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Jewish Journal

LimmudLA Fest, Special Needs Edition

by Michelle K. Wolf

August 23, 2013 | 6:01 pm

My motivations for attending LimmudLA last week were far from spiritual—I didn’t feel like cooking on my birthday weekend, and looked forward to being away at camp, far from a long to-do list of personal and professional tasks.

So, away we went to the Brandeis-Bardin Campus, not really sure how it would work bringing along our teenage son Danny who has significant developmental disabilities.  If the sessions weren’t a good fit for Danny, and if the onsite childcare didn’t work out, we would simply just take turns going to the many options available – text study of many types, history,  art, Krav Maga (Israeli self-defense), Jewish story telling and much more. See the full Jewish Journal article on LimmudLA Fest here.

With help from Akiko Yonekawa, a Limmud LA Fest Co-Chair and who works at the camp, we had a comfortable, disabled-access cabin, with a walk-in shower and grab bars in the bathroom, plus we were located close enough to most of the action for Danny to use his walker. There were ramps to get up and down the hilly area, although it was a workout to push a wheelchair up to the top.

As it turned out, the biggest limitation to my participation was a nasty headache/sore throat that forced me to rest instead of attending as many sessions as I wanted to. Danny loved the joyful, eclectic outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat service with talented singer/songwriter Noami Less, and felt at home at the traditional egalitarian minyan held both Friday night and Saturday morning.

The childcare staff from Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa were fine with us dropping off Danny for a few hours here and there, giving us time to take a walk around and visit the horses (one of them gobbled up my spare banana in a single gulp) or attend a more abstract, intellectual session that would be lost on Danny.

I led a session on “Special Needs and the Jewish Tradition” attended by a small but highly engaged group of attendees, including a middle-aged woman who is hearing-impaired and also having physical challenges. She shared with the group that when a Rabbi once said “deaf and dumb” she was furious, since the two attributes aren’t automatically linked together.

LimmudLA is part of global movement of thousands of Jews in more than 60 locations worldwide who facilitate, participate in, and are passionate about Jewish learning in all of its forms, and is all about diversity, community and volunteerism.

I was so glad to find that Limmud LA lived up to those ideals and created an inclusive, welcoming environment that can serve as a model for the whole Jewish community year-round.

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