By Guest Blogger Alexis Kashar, President, Jewish Deaf Resource Center Board
This Passover was one to be remembered. It was one unlike any other in my family’s history. It was one where my sister led the family Seder for the first time in her life for 11 family members. Due to our family’s unique characteristics, we made various accommodations for each and every member at the table. Some of us are deaf, some of us are hearing, some of us are young, some of us are older but we all had one thing in common. We are all new members of the wider Jewish community despite being Jews by birth for our family’s entire history. Being new and welcomed members of the community, we were proud to have had a meaningful Seder and for the 5 children sitting at the table to realize the importance of Passover and their heritage.
Why are we new members of the Jewish community? Why after 3 generations, are we returning home? The stumbling blocks are finally being hammered away by a very special group of Jewish people: at the Jewish Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Resource Center (JDRC) and all its partners in the wider Jewish community. With all that JDRC is doing, synagogues, community centers and public places that serve the Jewish community are realizing that we must become a more inclusive community.
One of JDRC’s efforts to promote a more inclusive Jewish community is the establishment of a deaf and hard of hearing awareness Shabbat which we will mark this year on May 5th. The Torah on this very day commands that we do just this. On May 5th, we read in Parshat Kedoshim, “Do not insult the deaf…” This Torah portion commands that we be a holy people and one of the ways is how we treat one another. On this day, we ask all rabbis across denominations to devote their sermons to this specific commandment about the deaf. What a better way to become a more inclusive community than to learn about one another on Shabbat. May 5th it is! Ask your rabbi to participate and spread the word that every time we create access, we are nurturing our spiritual relationship with God and with one another.
— Alexis Kashar