By Laura Seymour
In Judaism, we have a blessing for everything, which is great because the sages told us to say 100 blessings every day. Isn’t it wonderful to feel gratitude 100 times a day? There is a wonderful blessing that thanks God for making people different:
Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu melech ha’olam mishaneh ha’briyot. Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who makes people different.
We are supposed to say this blessing when we see someone who looks different and when we see someone who is disabled. It gives us an opportunity not only to be thankful for what we have but thankful that we can know people who look at the world differently.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at the JCC’s Zale Auditorium for only $5 for a ticket, you can see an unusual performance of “West Side Story.” Twenty-six adults with developmental delays are the actors in this special production. In addition, we have teen volunteers who have been working with us since January.
This will be our 12th year of performance, and we have grown in the number of actors and the types of plays that we do. So why should you come and bring your children? The excitement and joy shown by each of our performers makes this a very special event.
As you sit and watch the struggles and accomplishments, the important Jewish concept of b’tzelem elohim (being created in God’s image) comes alive. We recognize that each of us brings something special to the world and we are truly fortunate that we can be in a community with so many different people.
Welcome to Holland
By Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability — to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.
It’s like this … when you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip — to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting. After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bag and off you go.
Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?” you say, “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy. I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland, and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It’s just a different place.
It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around … and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills … and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy … and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.” And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever, go away … because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.
But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services for the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.