Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

Yad HaChazakah-JDEC

This is about what I did this morning and afternoon.

No. It's about an organization that is filling a niche and will improve many lives.


It's about my friend Sharon. Sharon Shapiro. Remember that name.

A lot of disabled people talk about being invisible and inaudible. Sharon has NEVER let that happen to her - just try to shut her up, or lose her in a crowd. She won't let you. And if it takes a while to understand what she's saying, it's worth the time, because she has a biting, caustic wit (which is probably how she manages to stay with her very quirky husband. We love him, but he's...out there.) She's been an advocate for the disabled her entire life - she even took on the MTA to provide more access on public transport. And won. Because of her, the bima in our synagogue - the platform on which we place the sefer torah - is on ground level instead of being raised up. Because of her, we look into accessibility for shul events. Synagogues can be exempt, you see, from ADA compliance. Not us - and we don't want to be.

A couple of years ago, she quit her job (arranging for independent and assisted living) to form this organization, Yad HaChazakah-JDEC, which is dedicated to helping Orthodox Jewish people with visible and invisible disablities with the problems unique to them (including the really sad one of the *siblings* of disabled people not being able to find marriage partners). They're there to help the people find the solutions themselves, and to not be ignored, shunted aside, or considered just a "wheelchair", as the main speaker put it.

As you can see in the website, there is more - the board is composed 51% of people who both have social service backgrounds and are themselves disabled in obvious and nonobvious ways. Why? Because who better to speak and work for the disabled? I know a lot of them, and they are all amazing in one form or another.

Although none so much as Sharon.

Today was the launch - a bagel and cream cheese brunch with more speakers than time. Sharon managed to corrall four different politicians to speak there, including a state senator from an entirely different district but who is, he said in his short, to the point speech, passionate about the rights of others and in allowing them to speak of their own experience. As he said, no one has the right to judge someone else's pain. We were also impressed with a city council man, Michael Nelson, who wore his own yarmulke and answered all questions fully and honestly. We were less impressed with the NYC Commissioner of People With Disabilities, who never actually answered a question.

Although it did provide an interesting moment when his guide dog interacted badly with someone else's.

The fourth was Dov Hikind, who was mostly impressed with Sharon. (She got him to speak by choosing to go to the same hotel for Sukkot. They were going to a hotel anyway, you see...)

It was a remarkable time,and it is a remarkable organization.

And I sat with a bunch of people from our shul, and we all were surprised that anyone would think Sharon was anything less than remarkable herself.

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