Jewish Disability Awareness Month

by Rabbi Alice Goldfinger

Apparently it is February and February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month. I now know this because a couple of rabbi friends who take this matter seriously emailed me their sermons on the subject. It feels a little strange that it is my month, if you will, and I did not receive an invitation. I wonder if other disabled people, the really obvious ones missing legs and stuff got invited and my name just didn’t make it onto the list? Or maybe there is no list? There should be a list. If I was the Dalai Lama of the Jews, like my son is always suggesting as my next career move, these would be some things I would love to see during Jewish Disability Awareness Month:

1. Find out who in your congregation is disabled (like, say, me).

2. If we aren’t serious about helping them/us, Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month should be cancelled.

3. Call us and tell us we have a month. Make sure those disabled from the forehead up put it in our iPhone with an alarm every day during the month telling us it is our month because some of us will forget what month it is ten minutes after the call. If we need an iPhone, the greatest tool invented for the brain injured, ever, have the social action committee raise funds to buy one. An iTouch will do. it doesn’t have to be a phone. By the way, Apple gave me reduced prices on their products because I am disabled. The also talked me through the use of their products in a way I could understand. Yeah, Apple.

4. Find out what we need, like those iPhones. You would be amazed at the products available nowadays for people with all kinds of disabilities. How many children who aren’t in the religious school aren’t there because they are learning disabled or suffer from mental illness or autism or whatever? In addition to pencils, religious schools might have Arlen overlays available for kids with reading issues (they cost about $10) or provide teachers who can handle a modified curriculum for the child who will move from their parent’s home to a group home if all goes well. That child needs a synagogue home too.

5. The synagogue I used to serve as rabbi, where my daughter attends Sunday school is now too far away for me to drive. A member volunteered to get volunteers to bring my daughter home each week. I can drive her there, then go home and sleep until she gets home. The drive exhausts me. I couldn’t go back and forth and when I have tried to wait for her there, I am wreck for the rest of the day. Thanks Orly, Barb and Trish for being so aware of the disabled and organizing the rides!

6. I love worship but it also wears me out. I attend our small, Orthodox synagogue most Saturdays but I come late and leave early. Part of the reason is because the print is too small and it gives me a headache to even look at the page and pretend I am reading, when I am actually saying my prayers from memory. I brought my own Chumash, The Five Books of Moses, in bigger print, but it disappeared. It has my name on the front in huge block letters. If you have seen it, you know where I sit. Could you put it back there? Thanks. I also bought a large print prayerbook. I feel self conscious about bringing it. Maybe if there were other copies of the book just lying around I wouldn’t feel that way. Of course if I feel uncomfortable, it is my problem and I should suck it up and deal with it. If you are thinking that, see #2.

6. The sermons by my rabbi friends were beautifully crafted and knowing them, eloquently delivered. How about something a little messier, maybe in crayon by one of us who deals on a daily basis with barriers, seen or unseen to the naked and fully-abled eye? If it would creep you out to have someone with Turrets or physical deformities speak from the pulpit in crayon, again, see #2.

7. As it says in Mishnah Avot, “Speak little and do much.” If you can’t tell there are disabled people in your community then the job is not getting done. If you can tell, we don’t need a month because we will have a lifetime.


Originally posted on Rabbi Goldfinger’s blog, Brainstorm.

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