First orthodox siddur for people with disabilities was launched in UK

Written by on June 27, 2022

An unprecedented collaboration between Jewish charities has led to the publication of the first-ever orthodox prayer book, siddur, to use the Picture Exchange Communication System specifically for people with disabilities, both physical or learning.

Siddur Lakol, ‘A Siddur for Everyone’, features a clear print with simplified translations and accessible transliteration of core prayers. A particular focus has been placed on the Kabbalat Shabbat Service, as a number of United Synagogue communities, pioneering inclusive services, have found them successful. They also feature heavily in the Friday tefillot (prayers) of many Jewish schools.

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a set of graphic icons to help those with autism spectrum conditions convey their thoughts and needs. All tefillot and songs appear with matching PECS. This will offer a more meaningful prayer experience to those dependent on them.

The siddur is a tailor-made United Synagogue edition produced in partnership with JWeb working in collaboration with Gesher and Kisharon schools (for children with disabilities) and with the endorsement of Norwood and Langdon charities.

The siddur will be produced in both A4 and A5 formats, providing options to support people with a wide range of disabilities. Larger font sizes will help people with visual disabilities and the larger edition may help people who find it difficult to hold and read smaller siddurim.

New Siddur Lakol being used by Kisharon. (credit: ROBERT SHACK)

The United Synagogue

The United Synagogue is also making available explanatory videos, so that the charity’s Rabbinic, service and school leaders can be familiar with techniques for best practice use of the siddur and provision of inclusivity services.

The United Synagogue said that the siddur has been made possible by the support of the Daniels family from the Pinner United Synagogue community, in order to honor the life of Sonya Daniels, their wife, mother and grandmother. 

The siddur was soft-launched last week to mark Learning Disability Week (20th-26th June). It will be available to buy from September.

“Our tradition teaches that the Jewish people are just like a Sefer Torah – a complete and perfect whole,” UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said, introducing the new siddur. “If one single letter is missing, then the entire scroll is not able to be used. Similarly, with the Jewish people, every single person counts. Our concept of community, within which every single person is valued, underpins our commitment to making everyone feel welcome and included in our synagogues,” Mirvis explained and added that “Siddur Lakol is an outstanding publication, produced by a team with deep knowledge and expertise, which celebrates inclusion and seeks to make Shabbat accessible to people with disabilities.” 

“As a mother of a special needs child, my first experience of an inclusive service was very emotional,” said Deborah Gundle, one of the founders of JWeb, “for the first time, my usually isolated son and I were accepted and valued for who we are and as we are.” Gundle added that the new siddur will “enable people with learning disabilities to participate in and enjoy prayers at home and online as well as in our synagogues.”

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