While brainstorming ideas for a chesed project for his bar mitzvah, 12-year-old Asher Rosenfeld knew at least one thing: It would involve reading. “I’ve always loved reading,” said the Manhattan native. “I wanted to come up with an idea to share my love of reading and to help people at the same time.” This ultimately led to the creation of “Audibles With Ash,” a virtual reading experience for kids with disabilities.
After Asher and his family approached Friendship Circle with the idea for “Audibles With Ash,” all it took was a flyer and an email to get the project running. Julie Rosenfeld, Asher’s mother, said that Friendship Circle helped make Asher’s idea possible. “They get it done. If you have an idea, they will make it a reality,” she said. Friendship Circle sent out the flyer to those they believed would be interested. Immediately, people signed up and scheduled a time for Asher to read to their children.
Since the project launched in October, Asher has read to about six kids one on one on a weekly basis. Although the sessions are virtual, Asher sends participants a physical copy of “Way Too Much Challah Dough” by Goldie Shulman so they can follow along in the reading sessions. Sometimes, Asher chooses other stories, mainly Jewish ones, while other times participants choose what story they’d like to read. In addition to “Way Too Much Challah Dough,” “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?” and “Tumble Bumble” are some fan favorites.
The sessions have brought great joy to both Asher and those to whom he reads. “Connecting with others one on one is super special. We can discuss the pages at the end and relate it to our life,” Asher said.
West Orange native Shai Nissel is one of the weekly participants. Shai’s father, Shimon, said, “Having a child read to him, it’s not an adult reading to him. It’s great for Shai to have a one-on-one conversation with somebody his age.” While Shai interacts with many adults at school, speaking to kids his own age is much more of a treat. To have that opportunity, even once a week, makes a difference.
Jonah Teicher, from Scotch Plains, looks forward to his weekly “Audibles With Ash” meeting. Courtney Teicher, Jonah’s mother, appreciates the independence her son receives from the experience. “It’s a social thing for him, he enjoys the time. Whether it’s five minutes or 30 minutes, Jonah’s engaged.” Courtney added that Jonah sees Asher as not only a reading partner, but as a friend.
Julie Rosenfeld raised her children with the idea that they should “do what you can with what you have.” At 12 years old, Asher understands he can contribute positively to his community. “I love the fact that kids like me can come up with an idea and actually make a difference in people’s lives,” said Asher. “I can’t wait for it to grow.”
By Ayelet Ehrenkranz