Suburban Temple-Kol Ami

Beachwood, Ohio, USA

Areas of Inclusion: Architectural & Physical Accommodations and Transportation, Autism, B’nai Mitzvah, Deafness, General Inclusion, and Religious School

About the Congregation

Suburban Temple-Kol Ami

22401 Chagrin Boulevard

Beachwood, OH 44122

Number of Congregants: 375

Contact Information

Rabbi Shana Nyer, Director of Lifelong Learning


Inclusion Programming

Does this congregation have an inclusion committee?


Developing Our Program

Over time, our general policy has been to include our students, and adults, who have struggled with special needs of any kind. In particular, we strive to "keep our kids in the building.” Cleveland is blessed to have a special needs program, called Etgar, which is a learning program for students with disabilities that is very good, but it is housed in another building. We feel strongly that "our kids" belong as part of our congregational family, and should be, if at all possible, within the classroom and community.

Number of people involved in the effort: 20

Involving People with Disabilities

We have regularly touched base with our members, to ensure we are meeting their needs.

Funding This Effort

As this is a policy, and not a program, there are not specific funds directed, but at times we do receive some grants to help us out. For example, for a time, we received grant money from our local federation for a Deaf interpreter for our high holy day children's services and religious school mornings. This grant has run out, but we still provide this service.

Helpful Agencies & Organizations

We have worked in conjunction, at times, with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. As they are both top-notch, world-class experts, they have always provided excellent feedback for us in how to improve our reach.

Process & Sharing

History, Materials & Processes that Guided Our Approach

Both the educator, Rabbi Shana Nyer, and head Rabbi, Rabbi Allison Vann, are rather new to this congregation. We inherited a philosophy of inclusion. We have opened that philosophy to ensure, and insure, that we are truly including all those with special needs. We have seen an increase in those on the autism spectrum, and are working with teachers to help them to develop skills to handle these students. Our school simply accepts that two of our teachers/teachers aides have Fragile X, a rare genetic condition, and they are treated as part of the team. Our student who is Deaf, does not communicate verbally, and struggles with walking, is celebrated for his achievements and growth. Two years ago, we learned to sign the Sh'ma with him. This is just part of our school—our parents, teachers, and students simply see it is as part of who we are.

We face a unique challenge: to be a highly qualified, excellent school, which accepts, includes, and deeply challenges everyone, no matter where they are. A blog post relating to religious school is available in the links below.

Evidence of Successful Inclusion Efforts

Last year, a student with special needs was considering transferring to Cleveland's off-site special needs program, because of the facilities the program offered for him.

He chose to stay with our school, even though we are limited in what we can offer him, because of his love for our community and how much he loves being with us. His family recognized that the community, rather than the learning, at this point in his life, was the most important thing for him.

Evidence of Changing Attitudes

I recently met with a single mother who was considering a bar mitzvah for her son, who has some reading issues, anxiety issues, and has severe ADHD. While they have opted not to have a Bar Mitzvah (mainly for reasons of family dynamics), her closing comment to me was, "I never thought he could actually do this. Now I know: he really, really could. And it would be great."

Future Inclusion Efforts

We know that we are successful with our students with stated learning and physical needs. We are hoping to expand our reach to students in the Gifted and Talented arena, who also struggle, as well as work more in depth with adults, and those struggling with mental illness.

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