Matthew Emmi is a twelve year old boy that probably won’t get to enjoy some of the milestone events in life that you and I might take for granted. His autism has severely limited his ability to read, write and speak sentences. But even though his family and friends never know exactly what he’s thinking, they do know that he likes going to synagogue, and with the help of an iPad, Matthew’s parents and educators were able to give Matthew a full bar mitzvah.
A Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish coming-of-age ritual marking the point when a Jewish boy turns 13 and becomes a man. Because the bar mitzvah festivities involve a heavy amount of oration and reading, many people close to Matthew thought that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy a full celebration.
“Because of the issues in his life, he’s not going to have a wedding or a high school or college graduation,’’ his mother said. “We wanted him to have that opportunity to have a special moment and shine.’’
To help with his bar mitzvah, Matthew’s teachers came up with the idea to use an iPad as a soundboard filled with icons Matthew could touch throughout the ceremony to lead the service. Weeks before the ceremony, school staff recorded Matthew reciting the names of his parents and other relative who would be called up to the Toarah. They also recorded blessings and Torah readings that a boy being bar mitzvahed would normally recite. The recordings were matched to prayer icons and photographs on the iPad that Matthew could then touch throughout the ceremony giving him the voice he needed to complete the ceremony.
“It’s quite amazing,’’ said Rabbi Robert Goldstein, of Temple Emanuel, who has known Matthew for several years. “We’re blending the most cutting-edge technology with tradition; with reading the ancient text of Torah. It’s facilitating spirituality.’’
Who knows? Maybe Matthew’s mother’s skepticism about his wedding or high school graduation are too skeptical. Maybe by the time Matthew does these things, an iPad can help him there too!