Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Today, Renee's Challenge brings us a very special little girl:  Natalee:

See her other possible futures here.
Natalee is a four and a half year old little girl with a very grim prognosis:

Girl, born October 2007
Diagnosis: Cerebral palsy, general delay of psychological and speech development, seizures.  Natalee also has vision issues, having both a Convergent squint (right-sided) and Partial atrophy of eye nerves
This darling girl needs a family, or she’s destined to spend the rest of her life closed off from the world in a laying room.

A visiting missionary commented: "She is unable to stand, sit, roll over by herself or even hold her head up … She is almost completely unresponsive however over time she seemed to grow more peaceful as I held in my arms and sang to her."


I see her being adopted by a musical family.  Her father is a cantor at the local synagogue.  On Friday nights he chants the Kiddush to welcome the Sabbath in a full, sonorous baritone. Her sister Sarah plays the flute, and her mother plays the piano.  The house is always full of these beautiful sounds, individually and in harmony with each other.  From the very start, Natalee relaxes, "grows peaceful", when she hears them.  She rocks gently to the increasingly familiar tunes, and the comfort they bring accompany her as her mother lovingly stretches her spastic muscles several times a day.

Still, progress is slow.  Although she clearly bonds with her family, her body is very weak and months later, she is still non-verbal.  The following year, she starts kindergarten, receiving multiple services through the school, as well as continuing therapy at the local Children's Hospital several times a week. She is restricted to a wheelchair, and still does not have the strength or coordination to maneuver it herself.

In the spring of Natalee's 7th year, at the end of 1st grade, her sister celebrates her Bat Mitzvah.  As Natalee watches her practice her Torah trope, her eyes shine and she quietly hums along. As Sarah labors to overcome the challenges of Biblical Hebrew, Natalee works alongside her to reach developmental milestones.  At the ceremony, Natalee sits upright in her wheelchair, her head held high.  She reaches intentionally for the controls and follows her sister and parents around the sanctuary as the young celebrant greets the congregation with the Torah scroll.  Sarah begins the reading, her soprano clear and sweet.  When she finishes to the delight of all, Natalee says her first word: "Amen"

Gradually, she develops some rudimentary forms of communication, and she quite clearly communicates to her family that she, too, wishes to have a Bat Mitzvah ceremony.  She, too, wants to hold the Torah and chant the ancient words.  But how?  How will a girl who barely speaks a dozen words in English master text that is challenging for typical children? Natalee smiles, and reaches for her sister.  "Please?"  She says.

It is now the fall of 2019.  High holidays bring large crowds to services, which overflow into the lobby.  The Saturday between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is Natalee's appointed day.  She is now using her gait trainer to walk up the ramp to the Bimah, accompanied by her sister. They read the portion of Deuteronomy together, Sarah reading the words, and Natalee chanting the melody.

And together they chant in Hebrew, "Be strong and brave: for you shall bring the Israelites into the land that I promised them on oath, and I will be with you."

They then continue together with the Haftorah, with text from Isaiah that moves the whole congregation to tears.

6 As for the foreigners
Who attach themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him,
And to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants —
All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,
And who hold fast to My covenant —
I will bring them to My sacred mount
And let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
Shall be welcome on My altar;
For My House shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples."
Thus declares the Lord God,
Who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
"I will gather still more to those already gathered."


1 comment:

  1. A beautiful picture of Natalee's possible future.


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