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.

Elul and R-e'eh: What Can The Disability Community Contribute?

We are in the midst of the final month of the Jewish year, Elul, when it's customary to review one’s shortcomings and make plans to do better in the coming year.

Rabbi Michael Levy

Movie Review: Adam, Manic Pixie Dream Girl?

The 2009 film, “Adam,” turns its twenty-nine-year-old hero, a man with Asperger Syndrome, into a Manic Pixie Dream Girl:

“The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is there to give new meaning to the male hero's life. She's stunningly attractive, high on life, full of wacky quirks and idiosyncrasies (generally including childlike playfulness and a tendency towards petty crime), often with a touch of wild hair dye. She's inexplicably obsessed with our stuffed-shirt hero, on whom she will focus her kuh-razy (sic) antics until he learns to live freely and love madly.”

The dreamy Hugh Dancy plays Adam, a Manic Pixie Dreamboat with autism. Getty Images

Ki Taytzay: Can We Honestly Measure A Person?

A passage from this week's Torah portion, Ki Taytzay, calls for honest measures in business:

"You must not keep in your pouch two different weights, one large and one small. (Similarly,) you must not keep in your house two different measures-one large and one small. You must have a full honest weight and a full honest measure. If you do, you will long endure on the land that the Lord our God has given you."

Rabbi Michael Levy

'I Get The Job Done' At Ramah's Guest House

I came to the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England in 1997 and was a camper in the Amitzim (the brave ones) division of the Tikvah program for campers with disabilities for about five years. Coming to Ramah was mostly my parents' idea. We were looking for a Jewish camp mostly, and that was basically it.

Jason Belkin

My Son, Another Kid's Project

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.

You see, Ben is someone else’s mitzvah project.

Rabbi Rebecca Schorr

Message From An Accessible Mikveh: The Onus Is On The Community

Larry had a problem. 

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.

The aquatic lift that makes Mayyim Hayyim accessible to people with mobility impairments. Photo courtesy Mayyim Hayyim

A New Institute Is Born, Because Including People With Disabilities Takes Skill

We often ask ourselves what would happen if our leaders were skilled at including people with disabilities and their families as full participants in the lives of their communities?

Steven Eidelman

Making Mirrors: A New Series On Autism In Popular Culture

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.”

Leah Jane Grantham

Shoftim: When Ideas Become Idols

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.

Michael Levy

A Beloved Camp That Looks Like The Real World -- But Better

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.

Summertime at Camp JCC. Photo courtesy the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington
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