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Finchley Reform’s inclusive Yom Kippur service

Ben, Richard and Zach are regulars at FRS
Ben, Richard and Zach are regulars at FRS

Finchley Reform Synagogue, like many British Jewish communities have to make special provision over the High Holy Days to find premises big enough for the whole community to come together for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Yet for FRS the imperative that the whole community is catered for has led to an extraordinary provision thought to be the only one of its kind in synagogues across the UK. FRS’s B’yachad service (Hebrew for together or inclusive) is a prayer experience particularly catering for the needs of adults with physical and learning disabilities.

Using symbol supported siddurim, a visual schedule and sensory expressions of the Torah reading along with lots of music and percussion the service finds ways to encourage participation in whatever way the individual is able.

Susan Dawson said. “My son Benjamin (aged 21) has been a regular attendee at the Shabbat B’Yachad services ever since its inception. Ben has always loved the music and the rhythm and cadence of the Hebrew prayer. More than this, the wonderful natural acceptance of the rest of the community and their full engagement makes Shabbat B’Yachad an incredibly welcoming and uplifting service. To be present during the Amidah when he and other congregants are invited to be silent for a few moments whilst under the shelter of beautiful brightly coloured silk tallitot is a truly miraculous and spiritual moment. Now that Ben lives independently he comes with his own carers and often brings his fellow housemates too! We feel blessed that our son has this opportunity to engage with his Judaism and confirm his identity in this way.”

Rabbi Miriam Berger said “B’yachad services give the chance for people who are often marginalised from synagogue services to be at their heart. B’yachad on Yom Kippur gives a taste of the whole day from Kol Nidre to Neilah in a manageable 1 hour service. I hope that families who have previously felt that a family member couldn’t join them in shul because of the constraints of wheelchairs or unpredictable behaviours will feel that B’yachad is an environment they can feel totally relaxed in.”

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