This past Monday a special bar mitzvah was celebrated at the Flatbush Park Jewish Center. Certainly, every bar mitzvah is special, but this one stood out particularly, because it epitomized inclusion.
Our HASC group home opened in 2017, a few blocks from the FPJC. Since the house opened, our boys have been affiliated with the shul. The shul constantly opens its doors for our boys: they provide them with Rosh Hashanah seats and they invite them to their luncheons and carnivals.
But for this occasion, the shul and its members went above and beyond, providing Zevi with a beautiful bar mitzvah, from start to finish. One of the members from the community has been extraordinarily kind and caring to our boys. She often brings bagels on Sundays, and heard that we were preparing for Zevi’s bar mitzvah. Without even asking, she asked her daughter if she had a suit that would fit Zevi and a few hours later, she showed up and dropped off a suit that fit him perfectly.
Zevi, a 13-year-old boy with autism, does not use words to communicate, but expresses himself through hugs and smiles. Zevi was smiling from ear to ear as friends, family members, HASC staff, community members and previous counselors came to celebrate with him from near and far.
Everyone in the room felt a special connection when Zevi’s grandfather got up to speak about Zevi, HASC, and especially the community. It brought tears of joy to everyone there.
Zevi was called up to the Torah along with his father. The shul then made a special “Mi shebeirach”for the bar mitzvah boy. Zevi smiled after finishing the prayer. At that point, although Zevi couldn’t say thank you, we all knew what he was thinking. The congregation sang and danced in his honor.
The Rav, Rabbi Yisroel Perelson, spoke about Zevi and the other boys, and what they contribute to his shul. Zevi was also presented with a beautiful sefer from the Rabbi, followed by a lavish seudah prepared by the wonderfulstaff at HASC.
After the speech, members of the shul came over to the family to wish them mazel tov.Although it’s never an easy decision to place your child in a group home, Zevi’s parents recognized after celebrating their simchah that Zevi has grown, and that he is thriving in a warm and loving community.
We would like to thank the Rav, Rabbi Yisroel Perelson; Mrs. Paulette Lichtman; Mrs. Jordana Wolf, and Mrs. Helen Birnbaum, together with the rest of the members at the Flatbush Park Jewish Center, for their assistance in making this event happen.