Sep 11th 2015

It is a game we all played as children to teach the parts of the body and to demonstrate movement. We laugh and revel in the performance of the child who has no limitations. The new parent cannot imagine anything less than a “perfect” child, however unrealistic that may be. As we age, we all face challenges that require attention, be they visual, auditory, physical or otherwise; if you don’t today, you will tomorrow. 

We often look at athletes or other high performing individuals who seem quite perfect and we strive to be like them. Even the greatest of baseball hitters can only get a hit less than 40 percent of the time. Athletes performing at the highest levels all require an entourage of assistants, coaches and psychologists to keep them at their peak. 

So what about we the people who grind it out day after day and need assistance? How does a community respond? How does Beth Tzedec respond when members of our family need special attention or support? 

Fact: Everyone, child or adult, has “special needs”. No one, at any age, is perfect, and recognition and acceptance of imperfection is the new “normal”. Some of us wear glasses or hearing aids, use walkers, or have allergies to foods or scents. Some of us learn better visually, while some learn better by listening. 

Sefer Tehillim (Psalms) 115:5 states “they have a mouth, but they do not speak, they have eyes, but they do not see, they have ears but do not hear, they have noses but do not smell. They do not feel with their hands, and they do not walk with their feet.” 

Our kehillah kedoshah (caring community) continues to take steps to embrace and engage our members and guests. Everyone is equal in the eyes of God and we believe it is our responsibility to offer options that will enhance Jewish experiences at the Synagogue. How do we do this? 

  • For those with visual impairments: We provide large print siddurim in the Hendeles Chapel and Sanctuary.
  • For those requiring accessible seating: We have designated seats, and our ushers will always assist. 
  • For those unable to manage stairs: We have a ramp that allows one to travel barrier free from east to west. Our elevator provides access to the second floor, making the majority of our building accessible. Our Renovations Committee is also working on plans to make the bimah in both the Hendeles Chapel and the Sanctuary accessible.
  • For those requiring assistive hearing devices: Both the Hendeles Chapel and the Sanctuary have FM systems that help amplify the davening and the speakers to enhance one’s experience of the music, the prayer and the Divrei Torah. (Please see the coat check attendants or ask a member of our staff to borrow a device.) 
  • For those with food allergies: We are nut-sensitive with our Kiddush and pastry foods. 
  • For those sensitive to perfumes: We ask our members and guests to refrain from wearing heavy scents when coming to shul. 
  • For those who need a helping hand: Our ushers, clergy and staff throughout the building all work to make your experience more engaging and inclusive. 
  • For children who need extra help with their Jewish studies: Our Congregational School offers help with shadows and tutors. 

We have now installed new accessible doors at the main parking lot entrance to the building. It is important that we be welcoming and we can now proudly declare that our doors are open to everyone. In addition, on the main floor, just down from my office (the silver door) by the administration office, we have a newly installed caregiver/accessible washroom. While we intend to upgrade all of our washrooms, this new washroom is a first important step in that direction. Thanks to the House Committee and the Board of Governors, we have been able to make these changes for the High Holy Days. 

Judaism is a sensory experience and Beth Tzedec is committed to making changes to allow everyone an equal opportunity to share in the experience. 

As always, I welcome your feedback and comments as together we continue to embrace our people and serve as a community destination for Jewish living. 

A healthy and sweet New Year. To make a gift that will strengthen our Synagogue, please contact me at 416-781-3514 ext. 211 or