Last week was known as the “Shabbat of comfort.” It is the Shabbat that immediately follows our national day of mourning on the ninth of the Jewish month of Av. The famous reason given for national tragedy, particularly the destruction of the Second Temple, is “sinat chinam,” or senseless hatred. The only tool we have to combat this is “ahavat chinam” or limitless love.
What can we do during this exhilarating window of time when summer is winding down, before we find ourselves sitting around the table dipping apples in honey? It is the perfect opportunity to think about the joy of living in community. We are blessed to live in a community full of rich Jewish resources. There are so many synagogues, agencies, schools and programs whose creative and dedicated staff strive to meet the needs of every single Jewish person.
Two years ago, a program called Kol Echad was put in place to demonstrate this love and respect. Kol Echad means “each and every one,” which is emblematic of the inclusiveness that we aim for in Baltimore. A consortium that includes The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and its agencies, as well as area synagogues, have imagined a way to increase our boundless love and demonstrate that we want to connect.
Facilitated by the Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), an agency of The Associated, Kol Echad creates a welcoming, sensory-friendly and interactive synagogue experience for children and their families.
The goal of the Kol Echad service is to provide access to synagogue life for children and families who may not have felt as comfortable in the “main service.” Some of these families virtually stopped bringing their children to synagogue. Kol Echad provides a way for these families to feel included and welcomed into a synagogue community.
Once a month, the Shabbat day service takes place at one of five synagogues in the area. The service includes a special siddur designed by special educators and created for this service.
In addition, there are sensory kits available, chock full of items such as a weighted blanket, fidget toys, noise-cancelling headphones and more. This kit helps make services accessible for the Kol Echad children so they feel welcome and encouraged to come to the service. Synagogue personnel are trained by SHEMESH and CJE on inclusive practices. Kol Echad aims to make synagogue accessible for all children, no matter their abilities.
If you or someone you know would like to participate in this service, please contact Rachel Plotkin at kolechadbaltimore@ gmail.com.