TORONTO — Sam Landsberg steadily pursues his love of music.
The nine-year-old, who was born with Down syndrome, discovered his love of Hebrew music and davening when he accompanied his parents, Barry and Alexandra Landsberg, and his brother Harrison, 5, to synagogue for Shabbat services.
His mother sang in Toronto’s Adath Israel Congregation choir. Three years ago, the family joined Beth Torah Congregation and his mother joined their choir.
With the encouragement of Cantor David Young at Beth Torah, Sam came up to stand beside the chazzan to sing with him, and he pretended that he was leading the choir.
On Shabbat July 25, Sam was invited to participate in the services and to lead the choir.
In an interview, Alexandra said Sam loves to sing, swim, play soccer and go horseback riding. He also does developmental and speech therapy.
“Sam sings in Hebrew when he walks around the house and sings even when he is playing. He looks forward to attending the choir rehearsals, and when he can’t attend, he will Skype the rehearsal, and he sings along with the cantor and choir.”
She said she is grateful to Young, who saw the love of music in Sam. “He nourished Sam with the love of music, and the two of them have never looked back.”
Alexandra spoke of the movie Praying with Lior, about a boy with Down syndrome preparing for his bar mitzvah. She said it should be seen by everyone. “You don’t have to have a child with Down syndrome to appreciate this film,” she said.
“Praying with Lior confirmed for us Sam’s love of Judaism and the potential for learning, enhancing and developing his innate natural abilities.”
Sam is very excited to go to shul every Shabbat and sing his heart out, she said. “It brings everyone joy and pleasure to watch him sing. And he is teaching Harrison to make the blessings.”
Alexandra believes that it takes only one person to recognize the potential in anyone with ability, “not disability,” and to help grow that potential into something beautiful and extraordinary.
“We are extremely grateful to David Young for having the foresight to see the ability in Sam and to nourish it via Jewish music.”
Sam has already begun preparing for his bar mitzvah in three years. He meets with the cantor once a week and says it is one of the great highlights of his week.
“We are extremely proud of Sam, but more importantly, Sam is proud of himself and that’s what matters the most.”
The cantor says that in his opinion, “Sam is a true miracle and a gift from HaShem. His articulation of words and his love of Judaism and music emanate from him constantly. His soul shines forth every Shabbat in shul.
“There are no limits as to the human potential and the beauty of inclusiveness.”