A quick note: I’ve recently had an article that was printed in the Autumn 2017 issue of Jewish Currents published online. Entitled “Inclusion and the Soul of a Synagogue,” you can read it here.
Though he published it a couple of years ago now, for some reason I only recently encountered Rabbi Menahem Creditor’s article at Huffington Post entitled “Children in the Sanctuary.” Rabbi Creditor’s article reflects on occasions when he observed a child crying or making noise in a synagogue service. On several occasions, Rabbi Creditor observed a congregant telling a child’s parent that the child should be removed and saying, “‘perhaps your child doesn’t belong in synagogue.'” He calls these “the least synagogue-ish” words he has ever heard.
He’s right. But it’s not only children.
This is a poem by a friend of ours. Check it out, and take a look at other items in this new online journal dedicated to exploring and destigmatizing mental health-related issues.
I promised earlier that I would come back to Purim with a focus on inclusion–it is, after all, still Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Among the communally celebrated holidays, Purim may pose some of the very toughest challenges for inclusion. I’m going to try to put on my thinking hat here to look at what the challenges are to an inclusive Purim celebration. My purpose in this is not to suggest that every problem can be solved for every person in every place and at every time. Rather, I want to put in one place thoughts on how the traditional ways in which we celebrate Purim can work exclusion, and to prompt thought about how we might overcome some of those problems.
Turns out, Jewish Disability Awareness Month is a whole month. You didn’t think I would let up, did you? (And since I’m apparently the loudest voice in Indianapolis about JDAM, I guess I’ve got to talk a bit more in any case.)
This past weekend, I spoke at Sunday Assembly Indianapolis about neurodiversity and ableism. (I spoke mostly about neurodiversity.) I’d post the Keynote presentation itself, but 1) I think it still needs work, 2) I want to make sure I’ve got appropriate photo credits in it before posting it, and 3) I’m not a “put everything you’re going to say into the presentation slides” person, because that’s straight-up bad presentation design–see #8 on this list–and that means the slides are actually not particularly useful.
So instead of the presentation slides, you get more of my jawing on at length on the blog! Let’s start at the beginning: how do we talk about difference?
(If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve possibly already seen some of what’s about to follow. Sorry about that.)
I decided that I wanted to see if I could find any JDAM-related events happening in Indianapolis, so I did what any person these days would: I hit up Google for information. That led to an interesting result: the first five results in Google point to this blog.
Hey, all, guess what? It’s January. That means next month is Jewish Disability Awareness Month! And wouldn’t you know it? This week’s Torah portion on the traditional cycle is Parshat Bo.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “And…so?” But Bo contains this nugget:
And it will happen, when you come to the land which Yahweh, your god, is giving you–just as he said–that you will take care to perform this worship [the Passover lamb and blood]. And it will happen that your children will say to you, “What is this worship to you”? And you will reply, this is the Passover sacrifice for Yahweh, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt. (Ex. 12:25-27a)
Notably, this is the statement of the “wicked” child in the Passover Seder.
This week is, as far as I’m concerned, momentous. The Torah portion under the traditional reading cycle brings us to Parshat Toledot, which marks the Torah’s transition in Genesis to narrating stories of Abraham and Isaac to the stories of Jacob.
That’s not what makes it momentous to me. Rather (and here I let slip my age), twenty-five years ago, I chanted part of this parashah at my bar mitzvah. At the time, I could chant the Hebrew from memory but didn’t understand it; now, I can understand the Hebrew but I don’t remember the tune.
You didn’t come here to stroll down Memory Lane with me, though. Instead, I’ve got a d’rash for you involving the story of Jacob and Esau.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I follow the Jewish Special Needs Education blog. That blog invokes the phrase, “removing the stumbling block,” a reference to the traditional commandment of lifnei iver from Leviticus 19:14, which warns not to place a stumbling block before the blind. This is interpreted, in traditional rabbinic law, to require something far beyond not causing blind persons to trip. (The rabbis viewed this as obvious without the biblical text commanding otherwise.) Rather, the text was interpreted to mean that one should not take an action that would cause someone else to sin, often by giving bad advice.
Friedman, in her blog’s title, means it somewhat more literally: removing from the paths of those with differing levels of need the obstacles to participation in Jewish life and education. While I appreciate the metaphor, I find it troubling. Continue reading