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Lynn Mollick's May TT Article

Tales of Tikkun Olam By Lynn Mollick

“Even a Small Good Deed Brings Light to the Darkness”

Have you ever wanted to be part of a group, but felt that you didn’t fit in because you were different? Maybe you were a newcomer to the group, or the group’s youngest member, or the only woman or the only man. You probably felt at least a little uncomfortable and out-of-place.

Temple Sholom is committed to inclusion, to making every person feel part of this community, regardless of their age or abilities. We’re an “Able-Awarded” congregation with a physical plant that encourages inclusion. We have ramps as well as stairs, bathrooms and water fountains that are wheelchair accessible, large print prayer books, sanctuary seating with arms that are helpful for standing and sitting with the congregation during prayer. We also have portable headsets and a hearing loop in our foundation for anyone who can’t quite make out sermons or song.

Commitment to inclusion plays out in our religious school where it’s understood that children learn in different ways. The curriculum is multi-disciplinary, employing art, music, and discussion, as well as books. The emphasis is on quality of learning rather than quantity. What matters is understanding the spirit of customs and prayer. A few students in our religious school have emotional difficulties and a few others have learning challenges. When any child has a problem with the curriculum, staff gets together to assess, plan and meet with parents when needed to solve that problem.

The religious school has a credentialed special education teacher and there are tutors and teenage volunteers who help children master Hebrew and sustain attention during class. A behavior analyst consults on classroom management. Every child is helped to develop a strong Jewish identity, be part of the group, and have some fun.

Do you want to be part of advancing inclusion at Temple Sholom? Here are four things you can do:

1. Make a donation to the Temple Sholom Educational Inclusion Fund when you want to commemorate an important event. Email: with information about the person or event you’re commemorating and mail your check in any amount to Temple Sholom, 1925 Lake Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076. Donations to the fund have supplied the religious school with:

• Portable microphones that amplify teachers’ voices just enough for students to hear when voices from nearby classrooms interfere.

• A sensory toolbox filled with spinners, fidgets, squeeze balls and other items that discharge extra energy and enable children to attend to their lessons.

• “Wiggle cushions” for active bodies and chairs modified for restless feet. • iPads that help auditory learners listen to and learn prayers and Torah portions.

• Flashcards with sandpaper letters that help sensory learners master Hebrew letters by tracing them with their fingers.

• Donations will also enable teachers to receive additional training. 2. Volunteer in the religious school. The only requirement is a desire to help and the commitment of a few hours each week. You don’t need to know Hebrew to be a tutor, and if you’d like to shadow a child, you’ll receive some training.

3. Join the Inclusion Committee. The members are passionate about making everyone feel welcome at Temple Sholom. To learn more, contact the Committee Chair, Josh Bornstein at .

4. When you come to temple, follow the advice congregant Michael Loberfeld offered in his Jewish Disabilities Month d’var Torah: “Bring people who are on the fringes of your life into the center of your life and give them a place in your journey. Be drawn to people who might be different from you. Let strangers become acquaintances, and let acquaintances become friends.” When you meet Michael at temple and experience his sweet smile and friendly manner, you’ll surely feel welcomed into the community. You’ll also understand how Temple Sholom’s commitment to inclusion has helped Michael feel “loved and accepted for who I am.” Even a small good deed brings light to the darkness.

“Tales of Tikkun Olam” will be back in the next issue of Temple Topics. If you have a favorite charity or social action group you’d like to see featured, please contact me at .

Mon, May 17 2021 6 Sivan 5781