Thursday, May 30, 2019

Hidden in plain sight: Invisible pre-existing disabilities among older adults

[Note:  Some of my (I hope) readers may think that this post sounds familiar.  That's because I occasionally discuss issues with other people when I'm thinking of writing a blog post about those issues.  I'm simply swiping some of the wording that I used in a recent conversation.]

Perhaps this phenomenon is well-known among mental-health professionals, but I've never either seen or heard it discussed among laypeople, so let me start this conversation.

Back in the "Dark Ages" before roughly the 1960s, certain disabilities were either:
~ unknown
~ misunderstood
~ not assessed/evaluated
~ not diagnosed, or incorrectly diagnosed
~ not treated, or not treated in an appropriate or effective manner
~ not ameliorated through special education, which, even in places where it existed, was almost never publicly-funded--parents who wanted their "challenged" child educated often had to pay for the "privilege" out of their own pockets.

The result is that there are probably hundreds of thousands of older adults with invisible disabilities dating back to childhood who've never received any help whatsoever with their disabilities, and who've spent most of their lives simply coping.

The following list of examples is far from exhaustive, but illustrates situations that I have seen with my own eyes in people over the age of 60.

Some people have no idea whatsoever that they're any different from anyone with more "typical" development.  This ignorance can be far from blissful.  A person with Executive Function Disorder may have so much trouble organizing financial records and keeping track of money that they end up destitute.

Some people have a pretty good idea what their challenge is, but figured this out so late in life that they were long ensconced in a career that was totally inappropriate for a person with their disability, and have simply had to cope with their situation, unaided, for the last forty or more years.  Good luck trying to do a job that requires one to sit all day when one has had ADHD from birth.  :(

Some people are well aware that they're "not playing with a full deck" in some regards, and have tried to compensate as best they can, but they don't have a name for their disability (High-Functioning ASD?  Social Communication Disorder?) and have no idea how to treat it, or whether it's even treatable at such a late age.  After all, no one is going to write an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a senior citizen and put them back into pre-school to get the help they missed out on as a child.

To mental-health professionals and laypeople alike,

Progress is about more than going from a manual typewriter to a computer the size of an entire room to a computer that you can hold in one hand and use to send texts.  Progress is also about advancements in our understanding of the development and functioning of the human brain and body.  Older adults were just born too soon to benefit from this form of progress.  So the next time you meet a senior who seems to be clueless about their invisible disability and/or how to compensate for it, please don't hold it against them, and don't assume that their problems result from advancing age.  This cluelessness isn't necessarily a result of getting older--it may be simply the result of seniors not having been helped when they were children.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

First openly gay Orthodox rabbi ordained in Jerusalem (JTA)

“Here’s the real question. Is our Torah and halachic system so weak and devoid of resources that it cannot be challenged by a new situation?” Citing the verse “The Torah is perfect, restoring the soul,” Landes thundered that “it is a perfect Torah only when and if it restores the soul. That’s what we need to work for.”

Read about the ordination of Rabbi Daniel Atwood here.

Many thanks to Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, Founder and President of Uri L'Tzedek, for posting this link on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019
For a nuanced interpretation of halachah regarding human diversity of various kinds, I'm referring you to this class on Uniformity and Diversity by Hadar's Rabbi Ethan Tucker.
"We will consider how the sources we learn might also enable us to engage modern ideas about sexuality through a more productive lens."


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Kabbalat Shabbat experiment: Romemu!

Read this post first, to understand how we ended up at a Kabbalat Shabbat service with instrumental music.

We attended Kabbalat Shabbat services this past Friday night at Romemu, and found it a joyful experience that we will gladly repeat.  The two of us joined a circle dancing around the sanctuary during L'Cha Dodi, and sang our hearts out for the rest of the service.  Yes, they had a guitarist, whom I decided mostly to ignore :),  and who, as with the guitarist at our previous "Kabbalat Shabbat experiment," may or may not have been Jewish but was only accompanying, not leading, the service.  But unlike the rabbi at our previous "experiment," Rabbi David Ingber, Rabbi Mira Rivera, and, er, whomever the third rabbi was (my apologies to her), led a service that was unapologetically Jewish.

I do have some serious reservations that might have prevented me from joining Romemu even if I were in a position to do so.  (We don't dare davven [pray] at any synagogue than our own on Shabbat [Sabbath] and Yom Tov [holiday] mornings, lest our own synagogue not get a minyan.)  For one thing, they accept non-Jews as members.  That might work in the case of "family" membership, where at least one spouse/partner is Jewish.  But if this is a blanket "permission," I think that's problematic.  Also, the new Romemu Yeshiva, scheduled to open this summer, will admit non-Jews.  How, exactly, can an institution that calls itself a yeshiva admit non-Jews?  This openness may reflect a "boundary-maintenance" issue with the Jewish Renewal Movement (with which Romemu is affiliated) in general--I'm not entirely sure whether "Deep Ecumenism" is a good thing or a bad thing.  

That said, I can't complain (too much) about any Jewish institution that can pull non-Orthodox Jewish women and men in off the streets of Manhattan on a Friday night to davven (pray).  If Romemu can join other New-York-City-based (or "second-homed") institutions such as Hadar, Drisha, Pardes, the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshivat Maharat in trying to prevent the disappearance of the non-Orthodox Jewish community in the United States, I'm in.


Parshat Behar: God or Mercury (by Rabbi Norman Lamm)

I recommend that you read Rabbi Lamm's entire d'var Torah here.

Here are some excerpts:

"in modern times, Judaism became fragmentized. Judaism became a matter of where you prayed, not how you lived; what siddur you used, not how regularly you paid employees or bills; how long was your Shemone Esrei, not how faithfully you worked for your salary; how good a tenor you got as a cantor, not how sincere your davening was; how ferociously you destroyed a competitor or “took in” a customer, not how much of your profits you gave to charity. Our whole sidra of this morning was forgotten, and business life became Godless – or better, became itself an object of worship and blind obedience.

And so Jews rejected the Lord, God of Israel, and accepted Mercury, god of commerce.

. . .

What is necessary for the revitalization of Jewry in our day is a new appreciation of the fact that Judaism. . . is not relegated to one holy place and one holy day. When a local Jewish fraternal and social organization organizes a baseball picnic on Shabbat, it is violating the integrity, the wholeness of Jewish life. When another group, part of a great nation-wide organization, organizes a golf tournament on a Jewish fast-day and serves a luscious treif dinner – it reveals its paganism, especially when it resents a rabbi rearing his head out of the pulpit and extending it into the secular clubs and their activities. And even golf itself must be treated as part of a way of life – that is, it too is not immune from Jewish opinion. That is why a country club must conduct itself Jewishly, both in matters of diet and holidays and business-wise.

. ..

Under the influence of . . . the effect of this Mercury cult, some of us may be surprised at how great a literature we have concerning activity outside the synagogue. All one has to do is open a Shulĥan Arukh or a Rambam. There are laws of prayer and interest; tefillin and profiteering; tallis and sexual relations; mezuza and tax evasion; Shabbat and larceny. . ..

We today must return to this fuller and greater understanding of Torah, as it is presented to us in today’s sidra. By subjecting all of life to God’s influence, we will have smashed the statues of Mercury, instead of merely throwing pebbles at it. By opening all areas of our existence to the teachings of our tradition, we will have acted as genuine Jews, not as half and one-quarter Jews. We will have grown to the fuller spiritual stature of one who realizes that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof ” (Psalms 24:1), and therefore all life must be lived so as not to be embarrassed by His presence. “A man must always be God-fearing, in private and in public” – not only in private but also in public. Then and only then can we conclude with the phrase, “umodeh al ha’emet,” “acknowledging the truth” –

Here's a link to my favorite post about Parshat Behar.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

In honor of Lag B'Omer: Singing and instrument-playing!

Since there's a tradition that one doesn't listen to music during Sefirah (or, at least, one listens to a capella music only), but Lag B'Omer is an  exception, I'm posting links to some songs accompanied by musical instruments for you to enjoy.

Here's a link to Sefirat Ha’Omer Niggun, (composed by Shir Yaakov Feit, Zach Fredman, and Yosef Goldman)--the video's at the bottom of the page, so keep scrolling.

And here's a duo, Yonina--whose individual names are, I believe, Yoni and Nina Tokayer--whom I had the good fortune to stumble upon on YouTube, singing their cheerful Shir Shel Boker/Song of the Morning. (Our son the Physics PhD assures me that I didn't "stumble upon them"--according to him, I found them as a result of YouTube's algorithms. Okay, I get it.) On a more serious note, they also sing about Mamtinim/Waiting (for him [HaMashiach/The Messiah]) in such a messed-up world. See the 12th verse of the Rambam's/Maimonides's "Ani Maamin/I Believe" here--it's quoted in this song. I am a person of little faith--I don't believe this. But they clearly do. And for me, given a choice between music and logic, music usually wins. (If your Hebrew comprehension is as bad as mine, be sure to click on CC and read the English subtitles.)

For those with about an hour and a half to spare (or less, if you don't watch the whole video), here's a link to a "sing-along" featuring Deborah Sacks Mintz, Chava Mirel, Elana Arian, and as many people as could cram into the Beloved Brooklyn house.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Re abortion-rights abolition quest: Only "dominant-class" males have permanent rights :( :( :(

Begin with my belated review of "The Handmaid's Tale."

In the United States, the dominant class is still white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males.

In other countries, the dominant class may be Hispanic, Black, Asian, or other, by religion Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, or other, provided that they're males.

In all countries, it doesn't matter how long ago you gained your rights--the "ruling" male class can always take them away, or so constrict them by passing subsequent laws that, for all practical purposes, they no longer exist.

So many restrictions are now being proposed or passed regarding abortions in the United States that it may soon be nearly impossible to get one here.

New restrictions, imposed since the Supreme Court ruled against the Voting Rights Act, have had a serious impact on the ability of minority voters, particularly Blacks and Native Americans, to vote.

And no sooner had the  L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+  Community been granted full marriage equality by the Supreme Court than the President forbade transgender persons to serve in the military.

There's also an "immigration war" being waged against Muslims and Hispanics, even those who are in the U.S. legally.

Surely I'm not the only one who sees where this is going. :( :( :(

Related:  My Tuesday, November 28, 2017 post Discrimination is discrimination.

Update:  My Friday, March 25, 2022 post Oklahoma's new abortion ban.

A very-belated post re "The Handmaid's Tale," by Margaret Atwood

Back in the days before I started posting on Goodreads, I used to keep records of books that I'd read in a Word file.  I'm not sure this passes for a book review, but here it is (SPOILER ALERT):

8/7/2001               The Handmaid’s Tale              Margaret Atwood                      A real page-turner—I picked this up at the library at about 6 PM 8/6 & finished it 8/7 at 3 AM.  A religious cult gains control of a portion of the US, &, in a world in which all money changes hands thru 1 centralized computerized bank, instantly reduces all women to men’s property by confiscating all of their financial assets and turning them over to the women’s male relatives or husbands, and having all women in their jurisdiction fired, all on the same day.  From that day on, women are forbidden to have independent incomes. Since very few women are fertile (and the men ain’t doing much better), high-status men, called Commanders, whose Wives don’t have children (officially, only women are sterile) are given Handmaids to bear them children.  The Handmaids, in red uniforms, are allowed to leave the house only 1x/day to go shopping.  Otherwise, they can do absolutely nothing but sit in their rooms and stare at the walls.  They may watch only ½ hr. of religious TV/mo., and there’s no longer such a thing as movies.  Reading is strictly forbidden for almost all women—a woman caught reading 3 times has her hand cut off.  No one is allowed to have sex in any form outside of marriage.  (Unmarried men are even forbidden to keep their hands in their pockets, for fear of what they’ll do with them there.)  Useful women who aren’t Wives but who can’t bear children are enslaved as Marthas (live-in servants).  Women of uncertain fertility (?) or lower-class women (?) are distributed to lower-echelon men as Econowives (all-purpose wives who do the Marthas’ chores and the Handmaid’s childbearing).  Women who aren’t considered useful (such as seniors), Handmaids who fail to bear healthy children after 3 attempts, anyone who is considered subversive, and Gender Traitors (homosexuals) are killed or sent to the Colonies to be worked to death cleaning up toxic waste.  Marthas are afraid to take days off for any illness whatsoever, or even to show or admit that they’re ill, for fear that they’ll be sent to the Colonies.  Scary reading.

I've never seen the television show.  The book was frightening enough.  If you'd like to understand why I'm publishing this review at this late date, see my next post.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My new "schtender" :)

It finally dawned on me that I might be able to take advantage of one difference between our new dining room chairs and our old ones.  The old ones were rounded on top, and every time I tried to balance a siddur (prayer-book) on my old chair, so that I wouldn't have to hold it through the entire Amidah ("Standing" prayer), it would, invariably, fall off sooner or later.  The new ones, on the other hand, are perfectly flat.  Hmm ...

Here's that same chair, with my siddur resting semi-securely on top without a helping hand.

Mazal tov, Shira--you now have a new "schtender (shtender)."

Monday, May 13, 2019

Kabbalat Shabbat experiment #1, part 2: A non-Orthodox Jewish identity crisis?

Start with part 1, if you haven't already read it.

The guitar was a problem, but I felt that a more important problem with the Kabbalat Shabbat service we attended this past Friday was the rabbi's attitude.

The subject of our study session that evening was holiness, in honor of parshat ha-shavuah (the Torah reading of the week), Kedoshim.  And one of the questions that the rabbi asked us to discuss was, "How have you experienced a sense of holiness in your life?"  Yet, every time a person mentioned that they'd felt a sense of holiness when praying or enjoying holiday experiences with others who shared their Jewish heritage, with its practices, traditions, and customs, the rabbi would immediately temper that statement by emphasizing how wonderful it was that the group in the room was so diverse, and how that diversity might also engender a feeling of holiness.  The rabbi even said, if my husband and I remember correctly, "Our families are mixed, and isn't that wonderful?"

Yes, many Jewish families are "mixed"--among the non-Orthodox, intermarriage is rampant--but what's so wonderful about that?

I haven't seen enough evidence to say definitively that this is a trend, but I have observed a few signs among some left-wing non-Orthodox congregations that the willingness to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews might be weakening.  I checked the membership requirements of several New York City non-Orthodox synagogues online, and was dismayed to see that two of them didn't even require applicants for membership to be Jews by anyone's definition (meaning that neither of their parents was Jewish and they hadn't undergone a Jewish conversion of any kind).  Traditionally, one way to ensure that all members of a synagogue were Jewish was to ask them for their Hebrew (or Yiddish or Ladino) names on the application.  But these two synagogues made it clear that they didn't care whether applicants for synagogue membership were Jewish or not--one shul even included "Not Jewish" as a "Religious Identity" description on their application form.

Since I'm a non-Orthodox Jew who loves Jewish holy days, worship, and rituals, I would hate to think that non-Orthodox Judaism might cease being a religion and become little more than a Jewish-flavored social club.

For a related discussion, I recommend that you listen to Rabbi Ethan Tucker's "Open House or Members Night?  Whom To Invite to the Seder." 

September 22, 2019 update:
It occurred to me that, in fairness, I should link to my related Wednesday, August 28, 2019 post, Trying to navigate a changed Jewish landscape, part 2

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Kabbalat Shabbat experiment #1: Guitar, go away

Read this post first, to understand how we ended up at a Kabbalat Shabbat service with a guitarist.

Maybe I should have realized that I might find davvening (praying) with instrumental accompaniment annoying.  The fact is that, for as long as I can remember, I've always adjusted my vocal harmonies when singing with guitar or piano accompaniment so as not to clash with the instrument's chords.  But, since I've rarely gone to a Jewish service that had instrumental accompaniment, I've rarely had to do that while davvening.  I don't mind adjusting my harmonies in prayer when there are others in the room who are also singing harmony.  But adjusting for the sake of people is one thing--adjusting for the sake of an inanimate object is just an intrusion.

More experiments will follow shortly.  If instrumental accompaniment continues to be a problem for me, or, perhaps, if I don't feel so comfortable going to a service that feels more like a concert, we may need to find an old-fashioned Conservative synagogue that still davvens a cappela.


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

"What All Anti-Semites Have in Common," by Andres Spokoiny

This New York Jewish Week article is unpleasant, but essential, reading.  :(

Here's an excerpt:

"Soral’s eclectic career of hate, in which he represented left-wing, right-wing, and (by accepting the Iranian regime’s support) Islamic fundamentalist antisemitism, shows that the differences between these types of antisemitism are purely cosmetic. They are one and the same.

We should take note. Excusing the antisemitism of Hungary’s Victor Orban because he’s “pro-Israel” and “only” hates liberal Jews is at best myopic and at worst suicidal. Excusing the antisemitism of Ilhan Omar because she’s “only” against right-wing Jews while embracing the liberals is equally self-defeating. Relativizing the antisemitism of Jeremy Corbyn is not only naïve but incredibly dangerous.

Soral’s twisted mind has something important to teach us: there’s no such a thing as a “good anti-Semite.” Anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism and can’t be excused because we happen to agree on certain policies with the anti-Semites. Moreover, Soral’s story shows that in the case of anti-Semites, hatred trumps ideology. Those who hate us will find any ideological justification, on the left, on the right, in Islam, in Christianity — and Jews will find excuses for them even in Judaism itself.

As Bari Weiss of the New York Times accurately noted, anti-Semitism is, at its core, a conspiracy theory. Remarkably, the three stripes of anti-Semitism believe in the same basic elements of that conspiracy theory. They disagree about government policies but agree that Jews control the government. They all either deny the Holocaust or use it as a weapon to further victimize Jews (“Israelis are the new Nazis”). They exaggerate the role that Jews have in world affairs; either a single Jewish financier is creating a refugee crisis in Hungary, or a secret cabal of Jews dictates American policy through “the Benjamins.”

The three branches of the monstrous tree of anti-Semitism share the same root stories: Jews are too powerful; Jews manipulate the world; Jews are not loyal; Jews are the obstacle between us and our goals. That’s why it was so easy for Soral to move from left to right to being supported by Islamic fundamentalism."

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Seeking a more-joyful Judaism

Start here.

We have two choices.

Either we can stay home almost every Friday night and read the divrei Torah that we print out before Shabbat (Sabbath) every week.

Or we can go back to schlepping to shul on Shabbat by subway and attend a tuneful Kabbalat Shabbat service elsewhere.

It's just sad to be stuck in a synagogue that's lucky to get a minyan on a Shabbat morning, and even more lucky to get a minyan on a Yom Tov (holiday) that happens to fall on a weekday (because most non-Orthodox Jews won't take the day off).

We can't afford to move, but we still want a joyous Jewish life, and we're not going to find one here.

 See also I'm still on the fringe, after all these years.

On being counted for a minyan

I've decided that I've been unfair to an Orthodox acquaintance.

I've been rather taken aback by the fact that she almost never goes to synagogue on Shabbat (Sabbath) or Chagim (holidays) despite the fact that she's never been married, has no children, and is not taking care of elderly parents or anyone other than herself.  If the traditional explanation for why women are not, by Orthodox interpretation of halachah (Jewish religious law), required to pray three times every day, preferably with a minyan, is that their primary responsibility is to take care of other people, presumably to enable those who are required to pray thrice daily to fulfill their obligation,* then why should any woman who doesn't have any such responsibilities still be exempt?

[*See AnDat's comment to my Tuesday, November 13, 2012 post, A problem with the language of chiyuv (obligation), for her explanation of "hechsher mitzvah"--I can't find another explanation online.]

But I've concluded that my attitude does not take into account the obvious fact that expecting someone to go to synagogue when no one really cares whether they're there or not and they can just as easily pray at home is simply asking too much.

When one is counted for a minyan, however, the whole picture changes.

Our congregation is now so small that I don't dare skip going to morning services on a Shabbat or Chag (except for health reasons), lest our congregation not have a minyan for a Torah reading.

Evening services, when we almost never get a minyan anyway, are another matter.

And therein lies another tale.

Stay tuned for my next post.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Welcome me to the 21st Century--finally :)

Our son has been bugging me for ages to create Facebook and Twitter accounts, even though I'm not fond of Twitter and don't want to have my life taken over by Facebook--he says that, with any luck, those accounts will direct more readers to this blog.

But what finally convinced me was finding out that Rabbi Shai Held posts on Facebook and that I couldn't read his posts unless I had a Facebook account.

My husband and I have been attending classes and lectures at Hadar since the summer of 2009, and have always found Rabbi Held to be an excellent (and humorous) teacher.  We also read every one of his Divrei Torah that are posted on the Hadar website when they first appeared in our e-mail inboxes.  I simply couldn't resist the opportunity to read (and watch videos of) his words between in-person classes and  lectures, and while awaiting his next publication.

So, better late than never, I'm copying Rabbi Held's March 15 Facebook post (because reading and publishing posts is what a nut case like me does for fun after eye surgery):

"Sometimes I think an awful lot comes down to one very simple thing: how universal is your notion of shared humanity?

As I've written elsewhere, "Where this is concerned, the history of human civilization is filled with one horrific failure after another. White people still struggle to see that people of color are no less human, and no less precious than they; people who are wealthy often forget that people who are poor are no less human, and no less precious, than they; people who are able-bodied all too often fail to see that people with disabilities are no less human, and no less precious, than they; and people who are straight are just beginning to see that people of varying sexual orientations and identities are no less human, and no less precious, than they."

When we die, among the questions the heavenly court will ask us is: Did you dehumanize others? Did you stand by silently while others dehumanized? Did the shared humanity of all those born of human parents motivate, challenge, and inspire you?"


I'm home from the hospital

Thus far, I've had no pain, but the anesthesia hasn't completely worn off yet--I have only a limited sense of touch on my forehead--so I'll have to wait and see.  Many thanks to my husband, who took me there and brought me home--he's currently in the kitchen making me scrambled eggs, since I haven't eaten any protein since 8:30 this morning.

My follow-up appointment with my eye surgeon isn't until Wednesday night, so, assuming that I have neither pain nor vision problems, maybe I'll try telecommuting next week.

Shabbat Shalom in advance.

For the benefit of those can see only this post because they clicked on my link to it, here's the previous post with a link to the beginning of my eye-surgery saga.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

I'm getting poked in the eye again--yep, more surgery

This is getting boringly predictable--it seems as if I'm having a surgical date with an eye doctor every few years (which, I suppose, is an improvement over my former record of having eye surgery every few months).  Oh, well, someone has to pay the ophthalmic surgeons' kids' college tuition.  :)  So tomorrow's the day they try to straighten out the muscles in my eye in order to get my eye to straighten out--going cross-eyed all the time is getting really annoying.  Please keep Leah bat Esther v'Ozer in your thoughts and/or prayers.
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