In the heart of Atlanta, a truly remarkable event unfolded this past Rosh Hashanah. Inspired by a parent’s plea on a social media platform for an inclusive Rosh Hashanah service for a child on the autism spectrum, families came together for a historic High Holiday service designed to cater to individuals of all abilities.
The plea resonated deeply with Rabbi Shlomo and Chanky Freedman, co-directors at Friendship Circle of Atlanta, igniting a spark of determination to create an inclusive service for everyone in the community.
Within a few days, the Freedmans took immediate action to create a service that was thoughtfully tailored to meet the diverse needs of the attendees. The service included traditional Rosh Hashanah prayers and songs, the sound of the shofar, followed by a light Kiddush.
The event also featured sensory-friendly, Rosh Hashanah-themed activities designed for individuals with varying abilities. One of the standout features was a unique “Touch and Feel” display of various horns which can be used as a shofar.
Rabbi Shlomo relates, “At Friendship Circle, we are always seeking to create a space where Jewish people, regardless of their abilities, can celebrate Jewish life cycles and be a part of our beautiful Jewish heritage.”
Participants left with a renewed sense of belonging and connection to G-d. “I felt comforted that my son had a chance to pray and celebrate Rosh Hashanah,” one parent said. Another said, “It was so refreshing to be at a service where I wasn’t self-conscious about how the kids would behave.” This historic High Holiday service not only broke down physical and sensory barriers, but also exemplified the true spirit of inclusivity.
“We all have a G-dly soul, that’s something we all share which makes us more the same than we are different. And so, we are not complete unless we are all included,” said Chanky.
We all have a G-dly soul, that’s something we all share which makes us more the same than we are different. And so, we are not complete unless we are all included.
This remarkable event serves as an inspiring example for Jewish communities worldwide, highlighting that with determination, compassion, and a shared commitment to inclusivity, it is possible to create a space where everyone can come together to celebrate Judaism, regardless of their abilities. Rabbi Shlomo and the Friendship Circle of Atlanta have demonstrated that inclusivity is not just a goal; it is a journey worth embracing with open hearts.
Friendship Circle of Atlanta holds year round events connecting individuals that have special needs with teens and young adult volunteers to create social interactions in a fun and educational way.