Leading learning disabilities charity Kisharon has marked World Autism Acceptance Week (27 March – 2 April) by launching a video to promote an inclusive siddur launched in September 2022.
Kisharon produced the film to promote Siddur Lakol, the first Orthodox siddur using icons for people with learning disabilities and autism. It is suitable for all ages and opens the doors for everyone with a disability to feel included in a service.
The siddur is a tailor-made United Synagogue edition produced in partnership with JWeb working in collaboration with Gesher School and Kisharon and with the endorsement of Norwood and Langdon.
Siddur Lakol, ‘A Siddur for Everyone’, features clear print with simplified translations and accessible transliteration of core prayers. A particular focus has been placed on the Kabbalat Shabbat service, as a number of United Synagogue communities, pioneering inclusive services, have found them successful. They also feature heavily in the Friday tefillot (prayers) of many Jewish schools.
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a set of graphic icons to help those with autism spectrum conditions convey their thoughts and needs. All tefillot and songs appear with matching PECS. This will offer a more meaningful prayer experience to those dependent on them.
The siddur has been produced 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.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “Our tradition teaches that the Jewish people are just like a Sefer Torah – a complete and perfect whole. If one single letter is missing, then the entire scroll is not able to be used. Similarly with the Jewish people, every single person counts. Our concept of community, within which every single person is valued, underpins our commitment to making everyone feel welcome and included in our synagogues.
“At the Pesach seder we declare “The Torah speaks to four types of children” and they are all equally ‘echad’ – one. All our children are exceptionally precious in our eyes and we have a responsibility to ensure that our Judaism is accessible to all, so that each one will attain their own full personal potential. Siddur Lakol is an outstanding publication, produced by a team with deep knowledge and expertise, which celebrates inclusion and seeks to make Shabbat accessible to people with disabilities. My hope is that it will not only serve as a way of making religious services more inclusive, but that it will also prompt a community-wide conversation about what more we can do to ensure that every aspect of Jewish life is truly accessible to all.”
Example of the PECS icons include:
Hadassa Kessler, Kisharon’s director of operations and development, who narrates the video, said: “Siddur Lakol really is a siddur for everyone and it will open the doors to orthodox Jewish communal life for those who may have felt excluded in the past. Through its pages, people with learning disabilities will be able to follow the service, connecting with Shabbat prayers and melodies that are sung every week making synagogue attendance, or even prayer at home, more engaging and meaningful.
“Training modules and videos coming to support the new siddur will help service leaders to develop more inclusive services, ensuring a warm welcome for those with learning disabilities. This exciting project has the potential to bring a warm Shabbat experience to many more people in our community.”
The video can be viewed here.
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