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.

Yes, Joe Biden Had A Sukkah, And Matan Kids Decorated It

By this point, there's been quite a bit of buzz in the Jewish community about the fact that Vice-President Joe Biden not only celebrated Sukkot, but did so in a sukkah built on the grounds of his residence at Number One Observatory Circle.

And while this is amazing, there is more to the story, as there is more to a sukkah than its walls and roof. Hint: It's all about the decorations.

Dr. Jill Biden and the gang from Matan rejoicing at the vice-presidential sukkah. Photo courtesy Meredith Englander Polsky

After The Navy Yards Shooting: When Diagnosis Becomes Stigma

Last week, while sipping my coffee at a café, I overheard a troubling conversation. A small group of seemingly well-informed Brooklynites were discussing the recent shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington. One of the smartly dressed guys chimed in, “He’s schizo! That’s why he did it. Schizophrenics kill people all the time!” His friends laughed and agreed with his reasoning, and moved onto the more compelling question of what to eat for lunch.

Aaron Feinstein

Sukkot: The How And Why Of Happiness

Our liturgy refers to the holiday of Sukkot as "zman simchatenu" – "the season of our happiness." In the land of Israel, it marks the completion of the final harvest of the agricultural year.

A Spiritual Fresh Start

Rabbi Michael Levy

Take A Seat Courtside At The U.S. Open Wheelchair Tennis Competition

In many ways, it was just another awesome day at the U.S. Open.

Stephane Houdet of France prepares his serve. Howard Blas

Jonah: Not Using Our Gifts Is A Self-Imposed Disability

Why is the Book of Jonah the last biblical reading on Yom Kippur? True, it recounts how the nation of Nineveh repented, as we are called upon to do on the Day of Atonement. However, the liturgy could have instead featured King David, who admitted his shortcomings and constantly sought to improve himself.

Rabbi Michael Levy

A Summer Camp Counselor Turns Tears Into A Heart-To-Heart

Editor's Note: Each year, the Jewish Agency for Israel sends a group of young emissaries (shlichim) to serve as counselors and specialists at Camp Ramapo, a summer camp in Northern New-York, Dutchess County, for children with special needs. A non-profit established in 1922, Ramapo gathers a wide spectrum of special needs children under one umbrella. The shlichim at Ramapo bring a cultural perspective that has become a special part of the Ramapo experience. Shaked Karp, 24, came to Ramapo three years ago after completing her service in an Israeli army intelligence unit and has has returned every year since. She explains why here.

The Israelis at Ramapo. Shaked Karp is the fourth from the right in the back row. Photo courtesy Jewish Agency for Israel

A New Survey Reveals 'A Distance Between Words And Deeds'

Almost 100 percent of the 2,607 relatively engaged Jews polled by RespectAbilityUSA and Jerusalem U agree that “Jewish events and organizations should be as welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities as everyone else,” with 89 percent of the sample agreeing strongly.

Donn Weinberg and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founders of RespectAbilityUSA. Photo courtesy RespectAbilityUSA

Best. High Holiday Service. Ever.

I have always looked forward to attending synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah. Hearing the shofar often felt like a spiritual cleansing: a reminder that this was the time of year to think about your wrong doings and ask God for forgiveness.

Frances Victory

The Book Of Life And Prosperity: Employment In The Disability Community

On Shabbat and holidays, we refrain from praying to God about financial concerns.  We concentrate instead on the spiritual dimension of our lives.

Rabbi Michael Levy

5 Synagogue Inclusion How-Tos For The Holidays

Ready or not, the High Holy Days are upon us!

Recently, Jewish Learning Venture hosted a webinar on “High Holiday Inclusion” as part of outreach to clergy and lay leadership in the Philadelphia vicinity. We are sharing some tips that we hope your community can utilize, either this year or in the future, to make your synagogue truly a house of worship for all people.

Clergy and synagogue staff can easily and cheaply do a lot to make services a happy and calm experience for everyone. Fotolia
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