If the Jews didn’t invent storytelling, they certainly helped make it perfect.
From the Talmud to Mel Brooks, the Jewish people have retold their pains, hardships, and achievements – often in a humorous way – to groups of people since they were a people.
On Sunday, February 21, nine members of Temple Sinai contributed to the canon of Jewish discourse in a moth-like storytelling to recognize the month of awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of Jewish disabilities.
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The stories told during the hour-long program were shared between disabled speakers and friends, family members and caregivers of people with disabilities.
The virtual program, which was attended by more than 80 people, was led by Alan Olifson, a member of Temple Sinai, who also directed the Pittsburgh Moth StorySLAM.
Anne Alter opened the event with a raw and emotional story about living with schizophrenia, describing her schizophrenic episodes as well as the community she found in the synagogue.
Delilah Picart spoke about her funny brother Eric, who was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome and had symptoms of autism. Picart shared his love for movies and TV shows including “M * A * S * H”, “Family Ties”, “How I Met Your Mother” and his favorite “Star Wars” and painted a portrait of someone who is more as the disability she called “the kissing cousin of Down’s syndrome”.
Lynn Rubenson talked about going overland to her daughter’s wedding. Didi’s husband, Gary, is quadriplegic, and Rubenson shared the frustration of the trip, including hotel rooms that claimed to be wheelchair accessible but didn’t. Visits to monuments that are difficult to access; and restaurant mishaps.
“My eyes not only saw the beautiful landscape, but also the careless disregard for the physically handicapped,” said Rubenson. “And don’t even get me started with the stigma of insanity.”
In perhaps the most emotional story of the event, Rachel Kudrick cautioned against judging a book by its cover. And then she said in words that seemed to hang in the air: “Yes, I am fat.”
Kudrick stated that obesity is not their disability. Instead, she shared about her fight against binge eating and how food gave her a sense of security in a sometimes cruel world.
“I don’t even recognize or understand my own hunger cues,” she said.
Joan Stein and Deb Knox spoke together about their friend and Pittsburgh icon Linda Dickerson. The late Dickerson was born with Werdnig-Hoffmann Disease, but her life, Stein and Knox discovered, was determined by her work, family, and friends.
“Linda was a powerful community leader whose body never worked well,” Stein recalled.
Mara Tepper Kaplan began her story by telling a time in elementary school when a boy claimed she couldn’t read and then insisted on doing it out loud.
“My stomach started to hurt because it was right, I couldn’t read aloud,” she said.
Kaplan spoke of finally being diagnosed with a learning disability and the struggles the disability sparked as an adult.
Samantha Skobel brought some comic book relief to her story of working with a student with special needs. It revolved around a lunch break and the difficulties that arise when caregivers misinterpret communication. She illustrated the point that contrasted the words “chili” and “cold”.
The event’s final speaker, Elaine Lesgold, spoke about untreatable brain injuries after a car accident – and was open to the questions people ask.
“There is a saying in the community of disability advocates: ‘Nothing about us without us,” said Lesgold. “If I weren’t open to questions, I’d be closed to opportunities for education and growth. The answer to the question,’ Are you you better already? “- Although I may never be the person I was before the accident, the answer is absolutely yes.”
The event was organized by the community’s Disability Task Force. Co-chair Lisa Guttentag Lederer said all storytellers had spent a lot of time preparing for the event.
“I expected that there would be a lot of really impressive, insightful stories,” she said. “It was almost like opening your mouth and you could tell that they were waiting to tell someone this. I’ve been thinking about the power of storytelling. ” PJ
David Rullo can be reached at email@example.com.