Shabbat Matchmaking in Israel

Friends,

I wish all of our U.S. readers a very happy Thanksgiving. This post by Inbar’s Laurie Groner reminds us of how much we have to be thankful for today and every day– including those trailblazers who foster unexpected opportunities for friendship and love.

— Jay Ruderman

By Guest Blogger Laurie Groner, Director of Inbar

On a recent  Shabbat 40 young adults in Israel gathered for a singles Shabbaton (an event over the Sabbath).  This may not usually be newsworthy, but ours was a singles event with a difference: the participants were all young adults with disabilities. They came from around the country to the northern town of Nahariya (which has Israel’s only hotel with enough wheelchair-accessible rooms) hoping to find their bashert (soul mate).  The texts used in the workshops were printed in Braille and the sessions translated into sign language.

Making the Shabbat accessible and inclusive required incredible attention to logistics. But the payoff was fantastic! People left with new friends, phone numbers, and some with dates for the following week.  Everyone left with hope that their future could include a significant other.  In the words of Yosef, who had been shot in a terror attack: “I was overwhelmed by the intensity and caring — and by the quality of the workshops which combined Jewish values with our individual narratives. This Shabbat was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

This was the third annual singles Shabbat sponsored by Inbar, our organization dedicated to helping adults with disabilities navigate the road to marriage.  (Editor’s note: Zeh Lezeh followers may recall seeing the video from the first Inbar wedding a few months ago.)

Inbar was established by two Israeli friends in their late 30’s: one a computer scientist, married with children, and the other a rabbi born with severe cerebral palsy and living with the harsh reality that he might never marry or have children.

Our organization began with an email sent from one friend to another, looking to establish a social network for adults with disabilities. Within a week there were so many responses that the first meeting attracted more than 40 people from around Israel.

Inbar was operated by volunteers for three years until six months ago when the founders realized that the organization had outgrown its grassroots nature. We have registered as a non-profit and began fundraising to expand and professionalize.  So far all of the funding has come from individuals, most of whom have a friend or family member with a disability. The members of Inbar– having mastered the art of overcoming barriers– are confident that our organization will grow, make its mark on Israeli society, and become a model for programs around the world.

— Laurie Groner

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1 Comment

Filed under Disabilities rights, Disabilities Trends, Initiatives, Uncategorized

One response to “Shabbat Matchmaking in Israel

  1. jayruderman

    It’s wonderful to see that Inbar is taking proactive steps to help Jews with disabilities to find marriage partners. Marriage is a foundation from which life is lived. Having a lifelong partner with whom you can share life and intimate moments is of immeasurable value

    While this is a fine initiative that many people with disabilities will take part in, we need to work toward the day when people with disabilities, especially those with physical disabilities, can comfortably attend and mingle at any single event.

    Having cerebral palsy, I never liked when people assumed that I should look for a spouse who had a disability. I never liked being grouped in with other people with disabilities just because we shared the “disability characteristic”. Gathering together for purposes of support or to effect change in social policy is different. We’re together, as a group, for a common purpose.

    When it came to finding a marriage partner, I wanted my playing field wide open. My husband and I found each other at my college Hillel when I was 18 and he was attending grad school. We connected on our world views including how we understood G-d and Torah, appreciation of mountains and stars, and physical attraction. We had to grapple with his hesitations about my significant disability, but we came through the process stronger than ever. It became clear that we were life partners; and there was no escaping that.

    There is certainly a place for singles shabbatonim for people with disabilities. But it should be only an option. ideally, people with physical disabilities and other types of conditions should have the choice to attend any singles event. This means we need to advocate for physical access at such events, dispel myths about people with disabilities, modestly accentuate our sensuality, and develop a lot of self confidence so that we can withstand rejection until we find out mates.

    Sharon Shapiro-Lacks, Executive Director
    Yad HaChazakah-The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center
    http://www.yadempowers.org

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