By Rachel Fadlon
Passover is about remembering a collective journey from slavery to freedom. It’s about passing our story down to the next generation, so that we never forget where we came from – never forget our journey.
How can we pass the story down to all our children? How can we ensure that all our children receive the story in a way that is accessible to them? What about our children who have disabilities? How do we bring them out of Egypt with us?
We at Gateways have struggled with these questions. In order to include children of all abilities in the Seder (and essentially, in an annual Jewish rite of passage), we created a haggadah for students in our Sunday Program so that they could understand and participate in their families’ Seders. This haggadah grew and became such a powerful tool that we approached Behrman House and suggested publishing the haggadah – the first haggadah created especially for children with special needs. The team at Behrman House was delighted and took the journey with us into unchartered territory – publishing the first ever haggadah for children with special needs.
That was a year ago.
This week, we received word from Behrman House that the first edition of the Gateways Haggadah sold out. We continue to receive calls and emails from people across the country who want copies of the haggadah for their preschools, religious schools, day schools and homes. Reviews of the haggadah in the Forward, JTA and other media sources are glowing. This is a powerful testament to the fact that our haggadah filled a gaping hole in materials available for Passover. Congregations, day schools and families want to include all their children in preparing for and participating in the Passover Seder.
Realizing that the haggadah was a powerful tool for inclusion of all types of learners at Passover, the author – Gateways’ staff member Rebecca Redner – created a user’s guide to accompany the haggadah. Because she realized that purchasing a haggadah with Mayer-Johnson™ picture symbols (recognized as the gold standard in educational materials for people with speech, language and learning challenges) may not be enough, she created the guide with parents and educators in mind. It explains the choices behind the content that we included in the haggadah and offers suggestions and tips for preparation for and during the Seder.
The combination of the haggadah and the user’s guide create a powerful tool for our community. It enables us to include an often overlooked subset of our community who had previously been unable to make the journey with us from slavery to freedom. By making the haggadah available to all, it is our hope that Jewish educators, clergy and families will use it to ensure that ALL our children can partake in the Passover experience – and the journey to freedom – in a meaningful, inclusive way.
Rachel Fadlon is Director of Marketing and Communications at Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, in Newton, MA.