“Special Mitzvah Seder participants feel included”

Special Mitzvah Seder participants feel included

By Sergio Carmona

Jewish Journal – Apr 21, 2022 at 12:48 pm

Jewish adults with developmental or physical challenges participated in the Virtual Special Mitzvah Seder offered by Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus in North Miami Beach.

Linda Witham Finkin, chair for this year’s Special Mitzvah Seder, explained what she thinks the annual event means for the participants.

“They get to be like everybody else, feel included and experience the joy and excitement of Passover as their friends and family do, but in a way that is designed for them,” she said.

Finkin said Beth Torah’s first Special Mitzvah Seder in 2019, which took place in-person, included 19 special needs individuals, each of whom was paired one-on-one with a volunteer and many of whom were accompanied by a family member or caregiver.

Although COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the seder in 2020, copies of the Haggadah in Pictures and a plush frog keepsake wearing a 2020 t-shirt were sent to people who already registered to attend the event that year before the lockdown. In 2021, a video of a seder was prepared and shared via Zoom.

“In 2022, the video was updated with a new introduction, additional singing voices and a new look,” Finkin said. “The number of keepsake frogs sent out for special needs participants was 163. Caregivers and family members numbered 47.”

Finkin continued, “In addition to the online event, two other models were added.”

“For a group of bed bound individuals, thumb drives with the video were included in the package to allow caregivers to give one-on-one presentations,” she noted. “A rabbi performing a first night seder for a group of special needs individuals requested our materials. Our plan for next year is to offer both onsite and online events.”

Finkin said at the first event in 2019, the volunteers were touched at least as much as the participants.

“This year, volunteers were requested to help prepare and deliver the seder packages, something that was not thought of last year,” she continued. “Attending the event was also promoted to Beth Torah and to the community at large resulting in almost 30 individuals on the Zoom in addition to the special needs groups and individuals. Those who volunteered were grateful for the opportunity to be involved and are looking forward to next year’s event.”

Beth Torah’s youth groups were among those in the synagogue’s community that came together to prepare the packages for the participants.

The program has been made possible in part by an inclusion grant from the Miami Jewish Abilities Alliance, a program of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Visit btbrc.org for more information on the synagogue.

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