Monday, April 12, 2010

I took a break from traveling to cook a beautiful Seder for 20 people in my home. It was sure nice to be home with family as we celebrated one of my favorite holidays of all times. The day before I returned home, I was at Galluadet University celebrating Shabbat with several Jewish deaf students and adults who are a part of the greater Washington DC community. I presented a short teaching on the blessings that we recite for Shabbat and then we ate a delicious kosher meal including chicken soup, potatoes and chicken. Apparently everywhere I go, there is always someone that I know. This time, a Deaf couple came in with their beautiful little boy and I realized that I was their rabbi at their wedding awhile back. When they found out that I was coming, they wanted me to meet their newest bundle of joy! I was humbled by their presence and truly blessed to see them again. In addition to learning more about these students and their interest in Judaism, it was apparent that their desire to learn and study is very strong and committed. Perhaps with the incoming new president of Galludet who is Jewish, the opportunity to offer courses and programs related to Judaism will become more available especially for the students. Most of these students do not have any formal Jewish education so this would be a way to open an important door for them to become a part of the greater Jewish community.
During that evening, Serena, and I presented a gift on behalf of Helene Oppenheimer who made a beautiful ceramic piece with the Shema in ASL. They were moved by this beautiful artwork and look forward to hanging it up in the Hillel office so that others can see it as they walk by. Interesting fact: There will be approximately 20 Jewish deaf students that will attending the Birthright Trip to Israel this summer. I met several of them and they are very excited for a trip of a lifetime experience!

My Next Stop: New York
Woodlands Community Synagogue
White Plains, New York

My hosts for this weekend were Jackie and Nelson Leight- their children are Eric and Amy Leight along with those four great boys who are longtime members of TAE. It was lovely to visit their home and to see where Eric grew up. There were plenty of pictures all over the house and I actually saw Eric as a little boy and of course, pictures of Amy and Eric's wedding! Eric and his family have been active members of Woodlands Community Synagogue for many years. It is a Reform synagogue in White Plains. Rabbi Billy Dreskin, the spiritual leader, at this synagogue invited me to speak on the bimah during "The Joyful Noise Service". This is a musical Shabbat service which includes a full ensemble of drums, bass, guitar, sax and keyboards and several singers including the rabbi and the cantor! What is significant about this service is the fact that it is a visual service and no prayer books are needed. All prayers and readings are projected on large screens. It was strange not to hold a prayer book however it was enlightening to be looking up all the time watching the screen and joining others in music and song. Of course, I clapped alot! In addition, there were sign language interpreters who incorporated much of the music into sign in an inspiring way. An interesting fact about this synagogue is that there is no bimah and it creates a holy space with a sense of no barriers whatsoever.

Now I am on way to the City and will visit the Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion. I will meet with the rabbinical students shortly after T'filah and do a text study on Jews with Disabilities. The question in this text is how do we actually respond when we see someone with a disability? In the Talmud, there was a discussion about reciting blessings when we see someone with a disability. The question remains, should there be different blessings for different people or one for all?

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