This is a painful opinion piece from this week’s New York Jewish Week. Devorah Zlochower and Rabbi Dov Linzer are luminaries in the progressive/open Orthodox world. One of them is a beloved former teacher of mine, and maybe of yours, too. The two of them write about how they have begun to withdraw from the Jewish community because of how their children with invisible disabilities have been treated (or not treated). That these particular two people feel so alienated and so angry at the Jewish establishment speaks volumes.
We are the parents of two children with what are often termed “invisible disabilities.” Invisible disabilities can include learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and Asperger’s syndrome, Tourette’s syndrome and other tic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders, mood disorders and behavioral disorders…. More profoundly, these disabilities are invisible because these children have become invisible in our community. Synagogues do not provide Shabbat programming for children who cannot handle the standard Shabbat groups or junior congregation. Day schools do not educate many of these children, and prayer services in synagogue are not welcoming places for these families…
While there have been a number of stories in the Jewish media recently about the rare programs that do exist, more often, families like ours hear that such programs are too expensive and serve too few children to make them viable. We in turn have pulled away from the community in our search to have our children’s needs met… We have asked for help in the past, but we have been told “no” so many times that by now we feel it is futile to ask. And we are angry — angry because our children survive by our advocating for them, and advocacy is not always pretty… We can’t do it alone. We are overextended emotionally and financially. We worry every day about our children’s future. Will they be able to make a living? Will they marry? How will they manage when we are gone? And we have current worries, too. Will we be able to continue to afford the education, the therapies, and the medications that our children need?
We have been forced to accept that we will not find a place for our children in the Jewish day schools, but we can no longer tolerate that this extends to our synagogues as well. For our children, inclusion in the prayer services and programming at synagogue is a last chance to be part of the Jewish community, and they are being pushed out with both hands.
Full article here.
If even the rock stars are having such a difficult time, how much harder must it be for everyone else struggling with similar issues? Yashar koach to them for sharing their story.