On a bustling street in Brooklyn, harmony reigns. Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom, Zichron Moshe Dov, at the tail end of its tenth year in existence, is a haven of reassurance for the families who have their children enrolled there, where love and learning co-exist.
Bonim Lamokom, as it is lovingly referred to in shorter form, has laid the groundwork for special educators, particularly those who work with the Down syndrome population. Many age-old, scientifically deduced theories have been reduced to myths at this yeshivah, here the sky is the limit.
Individuals with Down syndrome CAN learn, and they DO learn, and they love to learn. The levels of their learning are in all probability not parallel to those of their “normal” contemporaries, but learn they do. Children and young adults with Down syndrome have an inherent intelligence, and they thrive on absorbing knowledge. This is something that wasn’t acknowledged for many decades and thousands of individuals with Down syndrome lived their lives, all their abilities and intelligence laying dormant, their days and years wasted engaging in infantile activities, never reaching even close to their potential.
At Bonim Lamokom, goals are established and potentials are met. Each student is like his Rebbe’s and teacher’s “ben yochid” (only son/child). Curriculum is designed to address individual needs and classroom assistants aid in reaching those goals. Educators from all over the world, who have come to observe the yeshiva in action, have left in awe. Professionals from the Department of Education, whose public schools our boys have departed from, are amazed at the transformation that has come about since our students have joined this yeshivah. The level of education has raised the bar for many special education programs, which have come to realize that there is no need to enforce unrealistic cutoff points.
Here is a group of boys and young men who also yearned spiritually to be like their siblings, neighbors and relatives and attend a yeshivah where their neshamos could soar. Bonim Lamokom answered those longings. In this safe haven, these children connect to their Maker with a passion that can only be described as electric. Their tefillos can be heard from a distance, and one can only hope to reach those ranks of avodas Hashem.
To top all of that off, Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom is housed in the famous mainstream Yeshiva Torah Vodaath; a yeshivah that opened its heart and doors, with the brachah of Rav Avraham Pam, zt”l, and treats the students of Bonim Lamokom like royalty. The relationships that the boys of the two yeshivos have developed with each other are win-win situations for all parties involved. Every day at 425 East 9th Street heralds a new kiddush Hashem.
Three summers ago, Bonim Lamokom launched its own summer camp program, Camp Chavivim. This too, is in a mainstream environment where the boys get to mingle with their typical peers. Here again, some of the yeshivah staff follow “the guys” out to the mountains for two months, continuing their progress of the past 10 months. The spirit, the fun, the camaraderie that is experienced by the boys who are merged in this camping experience is heartwarming.
The staff at Bonim Lamokom and Camp Chavivim give new meaning to the word “devoted,” and they have their hearts totally at work. Nothing is ever too difficult; no situation is ever too daunting; no child is ever too challenging and love is limitless.
Hashem and His angels are surely singing as They look down at these special places. At Bonim Lamokom/Camp Chavivim, there is music in the air. Even during the weeks of sefirah.
This article first appeared in issue #15 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us