By Guest Blogger Zivah Nativ, Program Director, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program for Children with Special Needs, Masorti, the Conservative Movement in Israel
“There are only two ways to live your life:
One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
For me, this Albert Einstein quote is especially poignant. As an Israeli who has witnessed the series of wars that has kept our small Jewish state alive, I have often found that “viewing everything as a miracle” is easier said than done.
My name is Zivah Nativ. For the past 15 years I have dedicated myself to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program for Children with Special Needs, a program of the Masorti Movement in Israel. The principal goal of the program is to facilitate the educational preparation toward a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony while simultaneously promoting the child, and family’s, inclusion into today’s Jewish society. This is the only national program of its kind in Israel and has received funding from the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Each of our students is encouraged to write a personal blessing to be recited at their ceremony. I learned to view even the smallest thing as a miracle from a young wheelchair-bound girl named Sara who participated in our program. At her ceremony, Sara addressed the congregation from the bimah saying, “Thank you G-d for giving me a mouth so I can speak to my friends.” Her classmate, Yossi, emphasized: “Thank you for my ability to be a good friend.”
You see, when I began my work with children with special needs, my own focus was on the child’s disabilities – “nothing was a miracle.” Today, in part thanks to Sara and Yossi, my focus is on the child’s abilities – and I now truly believe that each one is a miracle.
Over my tenure as director of the program, I have witnessed the emotional ceremonies of close to 3,500 young adults with all kinds of special needs – but perhaps more importantly, thousands of members of Israeli society have borne witness to these improbable events. Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah, as I see it, is a step forward in the uphill battle for societal acceptance, which will lead to true inclusion. My hope is that the Israeli and international communities can be inspired by the perseverance of children with special needs, and begin to view these children as the miracle they are. One small step towards a future society of people with different abilities.
— Zivah Nativ