Synagogue Hosts Campers with Severe Disabilities

Randall P. Lieberman
January 3, 2019
5 min read
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Forty campers and staff from Camp HASC — a unique summer camp located in New York's Catskills Mountains for Jewish individuals aged 4-64 with severe and profound disabilities — were hosted at the Boca Raton Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in west Boca Raton, for a Shabbaton one weekend in mid-December.

Some came in wheelchairs, some struggled to speak or see or relate, but ALL had the ability to smile, to love and to appreciate the warmth of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS) community.

More than 40 staff alumni are connected with BRS, including Rebbetzin Yocheved Goldberg. In fact, one of the daughters of BRS Senior Rabbi Efrem Goldberg and Yocheved is now a staffer at Camp HASC.

Yocheved Goldberg said in an email: "It was a wonderful experience to have some of the campers and staff of Camp HASC join us at BRS for Shabbat. I loved seeing the children of our community interact with the campers with such kindness and sensitivity.

"As rebbetzin of BRS and a former HASC counselor, I took tremendous pride in seeing two of my favorite places merged into one for an inspiring and meaningful weekend. I hope we can continue this partnership for many years to come."

Donna and Benji Tripp hosted a Friday night Oneg Shabbat where their daughter, Kelley, spoke about the powerful impact working at Camp HASC had on her.

Most memorable for many Shabbaton participants, though, was on Saturday night when these campers — so often on the receiving end of others' kindness — "paid it forward" by partnering with "typical" local teens (from NCSY, Katz Hillel Day School of Boca Raton, Katz Yeshiva High School of South Florida and Donna Klein Jewish Academy,) to decorate Hanukkah candle boxes for Holocaust survivors.

Diane Saketkhou was introduced to the camp through her daughter Shara who worked there so she uniquely understood how special this opportunity was for these campers to be in a giving role. Diane brought the boxes to the Holocaust Survivors Group at Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) where she volunteers.

Those ornate boxes were then distributed by volunteer leaders of "Lest We Forget" — a monthly JFS program at Boca Raton's Century Village.

Tammy Clarke, a program volunteer, said in an email: "When the survivors saw these decorated boxes and learned that they were made by the Camp HASC campers, they were especially touched. These people were liberated 70 years ago — some at 12 or 15 years old — so knowing that there are active, proud Jewish children around (including those with disabilities) makes them so happy.

"When you consider how the Jews were targeted, especially people who were disabled, this makes the light even brighter that these gifts were made by individuals with disabilities — who are now celebrated and included."

Rabbi Philip Moskowitz, BRS associate rabbi, commented in an email: "Some people might think that our community did Camp HASC a favor by hosting this Shabbaton. But, the exact opposite was true.

"We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the staff and campers at HASC for sharing their warmth, sense of inclusiveness and contagious love with our community, — and for giving us a small glimpse into the incredible miracles that occur there each summer."

For information about Camp HASC, visit or call 718-686-2600.

Randall P. Lieberman
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