Sundays have become special days in our family. Not because of religious school, or because of any particular family activity. Sunday is the day that Ben’s friends come over, per the schedule established by a program coordinator after due consultation with all the families involved.
It was the winter of 2004 and he’d dreamed of becoming a Jew for years. Following many months of formal study he was ready to go before the beit din, the group of rabbis who would hear his journey and proclaim him ready for the final conversion ritual. He did meet with these rabbis; they were touched by his sincerity and dedication to the Jewish people.
Larry’s problem was that he was paralyzed from the waist down.
One of my favorite quotations out there, which has greatly influenced the way I approach just about every aspect of my life, comes from the author Junot Diaz, who said once about his writing:
“You guys know about vampires, right? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”
This week's Torah portion, Shoftim, contains the prohibition "Do not erect or yourselves a sacred pillar (or monument,) which the Lord your God detests (Deuteronomy 16: 22). Sacred pillars were part of the idol worship practiced by nations with whom the Israelites came into contact.
Like at any other camp, the typical children at Camp JCC make friends and then go home and ask for playdates. But here, they never mention that their new friend uses a wheelchair or may not speak. Just last week, two nine-year-old girls played Barbies, danced to Justin Beiber and ate pizza together on a playdate they requested after meeting each other at camp. One uses a wheelchair. Our campers teach their parents about tolerance, respect and dignity.