Temple Israel hosts Disability Awareness Shabbat

by | Mar 21, 2014 | Other News

Temple Israel’s second annual Disability Awareness Shabbat took place on Saturday, March 1 with Colleen Miller, executive director of disAbility Law Center of Virginia, as the featured speaker. The center serves as a non-profit law firm for addressing issues that affect people with disabilities.

Miller addressed a variety of topics including the importance of changing the way people with disabilities are thought of and talked about. She contrasted the terms “wheelchair-bound person” and “person with a wheelchair.” With the latter, the person is emphasized, not the disability.

Several disabled members of Temple Israel participated in the service, including Daniel Miller, Daniel Hecht and Emily Panitz, all who regularly attend services. Muriel Hecht arranged the event. She and her husband, Gary, joined the temple many years ago because “everyone was so welcoming to their autistic son, Daniel.”

Copies of an article written by Daniel Hecht entitled, “My Name is Daniel Not Autism,” were also available. “Nobody should have to feel badly about being different. It is easy for others to only see strange behaviors rather than the real person.… Most autistic people want to be friends and make smart choices as much or more than anyone else…I feel the most important thing any of us can do is to be ourselves and accept others for who they are.”

Rabbi Michael Panitz commented, “In my tenure as rabbi of Temple Israel, I have had the privilege of seeing our congregation embrace, ever more fully, an inclusive definition of community, in which differently abled people are welcomed and contribute, each according to his own uniqueness. This is a recognition that, apart from all of our different skills and qualities, we share in the divine image.”