Rabbi Julia Weisz brought three teens from Congregation Or Ami to Washington DC for the L'takein Weekend of Learning and Lobbying, at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
What do we do with the verses in Torah that seem to explicitly exclude people with physical disabilities? Need they be read literally, as an illustration of how we might intentionally marginalize such members of our communities? Read more
Cross posted on Jews & Special Needs blog
of the Jewish Journal
As the new calendar year begins, we are entertained by those Year in Review lists and Person of the Year awards, both inside and outside of the Jewish communities. Time magazine aptly chose the Pope Francis as its Person of the Year for his calling for a church of healing. T’ruah,The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, honors its T’ruah Rabbinic Human Rights Hero Award including (deservingly) LA’s Rabbi Dara Frimmer (Temple Isaiah). Perhaps most uniquely, Jewrotica, the self-declared “hub for Jewish sexual expression,” listed the Sexiest Rabbis of 2013, in three categories: The Smarts, Getting Some (social) Action, and Bad Ass/Sex Appeal. (Blogger’s Confession: To ensure complete objectivity for this blogpost, I disallowed any consideration of myself for the Jewrotica lists.)
Many tears were shed that day as Brandon signed his parasha (Torah portion). But on the most fundamental level, there was nothing that remarkable that a profoundly challenged - disabled? handicapped? exceptional? - child followed the Jewish path. Because inclusion is just what Judaism expects.
We schepp nachas (are filled with pride) as we celebrate Congregation Or Ami’s congregant Diane Simon Smith, for her long-term ongoing commitment to families with children with disabilities. Diane has been an integral part of Or Ami’s foundational commitment to inclusivicity, an outlook that has led us to mainstream disabled children in our religious learning programs, in our LoMPTY youth group and to partner with Chaverim, a program for developmentally disabled adults.
The IDEA Infant and Toddler Association (ITCA) Parent Leadership Awards are given annually to acknowledge outstanding state parent leadership on behalf of the Part C program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities and their families. Parents may be nominated on the basis of significant contributions, in either a volunteer or paid capacity, during a specific period of time, or for exceptional efforts over a period of several years. These efforts may range from family support efforts, recruiting and/or training families, serving on committees, working on legislative initiatives etc.
When her son Andrew was born in 1985, 14 weeks premature, severely disable with cerebral palsy and overcoming tremendous odds to live, Diane Simon Smith promised she would do for him in the world what he could not do for himself. Her son Matthew was born three years later with Fragile X syndrome. Diane immersed herself in the special needs world to advocate not only for her own sons but for others as well. In 1991 she returned to school shifting her focus to marriage and family therapy with a focus on supporting children with disabilities and their families in group settings and individual counseling. Diane developed a specialized private practice working with families of children with disabilities. For the past fourteen years she has run support groups for parents and sibling workshops and has developed two retreats: Healing the Mother’s Heart and The Journey. Diane is an author and presenter about marital relationships, grief and loss, sibling issues and strategies for thriving as they relate to childhood disability.
A quote from one of the support letters that were received speaks to the outstanding qualities that this award represents:
“I met Diane several years ago at a retreat she held in Santa Barbara. The retreat was designed to gather women together of all ages, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The one common thread we shared was that we all had children with special needs. By sharing with this unique group of women for 36 hours, Diane gave us permission to share our most
intimate fears and hopes. Her guidance was outstanding, professional and given from a place of true love and empathy. We were allowed to laugh, cry, vent and share our experiences in a completely safe and healthy environment.”
Mazel tov, Diane, your simcha (joyous moment) is our nachas (pride).