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Special Needs

February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of people with disabilities

As my recovery continues, I often reflect on how I managed to find the strength--the resilience--to rebuild my life. I believe the answer lies in three interventions, each informed by Judaism: directed prayer on my behalf, attentive visits, and practical support.

Gloria Lenhoff can sing in thirty languages. She has performed operatic arias and classical lieder with orchestras and chamber groups throughout the world. She has participated in High Holiday choirs and served as guest cantor or assistant cantor at synagogues in four states. But Gloria’s dazzling musical accomplishments do not stop her parents from worrying about her future.

"Jews with disabilities are not invisible anymore," emphasizes Becca Hornstein, a consultant on disability and family-related issues and executive director of the Council for Jews with Special Needs. Twenty-six years ago, she began searching for religious education for her nine-year-old son who has autism and was told, "We're not aware of Jews with disabilities." At the time, the fledging special education program she soon helped launch at Temple Chai, Phoenix, Arizona instructed four students; today, 12% of the congregation's religious school children have a special need, and the temple is there to help.

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