For more than 30 years, Keshet has provided educational, recreational, vocational, and social programs for individuals with developmental/intellectual disabilities operating according to traditional Jewish values.
For individuals with developmental/intellectual disabilities, questions of Jewish identity and involvement can be challanging as they figure out their place in the Jewish community. The Sidney and Lisa Glenner Keshet GADOL Program, for individuals over the age of 21, provides young adults with special needs the chance to live a full Jewish life alongside their peers within their community.
What is your Jewish identity? What is your place within the Jewish community? We asked three particpants of the Sidney and Lisa Glenner Keshet GADOL program these very questions and this is what they had to say:
"I like going to shul and davening. I enjoy learning and helping people. I have a lot of cousins and family and friends in the community. I feel that I'm respected because I'm part of the community. There are a lot of kosher restaurants, which make it easy for me. It's important for me to live a Jewish lifestyle so I can keep Shabbos. I mostly like to relax on Shabbos."
-Jonathan Weissbrot, age 33
"I like being involved and working in the Jewish community. I like being part of GADOL because I like being around my friends and that's where they are. I like keeping kosher because it's important. I like to celebrate all of the holidays and my favorite is Passover."
-Avi Lesser (middle), age 26
"I feel that being part of the Jewish community helps me fit in and interact with people. I get a chance to make new friends and be a part of something. Also, keeping kosher and going to kosher restaurants lets me see what people like about keeping kosher and kosher foods.
Being Jewish and being part of the community helps me decide to choose certain clothes and learn rules about keeping kosher and how to live in a Jewish home.
There are certain lifestyle rules to follow: no electronics during Shabbos and no showers during Shabbos."
-Becky Shuman (right), age 23
Everyone has a different upbringing and wants different things out of life, and Keshet gives individuals with special needs the opportunity to experience everything life has to offer, including a place within the Jewish community.
Deb Weiner is the manager of Marketing and Community Outreach for Keshet.
Keshet is a partner in serving our community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Photography included in this article was taken by Michael Lee Photography.