It is appropriate that the first synagogue especially equipped to serve disabled and handicapped people is located in Jerusalem’s Herzog Medical Center. The ‘Beit Shmuel’ synagogue was recently inaugurated and pioneers a new chapter in accessibility where everything is accessible.
The Aron Kodesh is built at a lower height so that anybody in a wheelchair or walker can easily open the doors. The Torah scrolls are placed on a sliding shelf and these can just as easily be taken out, without assistance. The Bimah can be raised or lowered to suit the optimal height for readers and also tilted forwards or backwards.
Another refinement is the partition for the women’s section. It has a top panel that can be lowered by pressing a button so that a mother in a wheelchair can throw candies when her son is called to the Torah.
These innovations are long overdue in synagogues and Lavi Furniture Industries, who developed them, hopes to see many more synagogues becoming fully accessible.
Beit Shmuel covers 100 square meters and includes 50 seats for men and women. The adjacent is designed for building a sukkah.