In many ways, Miles Evans' bar mitzvah was like many others. At his ceremony last year, he helped lead the morning service in both English and Hebrew. He carried and read from the Torah, then delivered a speech about what he'd read.
But in another way, Miles' bar mitzvah was different. Miles was born with Down syndrome. For him to become a bar mitzvah was extraordinary!
Miles was already a pretty accomplished guy. He went to Keshet's Overnight Program at JCC's Camp Chi… and plays in Keshet's Buddy Baseball program.
His synagogue-Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard, Illinois-is dedicated to educating every Jewish child and committed to doing what it takes to make that happen. With the support of his family and the synagogue "team," Miles hit a home run on his bar mitzvah day.
Miles began his bar mitzvah studies more than three years ago. What sparked his quest was seeing his older brother Nate's bar mitzvah, way back in 2005.
For several years at Sunday school, Miles was matched with a young adult tutor to learn the prayers. During his final year of study, Miles worked with the congregation's bar mitzvah tutor to learn and practice everything he needed to know. He attended services, then rehearsed with recordings, flashcards, and actually saying the prayers in the sanctuary.
All this practice made perfect. "On his big day, Miles delighted in greeting his guests and made everyone feel welcome with no nervousness," his mother, Julie, said. "He exuded confidence and connected with the congregation. Several people reported tears of joy during the service."
Also rooting for Miles were his Camp Chi friends, who were behind him all the way. Literally, they sat behind him during the service! Of course, they were "behind him" the other way, too-they encouraged him, patted him on the back, and made toasts to him at his party. And by "all the way," we mean that they had even helped Miles practice back in summer camp months before.
While most bar mitzvahs spend a few days writing thank-you cards for the gifts they got, Miles also got letters, calls, and e-mails from people who thanked him for being so inspirational.
Miles had a great time, too. In fact, his parents saw him practicing again a few days after his ceremony. When they asked him why, he smiled and said he wanted to have another