Purim is fun, and food, and noise, but there is also a serious side to Purim. Before Esther reveals her Jewish identity to the king, she hides behind a mask of anonymity, one of many in the harem. Only after she speaks as Esther, the Jew, does she speak honestly, with her own voice. Her power comes from the honesty in her own voice and not behind her mask.
Many of us, especially in the special needs world, learn to live behind masks.
Young adults with disabilities do not often get to enjoy Shabbat on a college campus with peers, but that's exactly what happened in early February when five Ramah campers, and four staff members, reunited at Brandeis for a Shabbaton.
What made the get-together even more special was that they were joining a large gorup of Yachad members and advisors for the annual New England Yachad Shabbaton. Yachad is a program of the Orthodox Union, members of all Jewish denominations are embraced and have the opportunity to engage with Judaism in their own ways.
Editors Note: Gateways in Boston offers programs and services to children with special needs and educational challenges in Greater Boston's Jewish day schools, congregational and community supplemental schools and Jewish preschools, as well as Gateways’ own Sunday school, B'nei Mitzvah preparation program and teen youth group. They also share free, downloadable resources. Here we are highlighting their Purim resources for children with special learning needs.
After Moses anoints the Tent of Appointed Meeting and the Priests who will officiate there, God speaks to him:
Explain to the sons of Israel the ways of bringing offerings to God. There will be offerings of animals and grains and fruit. Animals for sacrifice shall be male and without blemish. These animals shall be killed and washed and burned so each shall smoke on the altar in the Tent of Appointed Meeting. This will be for an ascent offering, an offering made by fire in expression of compliance to God and to make atonement before God.
Today, when Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a vital speech in front of 14,000 people at AIPAC on the threat of Iran and the need for a successful lasting and secure peace, there was no sign language interpreter or live captioning offered. There were more than 40 massive screens around the room showing the speech – yet not one of them enabled someone with a hearing impairment to follow the program.
A few weeks ago I attended our synagogue’s Kabbalat Shabbat service. This once-a-month service has an earlier start time than our traditional service and is followed by a congregational potluck dinner. The shorter service is ideal for many: Our youngest children who aren’t ready to be out past their bedtimes; teens who want to go out with friends later in the evening and adult members who don’t want to be out past their bedtimes after a full week of work. Our Kabbalat Shabbat is also a wonderful fit for an adult member of our congregation with developmental disabilities.