By Ruchie Gross
JCS Kosher Food Bank
A Bar Mitzvah, one of the most significant milestones in Jewish Life, marks a child’s maturity, and strengthens his connection to G-d, the Torah, Mitzvot and his Jewish identity.
But for children with special-needs, this milestone is bittersweet. Joel Stein*, the youngest of four children, was born a neuro typical baby. At 5 years old, a febrile seizure resulted in permanent brain damage, and he was never the same. Because of his seizure disorder, Joel is severely disabled and is nonverbal. Constantly in and out of the hospital, he requires 24/7 care that his mom lovingly provides.
The Stein family had to turn to the JCS Kosher Food Bank to subsidize their incredible medical expenses. Mrs. Stein is unable to work because she spends all her time caring for Joey.
As Joey’s 13th birthday approached, they were unsure how they would celebrate. Joey could not read the haftarah, had no friends to celebrate with, and did not have the basic understanding to know that it was his birthday. They did not want to overwhelm him.
The solution was the JCS Kosher Food Bank’s Birthday Club, and the generosity of Laura Waich and the other Club members, that treats extra special milestone birthdays like Bar Mitzvahs as ‘VIP’ events. The Steins decided to have a small party with close friends and family at the shul when Joey would put on his tallit and tefillin. KFB Director, Bonnie Schwartzbaum and Marie Fernandez, Customer Service Representative, worked with Mrs. Stein on every detail. A beautiful, personalized cake was ordered from Gallery of Cakes, and a complete breakfast spread from Holy Bagel.
That morning, Joey’s father wrapped the tefillin on his arms and draped the tallit on his shoulders. Joey hummed and swayed to the prayers. Mrs. Stein watched her son become a Bar Mitzvah. Reveling in nachat, she cried tears of joy.
*names have been changed to protect privacy.