Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guide

One of the topics we get asked about most frequently here at jweb is cheders (hebrew schools) and bar mitzvah teachers who can accommodate or specialise in working with children and young people with learning disabilities. We'd love to have your recommendations - if you have had a good experience please  and help someone else to get the support their child needs. Below are some of the suggestions and information passed onto us by members of the jweb community.

Please remember, jweb is not responsible for the information provided or any of the services suggested.

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In 2016, the office of the Chief Rabbi was contacted by the mother of a young lady with Down’s Syndrome in the run up to her Bat Mitzvah and the Chief Rabbi has composed a short prayer for her, written in such a way as to ensure that she could both understand the content and hopefully also derive some inspiration from it.

We have attached a copy of the prayer below in the hope that other families can benefit from it. 

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Looking for mentors in Manchester?

Russi Deutsch and her husband are interested in teaching Bar/bat mitzvah lessons, although they haven't done it before.  They are based in Salford (near Prestwich). Please call 07974 859 354 for more information.

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Want to learn in North West London?

The person who helped to prepare (our son) for his Bar Mitzvah is Avromi Freilich. He is both a chazan and qualified speech and language therapist as well as being a lovely person who is dynamic, warm and with a lovely family too. Susan

Avromi Freilich told us "I am the chazan at Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue and have been teaching bar mitzvah boys including children with special needs for 20 yrs. I am also a qualified Speech and Language therapist and run a paediatric clinic in North West London. I have tutored bar mitzvah boys with autism and other difficulties and have brought them to a level where they have leined out of a Sefer Torah in Shul! It is hard but extremely rewarding! Patience is a must!" You can contact him at chazanavromi@gmail.com.

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Melanie Kelly runs a home-based cheder and is very adept at teaching children on the spectrum - she is a teacher at Clore Shalom. Her number is 020 8905 3844. Sarah

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Kol Chai Reform, Middlesex New Reform and Hatch End Masorti offer a joint chedar called HaMakom http://www.kolchai.org/education/religion-school.php which I can recommend. Sarah

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Raydar is United Synagogue and is held at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School (http://www.hjps.herts.sch.uk), and there is a Reform cheder for Radlett and Bushey Reform Synagogue (http://www.rbrs.org.uk). I think you need to be a member of the synagogue to go. Their contact email is youthadmin@rbrs.org.uk. Tracy

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My little boy is at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Shul where they have been more than welcoming & I go to class with him. In the long run I hope one of the teenagers from the shul are going to do 1:1 with him. http://www.npls.org.uk. Juliette

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This small independant shul has previously held a barmitzvah for a young boy with special needs. It has a tiny congregation without membership fees and is welcoming of new members. Fred Barshak is the co-ordinator. http://hampstead-shtiebel.org.uk/ Hephzibah

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Gershi Freilich teaches boys their Bar Mitzvah portions and is based in Edgware. You can contact him on 07929155847. He loves working with young people and would be happy for you to get in touch with him. Rikky

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Dean Lesser is a barmitzvah teacher with around 15 years experience. In that time I have tutored boys with extra needs and would be happy to help more. He lives in Borehamwood and teach from home, or is able to travel in and around Herts, Middx and North London.

"I have been teaching bar (and bat) mitzvah for 15 years and enjoy nothing more than sharing this once in a lifetime experience with each of my students. Every student and every lesson is different. Using my experience I am able to help the students learn for their bar (or bat) mitzvah in a fun, relaxed environment and enable them to get the most out of this important phase of their life." Please contact him on 07779 335751 for more information.

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I am a qualified and experienced primary school teacher with experience working in a Special School with children who have SLD, MLD and ASD. I am easily reachable through email - chayagorman@yahoo.com or sometimes reachable (when not teaching) on my mobile 07906 341843. Depending on how 'high functioning' the children are, I am also happy to teach a small group of children as well as 1:1 lessons. In addition to this, I'm also happy to run a Bat Mitzvah Club - but would need a rotation of parents to join and help out with any crafts, activities etc. My group rate if there are at least 3 children would be £20 per child, per session. My 1:1 rate is £40 per session. At the moment, the only free day and time is Sunday. I live in Golders Green but would also be happy to teach in children's houses in NW London and surrounding areas. Chaya B Gorman

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Having just celebrated our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah last Shabbat, I don’t hesitate in recommending my shul Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS) who were absolutely fantastic in the support that they gave us and the way that they worked with my daughter to prepare her and allow her to do things in a way that suited her and to speak in her voice.  FRS have a lovely clergy team of Rabbi Miriam Berger and Cantor Zöe Jacobs (who runs the B’nei Mitzvah programme) and they are both incredibly creative and accommodating in looking at how things can be done different to suit families when it comes to B’nei Mitzvah. I would really recommend that families contact them via the shul office frs@frsonline.org and the shul’s website is www.frsonline.org.

I would also like to recommend Suzanne Lynn (suzannelynn@o2.co.uk) as a Hebrew teacher. She worked with my daughter, through FRS, to help her with her Hebrew but I know that she also works privately in this capacity. She has prepared children for B’nei Mitzvah right across the spectrum, including a few who have not been able to participate in mainstream education and she certainly was able to get my daughter to make sounds that I didn’t think she could make!

My daughter’s Bat Mtizvah was fantastic and, as a family, we felt truly hugged by our community who are really inclusive and welcoming and so am really happy to recommend FRS and Suzanne. Laura

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I would like to recommend Naomi Conway, who lives in Golders Green, 07710 037727. She is doing an amazing job with my developmentally delayed daughter for her bat mitzvah. They are doing a mixture of Jewish learning, practical projects and outings. Naomi is an experienced cheder teacher and also works with Norwood. My daughter loves her and is really enjoying the lessons. Karen 

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The Bat Mitzvah Club is geared toward girls who are in the year before their Bat Mitzvah. The club meets once a month, for approximately 8-10 sessions, usually on a Sunday evening in Edgware. Through enjoyable activities and sharing, BMC meetings cover a number of coming of age issues as well as life lessons that often tie into Jewish culture, law and morals. During the course of the BMC year, areas of focus include confidence, consideration, empathy, generosity, modesty, dealing with friends and “frenemies”, taking responsibility, what a soul is and how to make it shine … all essential, universal principles to help guide our girls as they become young adults.

Valuable life tools, educational topics, new friendships and fun await!

Clubs can begin at any time through the year as soon as a group of minimum of 6 girls are ready to begin! For more information please contact club leader Sara Russell at sararussell23@hotmail.com or on 07515 636768.

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We have Bnei Mitzvah classes at Edgware and District Reform Synagogue, currently 45 students preparing for their bar or bat mitzvah. We are especially recognised for the individual and sensitive way we respond to children with special needs. For example we believe in making it possible for every child to have a bar or bat mitzvah celebration where they will feel proud of what they have achieved whatever their ability. We design the preparation around the child’s needs and abilities with special 1-1 support in every case. We hold Bar/Bat mitzvah classes on Tuesday evening and mix fun with learning by having Drop Zone our youth club provision especially for bnei mitzvah students.

For more information contact Marian Cohen MA, Director of Education, EDRS at marian@edrs.org.uk  or on 020 8238 1014.

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Ready to read in Redbridge?

Libby Landau is a private Hebrew tutor based in the Redbridge area. I can recommend her from personal experience and from having seen her work in a classroom situation. Her contact number is 07957 133784. Anna

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Study-time in South East England...

I am a Reform/Progressive Rabbi of more than 40 years' experience, having been involved in Jewish education in England, South Africa, Australia and Israel. I semi retired two years ago and was immediately snapped up by a Conservative shul in Miami where I act as head of the Hebrew School for half a year or so. My wife Marilyn is likewise a teacher and both of us have had considerable success in teaching and tutoring. With one daughter and family in Miami and one daughter and family in London we spend time both in Florida and in England. Our plan is currently to be based in England from just before Pesach 2014 to after the High Holydays, and to return to Miami thereafter. If either one of us or both can be of assistance in the Brighton & Hove/South East region please email rabbiwallach@gmail.com. Rabbi Charles Wallach

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