An Excluded Father, an Included Son
“What I love about my son is that he’s more like my twin than my son. We have a lot of similar challenges,” says Zach Green, an entrepreneur, CEO of award-winning startup MN8 and father of 12-year-old Bryce. He’s sitting next to his wife, Jennifer, at the family’s home in Wyoming, while Bryce is playing games downstairs.
What challenges? “They call it ADHD, but when you get out of school they actually call it multitasking and it becomes this great thing,” says Zach. “But the problem is when you are in school it’s very difficult to stay focused and stay on task, and that’s a challenge that Bryce has.
“When I was going through religious school, I spent a lot of time in trouble and I didn’t get a chance to get a positive experience from my bar mitzvah. As a result, in high school, I wasn’t that engaged with my faith.”
Both parents felt strongly about the importance of raising their son as part of the Jewish community, but they didn’t want a repeat of Zach’s experience.
Why Inclusion is Vital: Bryce at Camp
With funding in part from the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and the Milton and Frances Schloss Special Needs and Services Department, the Mayerson JCC’s inclusion programs have changed the world for kids like Bryce.
Bryce has gone to Camp at the J, the JCC’s summer camp, since 2010, and has had an advocate there to help him since 2014.
“Bryce loves the JCC camp,” says Jennifer. “The JCC’s advocate, Collin, has given him the opportunity to interact with the other kids. He can swim with the other kids. And when he decides to go off on a tangent, his advocate allows him to stay safe.”
“Collin is cool, funny, a good friend and has a cool phone,” says Bryce. “He helps me with everything just about – if I need help, he’ll help me.”
“Collin and Bryce have a special bond,” Jennifer says. “Collin is just the right amount of strict that keeps Bryce on task and keeps him in tune with the other kids. And yet there is a gentle, loving side to Collin that gives Bryce such self-confidence and reassurance.”
Bryce was awarded Camper of the Week last summer for helping another camper with challenges. “He asks to come back year after year,” Jennifer says.
Serving Help and Bagels at Wise Temple
Bryce has another advocate, Matthew, who attended religious school at Wise Temple with him for two years. The school is mandatory for Bryce to become a bar mitzvah. “Before he had an advocate,” Jennifer says, “Bryce had a really challenging time. But now with his advocate, who really understands Bryce, Bryce has the opportunity to have a great Jewish experience.”
Asked how Matthew helps him, Bryce says, “Usually when I’m only allowed to have one bagel at Bagel Break, he allows me to go to the office and have another.” He grins.
Zach sees inclusion as essential to community. “Bryce doesn’t have [my] problem [of exclusion] because Bryce is part of the community. Instead of being thrown out of the class or disciplined, Bryce is now being redirected and he’s able to still be engaged. As a result of that, I feel his experience with Judaism is so much richer.”
“The advocate program, which has been such a gift to our family, has given Bryce the opportunity to spread his wings and soar,” Jennifer adds.
A Joyful Bar Mitzvah for the Entire Community
It can’t hurt that Bryce is so fiercely loved. It’s clear that Zach and Jennifer love their son and want to make the world a welcoming place for him.
What will the bar mitzvah bring? “The bar mitzvah for Bryce is a huge deal,” says Jennifer. “He really wanted this. He learned Hebrew. I am so proud of that kid.”
Bryce’s take? “What I am looking forward to most about the bar mitzvah is the party! How can you not like parties?”
He grins again. “I’m just like my dad, but crazier.”
The Mayerson JCC is one of more than 50 programs and agencies funded in part by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. The Jewish Federation secured the endowment for the JCC’s Milton and Frances Schloss Special Needs and Services Department, and supports inclusion at the JCC. The Federation also funds the JCC’s inclusion programs through supplemental fundraising. The Federation helps fund religious education and advocate programs across the community. ϖ
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati is located at 8499 Ridge Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236. For more information, call 513.985.1500, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.JewishCincinnati.org.