Wednesday, February 26, 2020

My unforgettable month in Israel's desert watching hope bloom for people with disabilities

By Rhonda Forman

The dry, unrelenting heat of the Negev awoke me as I reluctantly arose, having arrived in Israel the day before. Twenty hours earlier, the reality of what I was about to do had sunk in. Was I really about to spend an entire month in the Israeli desert, away from the creature comforts and familiarity of my home and family in Boston?

For the last 12 months, I’d been taking Hebrew classes to prepare myself for a once-in-a-lifetime experience volunteering at Jewish National Fund-USA affiliate Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitation village for children and adults with disabilities in Israel's Negev desert.

As a proud Zionist and supporter of JNF, being afforded the opportunity to volunteer at Aleh Negev meant so much to me on so many levels. I was playing a small part in helping to fulfill the dream of Israel's first prime Mmnister, David Ben-Gurion who famously said, "It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested." And tested I would be.

A prayer for parents of children with disabilities

The author with a member of Special in Uniform, which integrates Israelis with disabilities into the IDF.
By Lynne Merriam

I watch my son, confident and tall
Standing on the bimah
Sharing memories of his Jewish experiences
Praying at the Western Wall

Standing under the chuppah
Naming his daughter
The bris for the son
And my heart fills with joy

Friday, February 21, 2020

Singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman: Jewish unity should come from love, not fear

Peter Himmelman in Israel.
By Peter Himmelman

With just a few Facebook messages and some phone calls, tens of thousands of Jews marched together in New York City to combat anti-Semitism. Yet could we even imagine a similar rally in support of Shabbat observance? How much of the power of our unity as a Jewish nation has been given over to those who hate us?

How did it come to be that our ability to bond with one another has become contingent on negative forces from without, as opposed to positive forces from within? Is too much attention being paid to the suffering of Jews as the primary driver of our continuity and unity as opposed to the gifts of the Jews?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

10 commandments for communicating with people with disabilities

By Yossi Kahana, director, JNF Task Force on Disabilities

In last week's Torah portion, "Yitro," the Jews travel to a part of the desert called Sinai. There, G‑d tells them that if they accept the Torah, they will be a chosen and special nation. The Jews respond, "Everything that G‑d has said, we will do!" They are told to spend the next three days preparing for a very big event that will take place on Mount Sinai.

On the third day, there is booming thunder and flashes of lightning, and the Jews all go to Mount Sinai. There, they see a thick cloud over the mountain and hear a long, powerful blast of a shofar. Then G‑d comes down to the mountain and proclaims the Ten Commandments. These Ten Commandments set the standard for goodness in the world.

In honor of Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Inclusion and Acceptance Month, here are the 10 commandments of communicating with people with disabilities.