The New Normal

Everyone is welcome in The New Normal, a Jewish blog about disability. We're a source of information, inspiration and a challenge to received wisdom.

Tetzaveh: Everyone Can Help Build The Mishkan

The lighting of the menorah opens our parsha:

Command the Children of Israel and they shall take to you pure olive oil, beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn tamid, constantly. [Shemot 27:20]

The placement of these verses is curious, as the more appropriate place would have been in last week’s parsha, together with the making of the menorah.  The verse also stresses not just the lighting of the menorah, but the donating of the oil for that sake. In this way, it echoes last week’s parasha that opens with a command to donate various items to the making of the Tabernacle.

A menorah from the synagogue of Cordoba. Wikimedia Commons

My Son, My Mindfulness

The experience of parenting of a child who is affected by the more severe end of the autism spectrum reminds me daily that there are numerous things that I can’t control. My first impulse when my son was diagnosed was to try and “fix” as many of the symptoms of his disability as I could.

Gabrielle Kaplan-Meyer

Avonte's Law: Gov't Will Pay For GPS Devices

The Justice Department will pay for GPS tracking devices for children with autism or other conditions as it does for senior citizens with Alzheimers who are at risk of being separated from their caregivers, according to the Associated Press.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, proposed Avonte's Law. Getty Images

Harvard Prof. Receives $100K From Ruderman For Inclusion Work

The growing move for inclusion in the Jewish community got a big push this week with the launch of a $100,000 prize from the Ruderman Family Foundation.

William P. Alford, chair of the Harvard Law Project on Disability, left, prize-winner Michael Stein, center. Aynsley Floyd

Mishpatim: Empathy Is A Gift Anyone Can Give

“Right is might” civilizations mistreat vulnerable people—slaves, strangers, widows, orphans and the poor. This week’s Torah portion obligates us to see to the material well-being of these disadvantaged groups. Equally important is the support we provide through empathy.

Rabbi Michael Levy

Silent Lessons: Hiking With Israel's Association Of The Deaf

In LOTEM, we guide groups of people with special needs in nature and after a year, I can say wholeheartedly that I have gained experience working with a wide range of populations. 

Tali Nahir

Yitro: Moses Shows Us How To Celebrate

After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and emerged victorious in the war against Amalek, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro joined them in the wilderness. Our Torah portion recounts how he was welcomed by the congregation:

“Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.” (Exodus 18, 12.) The commentator Rashi wonders “Where was Moses?” He concludes that Moses was occupied himself with serving the meal (rather than eating with Aaron, Jethro and the elders.) One can imagine that Moses also saw to the preparation of the meal.

Rabbi Michael Levy

What Did I Learn On My Winter Vacation?

On the first day my kids went back to school after two weeks of vacation, they both wrote journal entries about what they did. Here's my journal entry.

An Amazing Way To Start The Week: Havdalah At B'nai Jeshurun

This past Saturday, I attended services designed for individuals with disabilities and their families to conclude Shabbat at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Frances Victory

Beshalach: The Gift Of Healing

When we are ill, we consult a doctor, obtain a diagnosis and adhere to his/her treatment plan. How, then, are we to understand a passage from this week’s Torah portion that portrays God as a Healer? 

Rabbi Michael Levy
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