Groundbreaking siddur for people with learning disabilities and autism launched
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Groundbreaking siddur for people with learning disabilities and autism launched

Colourful 70-page accessible prayer book published by JWeb uses phonetics and symbols

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

A groundbreaking new siddur for people with learning disabilities and autism has been published for the first time this week.

The slim and colourful 70-page siddur, full of songs and prayers in Hebrew and English, uses phonetics and symbols to make services more accessible.  You can view the online version of the siddur here.

It has been published by JWeb, a new cross-communal resource founded by Deborah Gundle and Linda Goldberg, which collates information for people with learning disabilities in the Jewish community and beyond. Compiled by Gundle and Anna Perceval, the prayerbook has been welcomed by Norwood and Langdon and endorsed by the Movement for Reform Judaism. JWeb is working closely with the United Synagogue to produce a dedicated version for Orthodox communities.

Many experts believe the Accessible Siddur will allow families to attend shul for the first time in years, confident that those with learning disabilities can enjoy the service, with their own prayer book.

Ms Gundle, herself the mother of a learning disabled son, was well aware of the difficulties facing parents and families when it comes to integration into the wider Jewish community. “The siddur is a powerful tool in promoting social mobility for people with learning disabilities and encouraging synagogues and other organisations to make positive changes, to become more inclusive, she told Jewish News.  

“Copies could be given to young people to mark their bar- or batmitzvahs, and multiple copies could be kept on synagogue shelves to be used at Shabbat services. People with learning disabilities could have their own copies to use for prayers at home or to bring to shul with them”.

JWeb is rolling out the Accessible Siddur in two ways: a physical book, (priced £14, available through JWeb, Amazon, and Norwood’s Kennedy Leigh Family Centre); and a free download here, together with an accompanying film of a model inclusive Shabbat service which was made with Finchley Reform Synagogue.

So far there are eight synagogues and communities which offer inclusive Shabbat services, across the religious spectrum. They are:  Belsize Square Synagogue; East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue; Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue; Finchley Reform Synagogue; Manchester’s Menorah Synagogue; Mill Hill United Synagogue; New North London Masorti Synagogue, and the Friendship Circle. JWeb plans to ask shuls to conduct their own market research as to who in their community would benefit from the Accessible Siddur and then give it to them for free.

But the organisation also wants to talk to other faith communities about how they reach out to learning disabled people, and begin an interfaith dialogue.

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