All parents remember the first time they laid eyes on their child. But the Rosenbaum’s memories also include genetic testing which confirmed their pediatrician’s suspicion that their son, Michael, had Down Syndrome. In last week’s The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Michael’s mom, Rony, elaborates on their journey to find a place for Michael in both their secular and Jewish lives. When it came time for preschool, the Rosenbaum’s enrolled Michael in their local synagogue’s program at Temple Israel. Rony writes:
“The other kids didn’t see any differences; they just saw Michael. And because it started that way, it stayed that way from nursery school through pre-K and into the temple’s day school through kindergarten and first and second grades.”
She continues to say that she “got wonderful feedback from parents who loved having Michael at school.” Eventually the Rosenbaum’s had to switch Michael into another school, but for academic reasons -certainly not for issues over inclusiveness. Temple Israel clearly practices Big Tent Judaism’s Principle #2: Celebrate Diversity. The administration was able to leave behind the assumptions of what Jews “look like” and how families are configured. Instead, they took Michael in immediately. Today he goes to the synagogue’s religious school for three hours a week without an aide. Examples like this serve as an inspiration for us, and for all Jewish communal institutions that desire to be open and welcoming to all who approach.