Posted: Thu, 06/12/2014 - 07:07 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: In honor of Father's day, Rabbi Michael Levy shares his moving tribute to his father. Part two will be posted on Sunday.

"Look, a two-headed bike!" said a kid passing by. This confirmed for me that Dad and I, on our tandem bicycle, were invincible.

Riding on the two-seated bicycle with Dad, I didn't think about being blind. I did what everybody else did on the back seat of a tandem, no steering, just pedaling.

Doing what everybody else did. That’s the kind of childhood my parents gave me. If you feel included and valued by your family, then no future obstacles in your path will deter you.

Posted: Wed, 06/11/2014 - 14:54 | The New Normal

My eight-year-old daughter has a clear vision of her life as an adult: she’s going to be a singer-songwriter and live part of the year in Paris, where she will own a boutique selling the accessories that she designs. She said that I could have a job there, putting the merchandise carefully into soft paper bags lined with tissue, if I promise to be very careful.

She’s a highly creative, energetic kid with a natural sense of rhythm, pitch and fashion, and my husband and I encourage all of her dreams, knowing that if she hits a rough patch breaking into the music or fashion industry, we can encourage education or other career choices that allow her to use her gifts.

As for her mom, I just had my forty-third birthday and enjoyed a beautiful, laidback day with family and friends, a hike with our yellow lab on a new trail and dinner on the porch of a neighborhood BYOB restaurant. I am grateful for exactly where I am in my life, and do my best to stay present, but had a flash, just for a moment, that when (God willing) I turn fifty-three, my daughter will be eighteen and ready to go off to college, a gap year or a waitressing job and apartment with friends; our two-year-old lab will probably not be able to endure a two-hour hike on steep trails and my eleven-year-old son, who has autism and intellectual disabilities, will be twenty-one, at the end of his tenure in the school system, also ready to transition to what’s next for him.

Posted: Wed, 06/11/2014 - 07:08 | The New Normal

As the end of the school year approaches us, here are some tips for parents of children with autism (or any child who needs support with transitions) when trying to support their son or daughter move from school to summer.

1. Preview - Talk to your kids beforehand about what changes they can expect. Show them pictures of new places and people, like camp counselors. Visit any new locations with your child ahead of time so nothing is a surprise. Skype with friends and family to see where you'll be staying when you go on summertime visits. Check out the websites of summer camp facilities, hotels, attractions or city going to visit. Tour summer day or sleep away camp grounds ahead of time. If that's not possible, you may want to contact places to see if they have any DVDs that depict their facilities. 

Posted: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 10:04 | The New Normal

With Shavuot coming up we remember the time when the Jewish people were given the Ten Commandments. 

Biblical commentators say, “All Israel is responsible for one another” (kol Israel arevim zeh leh zeh). Yet we could be doing so much more to include people with disabilities in our communities. 

Posted: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 06:42 | The New Normal

Tuesday evening begins the holy days of Shavout, the moment of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai. Revelation at Sinai is the first, and largest, act of religious equality in history. Many other cultures and religions experience the divine in the same way they experience the world around them – as a hierarchy, a society divided by class or title. The Revelation at Mt. Sinai is open to all – regardless of status, gender, power, or lack of power. All the individuals at Sinai are equal.

Posted: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 06:33 | The New Normal

We could celebrate Shavuot as we just celebrated Memorial Day: with ceremonies, a day off from work and a festive meal.   Our tradition urges us to celebrate Shavuot in a more spiritual manner, by recreating the experience of standing at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah.