I See You

The Story Behind The New Special Resource Guide V’khol Banayikh

by Sara Rubinow Simon

Have you seen the sensational new movie “Avatar”?

It provides a fortuitous segue to V’Khol Banayikh — Jewish Education for All: A Jewish Special Needs Resource Guide.


In the film, the Na’avi humanoids who inhabit Pandora acknowledge and greet each other by saying “I see you,” the Na’avi version of the Hebrew verse from Pirkei Avot 4:27: “Al tistakel b’kankan,elah b’mah sheyesh bo,” or “Don’t look at a container but rather at what is in it.”

The goal of V’Khol Banayikh is to increase awareness of the value of each individual and the gifts that he has to contribute by really “seeing” his essence and discovering ways to enable him to respond to the best of his ability.

It started as a brief professional development guide dealing with Jewish Special Education for classroom teachers, in response to a lack of available materials perceived by our colleagues in the Consortium of Special Educators in Central Agencies for Jewish Education (now called Jewish Special Education International Consortium). It slowly evolved into a compendium of more than five hundred pages of articles and other resources primarily contributed by our Consortium colleagues.

It became increasingly apparent to me and to my co-editors Linda Forrest and Ellen Fishman that it made sense to provide materials that helped congregations, Jewish day schools, and Jewish community agencies to be welcoming and accommodating to individuals with a range of disabilities. This, in turn, would provide support for those working with individuals with diverse learners in formal and informal educational settings.

V’Khol Banayikh is appropriate for parents, Federation planners and leadership, congregational clergy and leadership, Jewish agency professionals and leadership — and the original and primary target audience, Jewish educators.

The book opens with a brief glimpse into the lives of family members and individuals with disabilities, a discussion of Judaic sources, and then moves on to provide steps towards building an inclusive multi-faceted Jewish community.

There are comprehensive sections on instructional strategies and classroom management, classroom enrichment, program models for a continuum of special education service options in early childhood, day schools and congregational programs. Chapters focus on Hebrew language instruction, curricular excerpts, teen aide training programs, Bar Mitzvah preparation for youngsters and adults, camp, transition to adulthood and group homes, disability awareness, glossary of special needs terminology, record forms and charts, web sites — and much more.

It is our hope that this volume will provide resources that will make it increasingly possible for all Jews to learn about their heritage and to participate effectively with full acceptance in all aspects of Jewish life.

Use these materials “as is” or adapt them to your own settings.

B’Hatzlahah, Much success!

Sara Rubinow Simon is one of the editors of V’Khol Banayikh — Jewish Education for All: A Jewish Special Needs Resource Guide. A specialist in Jewish special education, she was the founding chairperson of the CAJE Task Force on Special Needs, active in the founding of the Task Force on Jewish Individuals with Disabilities, Council of Jewish Federations, and Founding Co-Chairperson of the Consortium of Special Educators in Central Agencies for Jewish Education. She received a Covenant Award in 1991.