A piece of my soul died when we decided that Ben’s autism would necessitate a reexamination of a conventional Bar Mitzvah service. Having guided so many young people through their studies towards becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah, I yearned to have the unique privilege of preparing my own son, my firstborn, the way my father, also a rabbi, had long ago prepared me.
Now, with just a bit less tumult (one hopes) comes B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a Reform Movement pilot initiative to “radically rethink” the Jewish rite of passage and its place in synagogue life and education.
One of the great uses of the Apple iPad is for children with disabilities. Steve Jobs was acutely aware of that important use of the tablet that was one of the gadgets of which he was most proud.
A recent article in the Boston Globe demonstrates just how helpful the iPad is for children with disabilities. Steven A. Rosenberg writes about Matthew Emmi, a bar mitzvah boy who is severely autistic.
The great American bar/bat mitzvah has become a source of parody in Jewish life. The 13-year olds are at the most awkward stage of their lives with hormones raging. Anywhere from 10 to 50 friends might be invited who then sit in the sanctuary with no interest in the service and little clue as what is transpiring. The relatives and friends of the parents are polite but often sit stoically, unnerved by the unfamiliarity of the surroundings.
The first time I heard about a "virtual simcha" was in the late 1990s. Detroit was hit with a massive snowstorm and the 8-day old baby boy's aunt who was to play the role of rabbi was stuck at the airport in New York. The rabbi improvised and she officiated at her nephew's bris via speaker phone.
Of course, if this happened in 2010 and not in the late 1990s the bris would have been officiated by the rabbi through Skype, and she would have seen the simcha and been seen by the attendees.
Using technology to add people to a simcha is becoming more common. An increasing number of grandparents and great-grandparents are attending their grandchildren's wedding in the virtual world.
Just last month I officiated at a wedding that was being streamed live to Israel so that the bride's elderly grandparents could "be there." Through Ustream.tv, the grandparents felt like they were at the wedding even if it meant staying up late into the night in Israel.
Jewish techie Ari Davidow listened in on JESNA's recent "Technology and Jewish Education" conference and posted some of his observations on the Jewish Women's Archive blog. JESNA's conference is run through its Lippman Kanfer Institute.