I read with great interest and concern Sarina Roffé’s cry from the heart about the difficulties facing deaf young people within the Jewish community today and the need for “heroic efforts to change the special needs stereotype” (“Heroic Efforts Needed To Change Special Needs Stereotype,” Opinion, Feb. 3.)
As a parent of a hard-of-hearing child, I understand and have lived these concerns and have learned how to be an active advocate for my child to ensure that he is included within the Jewish community. However, the situation that Roffé describes has changed much for the better in the past 20 years and continues to improve, in great part through the efforts of the Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD), and its two signature programs, Our Way for the deaf and hard of hearing, and Yachad for the developmentally and learning disabled.
In my position as program director for the past 14 years for Our Way, I have seen these changes taking place across North America. As Roffé indicates, there is still a long way to go, but the situation she and her child have faced are and hopefully will continue to be the exception rather than the rule in other families of special needs children.
I encourage your readers to learn more about our programs, actively fostering inclusion within the Jewish world on a synagogue, school and community level.
There is still much distance to travel to achieve the full inclusion of all special needs young people; Sarina Roffé’s essay raises true concerns that are affecting families even in today’s more enlightened era. It is a priority of the OU that the work that NJCD has begun will continue and expand so that all Jewish children will be able to access a Jewish education and inclusion into their communities regardless of their specific challenges or disabilities.
National Program Director Our Way