Ten area synagogues have improved their accessibility to individuals with disabilities, thanks to grants from a local consortium of Jewish and healthcare philanthropies.
The challenge grants, ranging from $450-$2,000, have helped the synagogues meet their accessibility goals, from purchasing large-print prayer books to installing high-tech systems for the hard of hearing.
MetroWest ABLE, which focuses on accessibility issues in the local Jewish community, announced the grants at the Sept. 20 board meeting of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ.
“The applications received from congregations were impressive and specifically targeted their needs,” said Mort Bunis, chair of MetroWest ABLE.
The grants were funded by UJC and the Gary Aidekman Family Foundation and cosponsored by MetroWest ABLE and the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.
The dollar-for-dollar grants matched contributions from the synagogues.
While many synagogues have initiated accessibility programs in recent years, others began the process after using a self-assessment checklist developed and distributed by MetroWest ABLE last year.
Below is a list of the synagogues that received the grants and how the money has been been used (the grants were disbursed in the spring):
Adath Shalom in Morris Plains purchased 30 large-print High Holy Day prayer books.
Bnai Keshet in Montclair has provided 1:1 childcare for children with special needs, enabling their families to attend High Holy Day services.
Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David in West Orange purchased an infrared sound system for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as those with ADD and auditory processing challenges, including those in the early childhood center.
Congregation Beth Hatikvah in Summit expanded its infrared system; added signage to direct members to infrared hearing devices, accessible entrances/exits, and a wheelchair ramp; purchased two large-print prayer books; covered or tinted windows to eliminate glare to aid those with visual impairments; and repaired the pavement outside the entryway to accommodate wheelchairs.
Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn installed a hearing assistance system; purchased 12 large-print prayer books; and is hosting scholar-in-residence Dr. David Ackerman, director of the Mandel Center for Jewish Education in New York, to discuss inclusion with the larger community.
Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield is hiring a certified learning consultant and educational therapist three hours a month to consult with the education director and teachers.
Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills provided CART, Computer Assisted Real-time Translation, for its High Holy Day services.
Temple Shalom in Succasunna purchased three white boards for its Learning Center to meet the needs of students with learning differences, constructed two ramps and a handrail in the main sanctuary, and purchased two wheelchairs.
Temple Sholom of West Essex in Cedar Grove purchased Voice Thread, new technology that provides interactive, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning experiences for the students, as well as other new materials to provide additional support for Hebrew education for children with learning challenges. A learning specialist was hired to help train teachers.
White Meadow Temple in Rockaway, to accommodate individuals using wheelchairs, replaced two restroom doorknobs, added four new mezuzot at accessible height, and installed a paper cup dispenser near the water fountain; purchased five large-print Bibles; added signage indicating accessible entrances; and purchased a portable Torah reading table for members unable to access the bima.