Designed for individuals who want to attend Shabbat and Jewish holiday services, but struggle sitting in the sanctuary for the entire length of service, Congregation Shearith Israel has launched a state-of-the-art Sensory Room, known as the Kesher Lounge. This innovative accommodation is the brainchild of Kesher Coordinator Sarah Lipinsky, who is present in the Lounge to facilitate activities and monitor behavior.
Lipinsky says, “The Room is purposefully setup with Shabbat appropriate activities that are sensory-oriented such as, but not limited to: various board games, slime, playdough, stickers and paper…and what we call ‘fidgets.’ Yes. Fidgets. Everybody benefits from playing with fidgets. Come check them out!”
Lipinsky explains the concept of the Kesher Lounge is to provide relief to those who become overwhelmed by sensory stimulus. For some people, the number of people in the sanctuary during a Bar Mitzvah or on a Jewish holiday can feel overwhelming and they need a break. For others, the volume and number of people singing or talking may prove fatiguing. Some people are visually distracted by the fashions and decorations. For others, the competing scents of so many different perfumes and colognes are headache inducing. Many people can’t pinpoint what it is that they find so irritating, but they just know they don’t feel comfortable and they need a break from the environment. What do these folks all have in common? Experts have discovered that sensory overload, in one form or another, can be exhausting, provoke anxiety, and make people physically ill with stomach pain, headaches, even heart palpitations.
“Look, everybody needs a break sometimes,” Lipinsky says with an understanding smile. “It doesn’t mean you have a diagnosis. And no prescription is required to access this Special Needs resource. The irony is not lost on us: we have created a sensory relief experience that provides sanctuary for people when they need a break from the sanctuary.”
Lipinsky explains that the Lounge is open correlating to the timeframe of services. “Time spent in our lounge varies per individual, but typically lounge visits are divided into minor breaks from the service, where each visit is about 15 minutes, but everyone comes and goes as they need.”
The Kesher Lounge can be open for any Shabbat where there is interest, at no charge, upon request. If you feel this would benefit you or someone in your family – or if you are planning a simcha at Shearith and want to make this available for your guests, simply call or email Sarah Lipinsky and ask for the Kesher Lounge. She will be happy to coordinate dates, times, and even specific materials or activities per your request.
WHO: Anyone in need of sensory relief or respite
WHAT: The Kesher Lounge
WHERE: Aaron Youth Center (AYC)
WHEN: Upon Request. Please contact Slipinsky@shearith.org or call (214) 939-7348.
WHY: For a variety of reasons, not everybody can sit through an entire service. All needs within our congregation are important and we are dedicated to providing resources and making accommodations to enhance everyone’s sense of belonging in our Shearith community.
Want to learn more about Sensory Integration and why a Sensory Room is a great resource? Sarah Lipinsky offers this recommended reading list:
The Effects of the Use of the Sensory Room in Psychiatry A Quality Improvement Study
By: Tina Champagne, M.Ed. OTR/L & Edward Sayer, Psy.D
Meeting the Sensory Needs of Young Children
By: National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC)
Tranquility Rooms, Multi-Sensory Environments and Aging
By: Linda Messbauer
We will update you on additional initiatives with Kesher in the next issue of The Shofar. Meantime, visit and “Like” us online at www.Facebook.com/shearith for insight, inspiration and ongoing support.