilities. (Woodside Park Cheder)
  • A new bimah with lower steps, a wider entrance up and a way down with a wider entrance and exit from the bimah. (Belmont)
  • A new platform leading up to the Aron HaKodesh, with wider stairs, and less of them as the whole as platform was lowered (Belmont)
  • Ramps at front and rear by the fire exit for so all could enter and exit safely (Belmont)
  • An enlarged cloakroom so safer for people to move around (Belmont)
  • Purpose-built ramp for the bimah for wheelchairs (Golders Green)
  • Women’s section was moved downstairs for wheelchair and disability access to shul (Golders Green, Kenton)
  • Development of a disability and access strategy in consultation with US and other relevant organisations (Muswell Hill)
  • Easy access to seating (Muswell Hill, Wembley)
  • Wider doorways after refurbishment (Muswell Hill)
  • Accessible WC (Muswell Hill, Wembley)
  • Shabbat lift (Barnet)
  • Level access throughout building (Wembley)
  • Wheelchair seating area (Wembley)
  • Rearranged seating for Rabbinic induction to enable women easier access to the main part of the shul which allowed women with mobility issues to easily join. (Richmond)
  • Kiddushim relocated downstairs to ensure that they are accessible to everyone. (Kenton)
  • Lifts are provided to the Tea and Chat hosted by the ReJewvenate committee every Thursday for those people who do not have their own transport. (Kenton)

2. Neighbours in Action: Community Outreach for adults with disabilities

Norwood & Belmont United Synagogue

  • A five-person core team makes kiddush every Friday night and Yom Tov for two local homes.
  • Members visit the local homes every festival. They do everything from blowing Shofar and Chanukah candle lighting to leading the Pesach Seders.
  • Two residents and staff attend shul most weeks and are made to feel welcome
  • All eight residents and all staff are invited to all shul functions where there is food and tables where they can sit and eat easily.
  • A birthday gift is purchased for every resident
  • A ‘Winter holiday’ gift and summer garden produce were given to the staff
  • As part of the Belmont youth leadership programme, the youth attend Friday night kiddushim, put on a Music concert, help with the Sedarim ensure that the Norwood guests get lots of food and drink at kiddush.
  • Twelve of the Youth will be doing a sponsored walk for the local Norwood residents on their Gibraltar Jewish identity trip, to help fund a holiday away and restaurant trips for the Norwood residents.

Jewish Blind & Disabled & Mill Hill East Jewish Community

  • Mill Hill East hosts monthly Kabbalat Shabbat Services for residents living in the local Jewish Blind and Disabled building.
  • Rabbi Jack holds learning sessions in the local Jewish Blind and Disabled building for those who cannot travel to the shul.

3. Neurodiversity

  • Ran inclusive services over Yomim Noraim scaffolded by The Siddur LaKol and Makaton. (Muswell Hill)
  • Carried out an inclusion audit. (Muswell Hill)
  • Ran informal, abridged inclusive services over chagim and Shabbatot which were aimed at all people, young and old, neuro-diverse or neurotypical. (Muswell Hill)
  • Siddur Lakol is available for members. (Barnet)
  • Langdon College student comes weekly for work experience and helps with the admin tasks in the office. (Barnet)
  • Celebrated a Bar Mitzvah for a boy with severe sensory issues and autism in a way that made him feel included and empowered. (Richmond)

4. Audio & Visual

  • All spaces have been refurbished with new lighting for those with diminished vision capability. (Belmont)
  • Hearing loop. (Muswell Hill, Belmont)
  • Held a Shabbat service signed by JDA interpreter. (Muswell Hill)
  • Magnifiers for those who find this helpful for reading in synagogue. (Muswell Hill)

Leading our work supporting people with disabilities and additional needs are Daniella Neifeld, our Community Participation Manager, and Rivka Steinberg, our Lead Advocate for Additional Needs. You can meet them here!

Daniella Neifeld, Community Participation Manager

Originally from the United States, Daniella moved to the UK nearly six years ago and has recently joined the United Synagogue as Community Participation Manager.

Daniella’s background is in Jewish Education and strategic development. She has worked with Jewish Communities across the world including Israel, the USA and Australia. She believes in highlighting the uniqueness of each community while focusing on the Jewish national identity.

To appreciate a community, it is important to appreciate the individuals who make up the community. As an educator, Daniella understands the importance of creating an environment of belonging. It is essential for individuals of different needs, circumstances and outlooks to learn, grow, and give back effectively.

Daniella is excited to use her background in strategic development to create strong and impactful change alongside her colleagues at the United Synagogue and community leaders.

She can be reached via dneifeld@theus.org.uk.

Rivka Steinberg, Lead Advocate for Additional Needs

Rivka spent many years working in scientific research. Her interest in improving the quality of education and health services for children with Special Education Needs and Disabilty (SEND), developed when her eldest daughter was diagnosed with neurodisability in 2005 and with it the requirement to become a strong advocate for all her additional needs. She trained with IPSEA (Independent provider of SEND legal advice) to develop a strong knowledge of the SEND legislation and has used her broad knowledge and skills gained over many years to advise parent carers on SEND matters. She has also worked for voluntary organisations, specialist provisions and on parent advocacy with Local Authorities.

Her personal and professional experiences have seeded a desire and passion to share the knowledge acquired in her own journey and to work closely with leadership in the community, to enable all children and adults to lead a high quality of life, regardless of their additional needs. Rivka believes this is all about breaking down barriers so that children and adults with needs, are more fully integrated and supported to embody Jewish life in ways that are meaningful to them without feeling compromised.

She can be contacted on rsteinberg@theus.org.uk

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