NEW YORK — Asher Rosenfeld is not your typical 7th grader.
What started as a bar mitzvah project to give back to children with special needs has since turned into a passion project with a huge impact.
In honor of his upcoming 13th birthday, the New York resident started “Audibles with Asher,” to help children with disabilities to stay connected during the pandemic. Not only does Asher read with them virtually, he donates and ships the books to the children.
“Everyone is on Zoom anyways,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s comfortable for them and it’s super easy, I can just hop on and read everyone a story. I’ve always loved reading and I wanted to blend my love for reading with helping people, so we came up with the idea and partnered with Friendship Circle.”
The Non-profit organization has been around for over 20 years and has expanded to include LifeTown shops in Livingston, New Jersey which opened in September 2019. The indoor replica of a downtown center helps disabled children learn life skills.
Since the pandemic forced them to shut down in March 2020, Friendship Circle and LifeTown CEO Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum say they’ve had to pivot to virtual and in-person outdoor safe activities.
“The isolation for individuals with special needs is much greater than the general community, remote school doesn’t work as well and other challenges they face. I’m not sure who gains more from the relationship, but it definitely is equal and that’s what’s so beautiful. When you care so deeply, you come up with creative ideas like Asher did,” he said.
Asher says he hopes to make in-person visits after pandemic. In the meantime, he plans to continue sharing his passion for books, and hopes inspire others to volunteer. If you’d like him to read with your child, you can email Asher at firstname.lastname@example.org.