February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. As part of our Federation’s commitment to inclusion, every week this month we will feature a blog written by either a member of our community with a disability or their parent, or by a professional working with one of our partner organizations that serves people with special needs.
Bloggers were asked to answer one of the following questions: What is your superpower that helps you gain strength and confidence in the Jewish community? Who has made you feel like a superhero and included in the Jewish community, and how?
My late grandfather, David, made me feel like a superhero and included in the Jewish community. He grew up during World War II in a small city in Ukraine. The Jews were not “accepted” during that time in the Soviet Union. Even if he wasn’t able to practice Judaism there, he loved celebrating Jewish holidays. When he, my grandma and my mom moved to Los Angeles 19 years ago, he started going to the synagogue every Shabbat. Even when he did not understand any Hebrew words or prayers, he liked to be included and be a part of ceremonies on Shabbat and holidays. He wore a kippah proudly!
He was an amazing grandpa. He told me many stories about his life, showed good examples to me and loved me very much. He would have been very proud of me becoming a Bar Mitzvah!
I remember him every day and miss him very much.
Phillip Trakhman, age 13, likes spending time with his family, being outside and going to the beach, riding his bike, and playing video games like Skylanders and Minecraft. He just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah with the Valley Friendship Circle and Chabad of Studio City and is excited to begin doing more mitzvot that he has learned.
Guest Bloggers Pam, Emma and Ryan G.
My name is Pam and I am the mom of 9-year-old twins Emma and Ryan. Ryan, my son, has autism. I am so thankful for the Symphony Circle program. The program, started by Rebbetzin Chanie Baitelman, has been a blessing for our family. Chanie is my superhero! She welcomed me so warmly into the Chabad community after meeting through the Valley Friendship Circle program when I felt isolated and not included in other Jewish organizations. She welcomed me with open arms and warm hugs!
My name is Emma. My superheroes are Chanie and Rachel. Chanie made the program so people can learn more about Judaism. Rachel is my superhero because she became my friend right when we met at the VFC Summer Circle. Rachel made me feel like I was part of the program right from the beginning. Now, the Symphony Circle – Musical Hebrew School is a really good program because it teaches people, both with and without special needs, , what it is like to be a Jew.
I am Ryan. I like the music, instruments and playing with the bells. I am learning the Aleph Bet.
Pam and her children have been a part of Valley Friendship Circle for the past year. They credit Valley Friendship Circle for being the first place that, as a family, they felt welcomed and included in the Jewish community.
Emma is 9 years old and is athletic. She loves gymnastics, she is Level 3, likes roller coasters, swimming, dancing, playing the violin, and singing in the school choir. Emma is outgoing and extremely caring to her friends and brother, Ryan. Emma is lots of fun to be with!
Ryan is 9 years old and is gentle and kind. He loves playing with his train sets, traveling by train, trampolining, going into the pool, playing with his iPad, listening to music and reading. Ryan has autism. Ryan and his twin sister Emma have an incredibly special and fun relationship!
Valley Friendship Circle’s Symphony Circle teaches children and teens with special needs Judaic content through song, crafts, and interactive musical activity.
For more information about Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, please contact Miriam Maya, Director, Caring for Jews in Need, at (323) 761-8081 or MMaya@JewishLA.org.