When in the early 1990s, Yaffa Gottlieb adopted two children with special needs, all she wanted was for them to be a part of the Jewish community. At first she took baby steps to include them in the community. “At the time, families were still hiding their children with Down’s syndrome. I wanted them to be part of the community. We would walk down with our kids on the main avenue,” she recalls.
The writer, who just completed two new children’s novels says that since Friendship Circle of Brooklyn entered the picture, the community has been so much more receptive, accepting and inclusive. Friendship Circle, the Chabad initiative for inclusion has partnered with Bear Givers foundation to nurture the artistic talents of individuals with special needs towards an exhibit Art of Friendship. The Brooklyn division is headed by Rabbi Berel and Chani Majeski.
According to organizers and parents, the event has been an “empowering” experience for them. “They feel that they accomplished something that will be recognized as works of art by others. They see for once that they are a part of the greater community,” says Joseph Sprung, the Chairman and Founder of Bear Givers. “Art is art, no matter who creates it.”
Over a period of several months, local artists met with the amateur artists to create art. The workshops, conducted in the Jewish Children’s Museum, where the gallery and auction will take place Sunday, May 10, have been developed with each individual’s creative talents in mind.
The art program has been an eye opener for parents as they uncover their children’s innate artistic talents. Gottlieb, whose children are looking forward to the event, says that the experience gave her daughter the idea that she could become an artist, which is unusual for individuals who generally get overlooked as contributors to art or any discipline.
“It is mesmerizing to see how these individuals with special needs produce such interesting works of art,” says Chana Sharfstein, the author of Dignified Differences: A Special Soul, a memoir of her daughter’s autistic life
“How my daughter would have benefited from such programs is immeasurable,” she says wistfully. “But as a member of the pioneering generation of special children in my Jewish community, I am delighted that a new generation will have opportunities of inclusion through the activities of the Friendship Circle.”