The Matan class, part of the Kulam program at the JCC of Manhattan, serves children ages 8-12 years with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This year, the focus of the class is Synagogue Life. This is a unique experience for the students in the JCC setting, as for many of them it is their first opportunity to learn about synagogues.
Recently, Matan teacher Shira Arcus introduced a unit on “People in the Synagogue”. Rabbinical Student Ariella Rosen made a guest appearance at the class. She told the students that she is studying to be a Rabbi. Through using stick puppets, she explained the various roles of different people in the Synagogue, including the Rabbi, cantor and teachers. She told the students that Rabbis help people learn about being Jewish, and they also help to lead prayers in Synagogue. Ariella showed them different versions of a Siddur (Jewish prayer book) and the students began their own Siddur project.
Shira told the students that with the new year, they would be starting a new way of doing t’fillah in their class so that everyone would have a new way of connecting with God. They learned about tzitzit (ritual fringes) and the brachah (blessing) people say when they put on tzitzit. Beginning their siddur project, they colored the body of a cut out person and glued on felt tzitzit to remind them what people wear when they pray to God. They also created a cover for their siddur. The students will create new pages of their siddur as they learn about different t’fillot (prayers) and even create their own personal prayer to God.
According to Shira, “Having the students interact with a Rabbinical student made synagogue and prayer more real to them. They had the opportunity to ask questions, and learn about and experience ritual objects by putting on tzitzit and reading from the siddur.”
To learn more about the Matan Class at the JCC of Manhattan, please contact Matan’s site supervisor at Chava@matankids.org.
Each month, Matan will put the spotlight on a Jewish Special Education program. If you are interested in having your program featured, please contact Meredith@matankids.org.