This essay is one of a series of articles for Kveller, on disability in the Jewish community. It's pretty personal, but I felt it was important to share our experience planning a simcha for a special needs child. I hope it will inspire other families to really celebrate their children's Bar or Bat Mitzvah in a manner that is joyful and meaningful.
My working title was a little more in-your-face ("Yes, You Should Have a Bar Mitzvah For Your Special Needs Child"), but the headlines are never the writer's decision.
"As we neared the time when Eitan would become bar mitzvah
age, my husband Avi happened to have read a Hebrew article written by
an Israeli rabbi about special needs rite-of-passage ceremonies. This
article suggested that the bar or bat mitzvah of a special needs child
should be celebrated with as much passion and enthusiasm as a
wedding–because often, the disabled in our community either can’t, or
just don’t make it to the chuppah. We had always planned to
make this an important time in Eitan’s life, but something about that
reasoning really resonated with both of us, and it struck a particular
chord with my husband. And so, as Eitan’s 13th birthday approached, we began planning this day together with boundless enthusiasm and love."