Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Reelabilities - "Anita"

We are planning to go see "Anita" at the Boston Reelabilities Film Festival next Wednesday. (Spanish with English subtitles). From the website:
Anita, a young woman with Down syndrome, gets separated from her mother after a bomb explodes at their Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. As she wanders the city searching for her mom–alone for the first time ever–she discovers an inner strength few could have expected.
It will show at the

Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center
333 Nahanton Street Newton, MA 02459 

at 7p.m. and will be preceded by a reception at 6:30p.m.  A Q&A will follow.

This film connects to my blog in several ways.  It is set in the Jewish community in Argentina, and confronts the human reality of anti-Semitic violence.  It portrays an individual with Down syndrome as a multi-faceted human being, with strengths and failings, neither sub-human nor angelic. And it wrestles with the tragedy of parental loss.  


See you there!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Reelabilities Festival

Began in Boston tonight!

Haftorah Beam - Yitro

So behind, I'll just throw in a quote from the Haftorah for this portion:

8 Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me." 9 And He said, "Go, say to that people:
'Hear, indeed, but do not understand;
See, indeed, but do not grasp.'

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Two Little Girls

Two little girls are recovering from life-saving surgery today.  The first, 4-year-old Lyla Spitz, had open heart surgery just last week.  She has Down syndrome, and is also missing her left hand.  When she was adopted from a Urkrainian orphanage last year, her prognosis was very poor.  In fact, her adoption was delayed several times because it was believed that she would not survive the trip home.  Over the course of the past year, several specialists at different hospitals shook their heads at her condition, concluding that she was not healthy enough to undergo surgery, that the surgery required was too complicated, and/or that she would not survive the recovery.

Well, as I wrote in the last post, little Lyla sure proved them wrong!  The specialists at Boston Children's Hospital figured out how to do the surgery, and within a few days she was moved out of the ICU, and was up and walking around.  Here she is, smiling and dancing as the Healing Harmony Quartet is serenading her:

Isn't my husband adorable?  (Well, so is Lyla...)

While we were with Lyla, my WhoIRun4 buddy, 3-year-old Sianni was undergoing surgery for her neurofibromatosis tumors in Virginia.  The surgery was successful, and she is now in recovery, too.

Wishing full recovery to both of these lovely little girls!

Haftorah Beam - BeShalach

I had a mental block on this for 2 weeks, and now I know why.

This Haftorah shares the theme of song with the Torah portion: In the Torah, Miriam leads the Children of Israel in song after crossing the Sea of Reeds, safely away from their Egyptian oppressors.  In the Haftorah, Deborah sings in celebration of victory over the Canaanites.  The songs are both full of militaristic glee which can be dissonant to modern sensibilities, and yet convey a very powerful, human emotion.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  This article showed up in my FaceBook feed. Please read it.  I will summarize the article in order to get to the conclusion, but the article deserves to be read in its entirety.
But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished. Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.
He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.
This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people. 
This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.
The question is, how did Dr. King do this—and of course, he didn't do it alone....So what did they do?
They told us: Whatever you are most afraid of doing vis-a-vis white people, go do it. Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.
If we do it all together, we'll be okay.
They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn't that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.
And you know what? The worst of the worst, wasn't that bad.
Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicced on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened?
These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail.
That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song.

And that is what this Parsha is about.
Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song.
What was I doing on MLK Day?

My wonderful husband started an informal organization of Barbershop singers, Healing Harmony Quartets, to sing in hospitals.  Yesterday we visited Lyla Spitz, who is recovering from open heart surgery at Children's Hospital Boston.  She was tired and in pain after coming of the strong painkillers, and did not want to get up from her chair.  But when the music started she was unstoppable!  She danced and smiled and followed the singers as they made their way around the floor, singing for other patients and staff.  Such is the power of music to liberate people from both external oppression and internal suffering.

And today, this.

Now I understand why I wasn't motivated to write something generic 2 weeks ago.  This is what this parsha is about.

The Music of Freedom.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fear of disability

3 links:

This one has been making the rounds;

and this one is a response to it.

And this is a reality check, about what's actually scary.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


How often in life to we need to take what feels like a step back in order to move forward?  A few months ago I wrote about my experience as a teen learning to rock-climb, when I realized that in order to climb up the cliff I had to lean back - hard - and no, I will not fall.

I had a similar experience in my twenties, when I tried my hand in hang-gliding.

In order to launch and become airborne, we were instructed to run full speed down the hill - with 50 lbs. of equipment securely strapped to our backs. At the very moment that your vestibular system tells you that you are about to fall down head first - at that moment the glider's lift catches you. In fact, listening to your body would have you lean back to block your descent - precisely causing you to fall down.

A few years later, when I gave birth to my third child, I experienced this effect again.  Pushing the baby out would seem to require a supreme exertion: "Push, push!" we stereotypically tell a birthing mom. This, however, is misleading.  Attempting to do so literally results in clenching the entire abdomen - including the cervix, which needs to relax in order to allow the baby to exit. Much better is the midwifery advice to "breathe your baby out".  Relaxing the lower muscles allow the higher muscles to work more efficiently, with less effort.

Now I have 5 children.  I am frequently met with incredulity. "How can you do that?"  My stock answer is that it is actually easier with 5 than with 2. Parents of small families tend to be a lot more anxious about control issues.  As the family grows, we acquire some amount of wisdom and some amount of just letting go.  Letting go of control, like relaxing muscles that don't need to "push", allows the parents (like the uterus) to work more efficiently and with less effort.

When do our instincts give us good guidance, and when do we need to do the counter-intuitive thing and get our over-thinking out of the way of doing things right?

Haftorah Beam - Bo

The Torah portion concludes the recounting of the Egyptian plagues.  The Haftorah portion tells of a later episode in Egyptian/Jewish history.  In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, Egypt invades Israel, and is in turn overrun by the Babylonians. Jeremiah proclaims:

כה  אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, הִנְנִי פוֹקֵד אֶל-אָמוֹן מִנֹּא, וְעַל-פַּרְעֹה וְעַל-מִצְרַיִם, וְעַל-אֱלֹהֶיהָ וְעַל-מְלָכֶיהָ; וְעַל-פַּרְעֹה--וְעַל הַבֹּטְחִים, בּוֹ.25 The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saith: Behold, I will punish Amon of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with her gods, and her kings; even Pharaoh, and them that trust in him;
כו  וּנְתַתִּים, בְּיַד מְבַקְשֵׁי נַפְשָׁם, וּבְיַד נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר מֶלֶךְ-בָּבֶל, וּבְיַד-עֲבָדָיו; וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן תִּשְׁכֹּן כִּימֵי-קֶדֶם, נְאֻם-יְהוָה.  {פ}26 and I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants; and afterwards it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the LORD. {P}
כז  וְאַתָּה אַל-תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב, וְאַל-תֵּחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל--כִּי הִנְנִי מוֹשִׁעֲךָ מֵרָחוֹק, וְאֶת-זַרְעֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ שִׁבְיָם; וְשָׁב יַעֲקוֹב וְשָׁקַט וְשַׁאֲנַן, וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד.27 But fear not thou, O Jacob My servant, neither be dismayed, O Israel; for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall again be quiet and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.
כח  אַתָּה אַל-תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב, נְאֻם-יְהוָה--כִּי אִתְּךָ, אָנִי:  כִּי אֶעֱשֶׂה כָלָה בְּכָל-הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדַּחְתִּיךָ שָּׁמָּה, וְאֹתְךָ לֹא-אֶעֱשֶׂה כָלָה, וְיִסַּרְתִּיךָ לַמִּשְׁפָּט, וְנַקֵּה לֹא אֲנַקֶּךָּ.  {פ}28 Fear not thou, O Jacob My servant, saith the LORD, for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee, but I will not make a full end of thee; and I will correct thee in measure, but will not utterly destroy thee. {P}

We see the special relationship between G*d and Israel: while we, like all nations, can and will be exiled and punished, we will not be destroyed, as other nations may.  The cultures of the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, and Canaanites have long died out, but the Jews still read the same Torah, still observe the same rituals and holidays as in the days of the prophets.

But fear not thou, O Jacob My servant, neither be dismayed, O Israel; for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall again be quiet and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.

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