Sunday, October 2, 2016

Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashanah 5777

I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year. This is the time of year when the Jewish People sit and contemplate the future. It is a time when we review what we did right and what we did wrong in the year just completed. We try to figure out how to make ourselves better people.

As with our secular New Year resolutions, we tend to not always live up to our own expectations, which may make us feel inadequate at times. But I like to think that even if we fall short at least we gave it the old "college try." As long as our gestures were done with a pure heart then we are doing a good thing.

The Jewish New Year is also a time when we pray for a better world. Considering the worldwide news, I think, and this is my personal perspective, that the world needs some understanding, love and compassion. There are parts of the world that are on fire. While there is very little that we as individuals can do to stem this evil, we can demand from our leaders a realistic and humanitarian approach to this modern day genocide. Words sometimes are not enough. Platitudes, cajoling and appeasement of evil only gets you more evil.

Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate, who died this past year, would remind us:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.”

I know that many of us in the US live afraid. Residing in New York City, and having lived through 9/11 and the recent bombing attempts, I understand how the unknown can be frightening. Thousands of years of Jewish history has also taught the Jewish people what it is to be persecuted, slaughtered, exiled and scapegoated. Sadly, alot of the antisemitism that we have dealt with for thousands of years is making a roaring comeback.  But also being Jewish I understand that if you allow yourself to be drawn into fear, if you allow yourself to be drawn into hate, then what you do is destroy all that humanity holds dear. What you destroy is yourself and your soul.

No I have no magic bullet or magic idea on what to do. But I do know that the answers are greater than one individual and beyond the reach of the average humanbeing. I suppose the rabbis always knew that too, for in the Talmud, the Jewish book of laws,  it says:

Whoever saves one life, it is as if they have saved an entire world. 

We are not expected to be able to save the world. But we can make a difference in our day-to-day. We have a Hebrew saying for this endeavor and it is called Tikkun Olam. Sadly we find that many in our world have been trying to use this ancient Jewish custom for political purposes to invalidate what others believe when it comes to modern day politics (more about that at another time). But doing the right thing is not dependent upon politics, it is part of the human condition. Remember that the Torah, what Christians call the Old testament, exhorts us to do what is right:

Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.

We are not commanded to seek law. We are not commanded to seek money. We are not commanded to seek privilege. We are commanded to do what is right, honest, and just.

So as you go forth into your world today and every day to come, think whether you are being your best. Think whether you could be more understanding, more compassionate, and more giving.

There is a tradition that when God hears the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, he opens the Book of Life, to decide who will live and who will die; who will be rich and who will be poor; who will be healthy and who will be sick....The Book is closed at the end of the Days of Awe on Yom Kippur with a mighty Shofar blast. We have ten days to convince God that we are worthy of his mercy.

So to all of my friends, Jews and Gentiles alike. May God bless you and keep you. May he shine his countenance upon you. May he give you peace.

Shanah Tova Umetukah and  Gmar Hatimah Tovah
Happy New Year and May you be inscribed for a Good Year

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Auditory Processing: The Pain of Hearing Shofar

In my latest blog, I discuss how having auditory processing disorder has caused our family to change what otherwise would be a typical religious activity of hearing the shofar, or ram's horn, blown during the Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, holiday.

The purpose of blowing the shofar, is to signal to God that it is time to open up the Book of Life. It is during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that God decides your year to come.

But as with many things that come with raising autistic children holiday traditions are some of the things you change. Holidays: Permission Granted to Celebrate as You Please.


The days are getting shorter, and the shadows are getting longer. Rosh Hashanah is around the corner. 

Growing up I remember being taught that on Rosh Hashanah it is a mitzvah to hear shofar. 

Yet as a family, we have not heard shofar for decades. It is simply too painful for my sons.

No, we are not dealing with an emotional trauma. This pain is caused by a physical, yet unseen disability: Auditory processing disorder. A disability, that can stand alone, but is very common in those with autism spectrum disorders.

Initially, we believed that auditory processing was merely a glitch in the uptake of oral information. There needed to be a pause for those with this processing issue to organize, understand, and assimilate the information being presented. But, auditory processing issues are not simply the inability to process oral information in real time. It can also lead to severe pain when faced with certain sounds; anything from a horn beep, to the din of a school cafeteria, to the rush of city traffic.

Friday, September 9, 2016

15 Years Later: 9/11 Remembered

It was the morning that changed the world. It brought us out of our euphoria of a post Cold War environment. Whether we liked it or not, a new enemy had arisen and it sought to destroy everything we hold dear-our liberal ideas of freedom and human rights.

While the wars that occurred, due to this attack on America, will be debated by historians for generations, the reality is that on that day 3,000 people died for no other reason that they lived, worked, and loved in the United States of America.We found out that we were hated merely because we did not follow an extremist form of a religion. A religion, by the way, that as with all religions, is able to flourish and grow in the USA. We are hated because we believe in diversity and live with the goal of respecting all peoples worldwide.

No we are not a perfect nation. Yes, as a nation, we have made and continue to make mistakes. But we are a brave people. We are able to think, analyze and review our own problems, issues and wrongdoings. We argue. We yell. We call each other names. We, the American people, fight the good fight. But ultimately, our hope is to bring the freedoms we hold deal, enshrined in the US Constitution, to people all over the world. In fact, these rights make up the platform of the Declaration of Human Rights. An agreement signed by the vast majority of nations of the world.

And no, all cultures are not equal and deserving of respect. If your religion, if your culture, destroys the hopes and dreams, and the right to life and freedom of others, and half of your population because of their gender, then you are not entitled to respect. If your religion and culture gives you permission to massacre nonbelievers (even members of your own religion whom you deem heretics) then you are not entitled to respect. You are most certainly not entitled to be free from criticism.

There is nothing wrong with believing that all people "are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

It has been 15 years since that fateful morning when America arose from her slumber. At times the American people have grown tired and weary from the reality of the world. There are too many who think that ignoring what is happening around the world, will keep us safe. But simply because you take no interest in politics, doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. Let us not hide ourselves in fear, angst, or selfishness.

Let us fight the good fight. Let us always strive to do what is right, not what is easy. We have never shirked from our place, and responsibilities, in the world. That is what it means to be an American. That is why, the United States of America is the shining beacon on the hill.


And no it is not easy to forget the destruction of the World trade Center, especially when the hubby works across the street from the Freedom Tower.

A photo posted by Elise (@raisingasdkids) on

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I've Decided on a Future of Joy, Hope and Happiness

I have the privilege of authoring a blog over at The Times of Israel, where I continue to write about special needs and parenting on the autism spectrum. Following is my latest blog. I am writing about the three week period of mourning prior to, and about, the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'av; what it is and what it means to me considering the year I have just lived through. I hope what I wrote speaks to you, no matter your faith, creed or ethnicity.

I've Decided on a Future of Joy, Hope and Happiness.