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Autistic JCoSS pupil excels in challenge of learning his barmitzvah

'He has been taken completely out of his comfort zone'

    New Barnet couple Nicky and Howard Marks worried about how their autistic son Josh would cope with a barmitzvah.

    They approached their rabbi at Southgate Progressive Synagogue, Yuval Keren, who said that as long as Josh could learn the blessing, he could have a ceremony.

    “But not only has he learnt the blessing, he’s learnt his entire portion and the haftorah,” Mrs Marks said. And her son is looking forward to his barmitzvah this Shabbat.

    Josh did not speak until he was three. He is a pupil at the special resource provision at JCoSS and Mrs Marks describes him as “shy, quiet and very reserved.

    “He finds reading English difficult enough so learning a portion in Hebrew seemed a huge ordeal.

    “During this past six months he has been taken completely out of his comfort zone.

    “Having to be in front of a big community speaking in a foreign language is huge for him.”

    In a show of support, Mrs Marks, who designs bespoke simchah stationery, took on her own challenge — a daily 5km run to raise money for the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem, which rehabilitates young people with physical disabilities.

    Her Israeli-based sister Jacquie Mohar came on board by swimming 5km each week and they have together brought in more than £2,500 for Alyn.

    On a recent visit to Israel, Mrs Marks took Josh to the hospital. “When we were there, he just looked up at me and said: ‘I’m so lucky, aren’t I’?”

    He has pledged to donate 20 per cent of his barmitzvah money to Alyn, a cause dear to the heart of his late grandmother Dora-Jean Becker, who set up a Southport Friends group.

    Her son’s requirements were simple, she added. “All he wants is a Playstation 4 and to be lifted up on a chair.”

    Josh told the JC: “I’m a bit nervous about doing my portion but I’m very happy to do it.”

    The family is planning another trip to Israel in June, when Josh will have a blessing at the Kotel, followed by a celebratory brunch at the hospital and the planting of a “Joshua tree” in its grounds.

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