By Jo Ann Simons, Ruderman Family Foundation Disabilities Advisor and CEO Cardinal Cushing Centers
I should know by now that when you least expect it, profound wisdom is revealed.
I was picking up my son, Jon, at the bus station. As many of you know, Jon is my adult son with Down syndrome. He enjoys, what we like to say is a fully inclusive life. He has his own home, works, volunteers, travels, has friends, belongs to a synagogue and makes his own decisions about what to eat, how much TV to watch, when to go to bed, etc.
As we drove by the airport on the way home, Jon began talking about an upcoming trip that several of his friends were taking to Washington, DC. He decided that he did not want to go on this trip, in spite of his joy of travel. He said he wasn’t interested in the itinerary and “they were not even going to the Holocaust Museum,” a place he had visited many years earlier with his 8th grade synagogue class. He went on to talk about our family trip to Israel, where he said, “I visited the real Holocaust Museum,” referring to Yad Vashem, I reminded him of the time we all bore witness at Dachau.
And that’s when Jonathan summed it all up. He said, “Going to all those places, it makes me feel connected.”
I began to wonder. Is it inclusion we seek or is it being connected? Jon’s feeling of being included is about being recognized as a Jew and being part of our history. Of all the gifts our community has given him, being connected is what has meaning for him.
And while we prayed together this past Rosh Hashanah, on Yom Kippur, Jon was 90 miles away, praying at his synagogue, in his congregation, feeling connected.
— Jo Ann Simons