Musings from an Orthodox Jewish work at home mom of twins with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

I just posted this in a facebook group for Orthodox Jewish moms of “special” children. I’d love the opinions of the fellow Jews reading this….. how would you handle shul if you were me?

opinions please! My twins turn 7 tomorrow (!) and are very high functioning except for severe behaviors— fully verbal and cognitively fine— both have autism. One twin will start receiving the Ohio SELF waiver in February— we’ll be using much of it for therapy insurance won’t cover and some to pay for a DECENT summer day camp (the only special needs camp we’ve been able to afford has gotten much suckier— a JEWISH special needs camp would be ideal, but this is Ohio….). But we’ll have more money we can use to have a certified person accompany me and the kids in the community— most places I cannot take both twins by myself because of severe and dangerous behaviors. We haven’t been attending shul at all. My twins’ only exposure to shul has been on Simchas Torah when Abba goes to a hashkama minyan, comes back to get us, and we go do the dancing. We’re safe at shul with one adult for each twin. So being that my kids are very cognitively aware and are learning davening and do have many many moments each day which are 100% FINE, but being that if I were to take them both to shul by myself, as soon as one twin breaks down I’d need to take them both home and that’s physically impossible to do due to the unpredictability of severe behaviors (when I walk with them both during a double meltdown, strangers get bitten or get shoes thrown at them)—— I’d like to take someone to shul with me. I don’t want my husband to need to leave shul or be disturbed at all. As soon as I hear my son melt down on the men’s side I need my husband to be able to walk him outside and have me or my helper meet him and take him home. If my daughter melts down I need to have my helper or myself take her home. If I can do this, we can finally enjoy shul as a family, I believe. We’d do 20 minutes, then 40….. I wouldn’t force 3 hours on 7 year olds— but severe behaviors could happen 10 minutes in with one twin or both and I physically can’t take them both there or home. So here’s my question——- do I hire a Jew or a non Jew? A non Jew isn’t allowed into an Orthodox shul. A Jew would need to drive on Shabbos to get to us. An Orthodox Jew wouldn’t be certified to be able to be paid by this waiver to help us— we have to choose from a list of people…… do I ask the Rav for a heter to bring a non Jewish worker into shul? Do I ask for a heter to hire a Jew even though that means the Jew would drive? It’s a strange conundrum. For the rest of the week I can hire whomever but how do I handle Shabbos and Yom Tov knowing that’s when I need help the very most? (the last time I took them both for a walk by myself we were all stuck crying for half an hour until someone went into shul to get my husband who did not enjoy having his davening interrupted to help get them safely home). **OR** do I hire a non Jew to stay with one twin at home while I take the other twin to shul and just switch twins each week? And if I go that route, what are the rules of hiring a non Jew to work on Shabbos and Yom Tov? I know other people in this group have non Jewish helpers on Shabbos but I haven’t seen anyone yet have this shul conundrum……. thoughts?

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Comments on: "Twins Are Ready To Go To Shul…. But How?" (4)

  1. I don’t know why on earth a non Jew wouldn’t be allowed in the shul, especially since it’s medically necessary! Pre-converts are allowed in the shul, non Jewish relatives are allowed at a simcha, there certainly must be an exception for the safety of your children.

    I’d get a male non Jew to sit in the back with your son, and you could take your daughter. That seems to cover the bases.

    A problem with having a Jew work for you on Shabbos, is that they should be davening, and not focusing on your son. A non Jew will have his attention on your child, because he has no obligation.

    I know that you can employ a non Jew who will be doing work for you on Shabbos, as long as you’re not asking them to do something that is forbidden to you (i.e. you can’t pay a non Jew clean your house or cook a meal). On the other hand, you can walk a child home from shul, so therefore a non Jew can as well. Of course you have to make payment arrangements in advance, and not discuss employment related things on Shabbos, unless it’s urgent to do so.

    I am not a rabbi, but take these points to your rabbi and see what he has to say about it.

  2. Maybe I’m missing something here – and it might be your own shul issue but I can’t imagine why the non-jew in shul would be an issue.
    (It’s not the same but I imagine that it can’t be so different) In my shul there are several old men that have non jewish helpers who sit in the lobby for the duration of shul. Bring the non jewish helper and both kids and then if there is an issue- it’s easy enough for the child to go home but if Iyh there’s no problem – the child has the opportunity to attend shul.

  3. Yocheved, thank you! I’ll certainly ask a shayloh, but my understanding up until now had been that non Jews could be at kiddush or in the shul building but not in the sanctuary with the aron open, etc. I may have been misinformed. I think I’d be more comfortable with a female employee seeing as how I’d be alone with her and the twins some weekdays while Abba is at work (I’d want to hire her to help over winter break, spring break, before and after camp, etc)—- my thinking is that she can walk one twin home while I stay with the other or we all leave and are safe because of the one on one for each twin, but Abba gets to stay in shul. Thanks for responding! I got some good feedback on the facebook group too.

    • I was thinking you might want a male helper, because if DS has a meltdown, your husband won’t have to interrupt his davening. I can see how you’d definitely want a woman to help your around the house and stuff. It’s so complicated! I hope you can get some good answers.

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