February 2015 Bazman

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Bazman Hazeh

“In These Times”

Shevat - Adar 5775

VOL. 48 NO. 5

FEBRUARY 2015

Rebecca L. Dubowe, Rabbi Barry Diamond, Interim Rabbi

Aliza Goland, Executive Director Marcy Goldberg, Director of Education Donna Becker, ECC Director

Seth Stevens, President, Board of Directors Alan Greenbaum, Rabbi Emeritus

David Shukiar, Cantor

Open the Gates! Rabbi Rebecca L. Dubowe

February is the month of annual recognition of Jews with Disabilities. However, I would say that it really acknowledges those with Abilities. During the spring of 2010, I shared these words at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in NYC, in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness Month. The message continues to remain clear: We must acknowledge and honor ALL of God’s children.

me two questions. First, how about using a tape recorder in class? Second, perhaps you can get the notes in Braille? Being a part of the Jewish community, celebrating the holidays and attending the synagogue was important to my family. This meant that I was usually the only deaf child in many activities. It meant that when I went to a Jewish sleep-away camp, I dreaded the nighttime activities because I could not see nor hear anything. It meant that I missed most of my rabbi’s sermons (which wasn’t so bad); and it meant that I read and followed the prayer book on my own and not necessarily followed where the congregation was reading. However, it was the beauty of the Ark that glowed to me as the Shabbat candles were lit. Watching my grandfather put on t’fillin and sitting next to him during services … that left me in awe. Having a bat mitzvah, chanting my Haftorah and speaking in front of the entire congregation was the first time that I heard God’s calling, but did not know what it was until I went to college and entered the rabbinate. In our Jewish tradition, beginning with the world of Halachah, there is clear evidence that the rabbis and the Jewish communities struggled to search for ways to deal with those who did not fit – according to their beliefs – within the norm of their society. There were specific cases as to whether a deaf person was able to get married, act as a witnesss, and whether or not it was permissible for one to turn on her/his hearing aid on Shabbat. The deaf were categorized as mute because the rabbis did not know that sign language was an authentic language and not just gestures using hands. The

I was sitting in my study at the temple when my assistant came running in. She said, “You must go to the hospital immediately, someone has requested to see you.” So I quickly went to the hospital. I entered into the patient’s room; and there she was, sitting in her chair, with no smile or greeting on her face. And I asked her daughter, “Is everything ok? Is she in pain? How can I help?” …”Oh, Rabbi!” With a pained look on her face, the daughter said, “Please come look at this” – and she showed me a hearing aid and complained that it wasn’t working. I immediately realized the problem. I changed the battery and put it back into the patient’s ear. She had the biggest smile on her face and she could not stop talking. So this is a taste of my life as a hearing-impaired rabbi who must change the batteries in her hearing aid every couple of weeks! A great sense of humor is a valuable asset when it comes to living a life with deafness. Seriously, I have to laugh when I think about some of my college/rabbinical school experiences and how my teachers would respond to my special needs. There was one professor who had a thick mustache. I explained to him how difficult it was to read his lips. So he trimmed the mustache. But he never understood that when he turned to write on the blackboard while continuing to speak at the same time, there was no way I could follow his lecture. Another professor, oh bless his too generous heart, after I explained to him that I needed to sit up in front and that I must see his face at all times so that I can write my notes and follow the lecture at the same time…he said, “Okay.” Shortly after class was over, the professor asked

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