This section of the website is devoted to people with special needs. We firmly believe that everyone has the right to be part of the Jewish community, and to participate in synagogue life. Similarly, it is the right of all youngsters to celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah and to be called up to the Torah.

Each child is an individual and the ceremony needs to be adapted to his/her abilities and needs. This section includes photographs, videos, comments by parents, and more, of youngsters with disabilities celebrating their bar/bat mitzvah. The website offers a glimpse of what is possible.

Pictures and films:

A supportive environment

A supportive environment and the opportunity to participate in a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony have a positive impact on young people and their families. The ceremony is a normative life cycle event, and both youngsters and their parents can feel that they are part of a long chain of history and celebrating “like everyone else”. The ceremony creates a sense of connection to community. It is also a rite of passage, and many parents have reported changes and progress in their children, as a result of participating in this life cycle event. A succesful ceremony helps parents and family members perceive their youngsters as more capable. The young people are justifiably proud of their accomplishments, and their self-esteem has improved. The bar/bat mitzvah experience has led to expressions of spirituality on three levels: the sense of connection with one’s self, the sense of connection to others, and a sense of connection that goes beyond and transcends one’s self and others.

What can parents do?


If you live in Israel and your child attends one of the schools for children with special needs, you should know that the Masorti Movement has established a program called “The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program for the Special Child”. Teachers from the program go to the schools and provide Jewish enrichment over the course of several months, culminating in a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony held in one of the Movement’s synagogues. The group ceremonies take place on a weekday when Torah is read, and each student has an opportunity to be called up to the Torah individually, with appropriate adaptations. For further details, you can visit the website of the program at

If you are interested in having a private ceremony, you can contact a synagogue and speak to the staff about this possibility. If you are members of a congregation, it is certainly preferable to have the ceremony together with your congregation. You will probably want a teacher who has experience preparing students with special needs for bar or bat mitzvah. It is important to take your son or daughter’s level of ability into account, in order to make the appropriate adaptations. You should evaluate attention span, ability to read, ability to sing, speak, mimic and fine-motor coordination. Many of the teaching suggestions found in the videos of the teacher’s guide are appropriate for youngsters with special needs. The date of the bar/bat mitzvah should be chosen far enough in advance to allow for a learning process at a relaxed pace. Because many youngsters with special needs mature more slowly, you might want to consider a bar/bat mitzvah at a later age. In the United States, there are organizations such as local Bureaus of Jewish Education that might also be helpful.

Parents tell us: