Ohr Lanu 2018: Hopes and Dreams

Heather Russell  |   11 Feb 2019

Our family has gone to Camp Ohr Lanu for 3 years. Our first year we were excited but apprehensive. Our son is medically fragile and having such a rare diagnosis, we haven’t had the opportunity to connect with other families. Ohr Lanu not only gave us a place to experience and appreciate our Jewish religions and culture, but provided a supportive and loving family centered camp where my son could shine.

As my son, Ethan is approaching his 13th birthday we have been visualizing what his Bar Mitzvah would look like. However, with accommodations and not having anyone with experience guide us for a special needs Bar Mitzvah, his celebration will not include some aspects that we had hoped for. With that being said, during our time at Ohr Lanu Elana made it possible for Ethan to have every meaningful experience.

This last summer at Ohr Lanu my son got to experience everything we imagined for him to participate in his Bar Mitzvah. Our family was called up to do an Aliyah and as my son touched his tallit to the Torah and kissed it I found myself fighting back tears.

At that moment, my heart felt full knowing he had an Aliyah. Then Ethan was asked to have an honor of closing the ark after the Torah was placed inside. For a little guy who is usually heavy handed, he so gently closed the arch and then smiled with pride. Now I felt my son’s experience at Ohr Lanu was fulfilling our dreams for him. The following day at camp my son and daughter were given the spices for Havdallah to take around to everyone to smell. My son took this as a serious and fun responsibility and I found myself nonstop smiling. To top it off the following day Ethan remained on stage and he felt he was leading the service.

Ethan may be nonverbal, he may have had 20 surgeries, 5 heart surgeries, and a heart attack, he may have many challenges but what he knows is that he is Jewish. He knows the significance of the Torah. He knows the happiness and pride of participating and celebrating Judaism and what it means to him.

As a mother of a child who is medically fragile and has many unique special needs, my hopes and dreams for my son are constantly evolving and being redefined. However, at Ohr Lanu and with Elana’s guidance, they helped my hopes and dreams for my son become a reality. I am grateful for the friendships that were created and memories that will be forever cherished. I look forward to next year at Ohr Lanu!

-Heather Russell

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Encino, CA 91316
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Ojai, CA 93023

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