Blogs

Mission Accomplished: An Adjustable Torah Reading Table

Editor's Note: When Paula Fox first wrote for the New Normal, her tale of learning to read Torah only to struggle to reach the reading table inspired us to create the Bima Project. The idea was that we would help an interested synagogue create a more fully accessible bima that included an adjustable table. Paula and the folks in her shul moved rapidly toward this goal on their own and we are now thrilled to share their creative solution.

I learned to read Torah a year ago and now have read three times at Adath Jesurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota. As a wheelchair user, I was sitting too low to see the Torah on the regular Torah reading table. 

Paula Fox reading Torah

Autism, Vacations and Royal Caribbean: New Travel Possibilities for Families

As we approach the summer, many families are starting to make plans for camp, trips or cruises. Some parents of children with autism may feel as though it would be impossible to take a vacation with their son or daughter because of the child’s difficulty in behavior and communication and inflexibility in new situations (a characteristic of autism).

I recently came across a newspaper article that talked about Royal Caribbean’s first autism-friendly cruise line.

Dr. Frances Victory

A Communal Exploration Of Mental Illness

For three consecutive Wednesday evenings, beginning April 30th, the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education will partner with Congregation B’nai Jeshurun to co-host a groundbreaking series of experiential workshops and lectures, “Confronting Mental Illness.”

Devora Steinmetz. Courtesy Drisha Institute

Passover Or Resurrection?

During this holy week, John Kerry, a man with Jewish grandparents and Catholic upbringing, is trying to pass over old disputes and resurrect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.  So far his mission has been like a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem: talking to a wall.  Oh sure, each side professes its desire for peace, but each also has a definition it knows is unacceptable to the other and appears in no mood for real compromise.  That leaves many during this holy season to conclude that under current leadership, peace doesn't have a prayer.

At Seder, Celebrating 'Freedom To' Participate And 'Freedom From' Oppression

This week, as many of us sat down to enjoy our Seders with friends and family, I was very aware of two types of freedom that we celebrate at the Seder: “freedom from” and “freedom to.” We celebrate the “freedom from” slavery and oppression. We re-enact this form of freedom as we eat bitter herbs and dip our greens into salt water. We celebrate the “freedom to” as we conduct our own Seder experience. Each home leads its own Seder without benefit of Rabbi or Hazzan. Each person, young or old, has a part to fulfill at the table. 

Rabbi Daniel Grossman

Can Autism Acceptance and Autism Recovery Coexist?

Editor's Note: As part of a dialogue about autism and our community during Autism Awareness Month, we are sharing Educator Lisa Friedman's blog about autism advocacy, acceptance and recovery. It was originally featured on Think Inclusive. Please share your comments below.

In January, I wrote a blog about a poet and self-advocate named Scott Lentine, who has autism. I continue to be impressed by self-advocates who use the power of their words to inspire others to greater levels of understanding. As a blogger, I can relate. I write to inspire, motivate and support others on the journey toward inclusion.

In learning about him, however, I began to grapple with the question of whether there's a tension between the concepts of autism acceptance and autism recovery, and now I'd like to share that question with the New Normal community.

Lisa Friedman

Three Degrees Of Dead

There's an old saying in the Middle East that there are three levels of dead: dead, dead and buried, dead and buried and not coming back.  Right now the peace talks are dead and the guys with the shovels, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, can't decide whether to keep digging or resume talking.

Each leader thought he was clever enough to kill the talks and put the blame on the other, but blame is about the only thing they have in common.

Passover’s Call to Action—Escape from the Slavery of Self-Imposed Limitations

At the Passover Seder, we recall the Israelites’ redemption from Egyptian slavery.  It is an appropriate time to examine the link between Egyptian slavery and beliefs that can keep us in bondage.

The “Egypt Within”

The Hebrew word for Egypt, “Mitzrayim,” closely resembles the Hebrew word “maytzarim,”—boundaries, constraints, narrow and confining spaces. None of us is physically enslaved, but some of us experience “the Egypt within,” believing that we are trapped by our disability, confined to “narrow spaces,” from which we cannot escape to live fulfilling lives. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

Online, Keeping The Custom Of Study Between Passover And Shavuout

It is customary to study Jewish texts – mostly commonly Pirkei Avot – during the period of time between Passover and Shavuot. Many take the opportunity to occupy themselves with Torah study in the late Shabbat afternoons when the days are longer. The sages believed it was a worthwhile practice and would keep people focused on Sabbath observance.

Here are four opportunities for online study during this period.

Landmark Settlement for Employment of People with Disabilities

Editor's Note: Shelley Cohen's blog published today is very timely, as the Justice Department announced a landmark agreement with the State of Rhode Island yesterday that will liberate people with disabilities from sheltered workshops. Read more about this agreement in The New York Times.

The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into the nation’s first statewide settlement agreement vindicating the civil rights of individuals with disabilities who are unnecessarily segregated in sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs. 

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