A nother note from school: With praise and thanks to Hashem Yisbarach we invite you to the siyum of the eighth grade….

I wasn’t sure if it was worth going. The three branches of a well-known cheder in Jerusalem were celebrating their eighth-grade graduations by making a joint siyum on two masechtos: Maseches Rosh Hashanah and Maseches Makkos.

My son Binyomin Dovid is also in eighth grade, but he made no siyum, and nor did anyone in his class. His class. A “special” class for special kids — Down syndrome. Cute? Lovable? Yeah, well, wait until they turn into teenagers. Anyway, they made no siyum. Not a masechta, not a perek, not a sefer in Navi. They did finish a few parshiyos in Chumash, but for the past few months, their rebbi was so busy trying to get them all into an appropriate setting for next year that somehow a siyum didn’t happen.

And now we get this note.

Really. What are the boys going to do? Sit through speeches and more speeches? Greetings from this one, a devar Torah from that one. Listen to words of praise from this kid’s grandfather, the rosh yeshivah, for their hard work in learning a whole masechta — which they didn’t. Hear advice from that kid’s grandfather, the mashgiach, about yeshivah ketanah — which none of them will be attending.

What about our boys? They’ll spend this whole evening just sitting in the middle of the hall not understanding most of what is going on, not having made a siyum, not going to yeshivah ketanah. I was sure they would feel out of it.

I was wrong.

Here’s what happened.

Tables were set up in a large hall, with the graduates seated in the middle, divided by class, and fathers and grandfathers sitting around the periphery. Mothers and grandmothers sat on the other side of the hall, with two huge screens set up with live stream so we could see the dais. There was a table — just like every other table — with 10 seats instead of 30. And our boys sat there with all the other boys. And they got the same food. And they sat through the same speeches. They clapped along with everyone else when boys from each of the branches got up to make a siyum.

And they loved it.

They loved it because they were included. They loved it because in their eyes they were just like everyone else. I had been thinking how I would feel being at a siyum when my class was the only one that had not learned the masechta. I failed to understand that they didn’t care about that. They saw three or four boys get up — everyone else sat and clapped. Like they did. They wanted to be like everyone else. And they were. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 546)