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February 24, 2012

LimmudLA and Moving into Center Stage

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/limmudla_and_moving_into_center_stage_20120224/

For many years, I’ve been on the sidelines of LimmudLA, hearing about it from friends and colleagues but not sure how it would go with a child who has developmental disabilities

Last Sunday, Danny and I spent the day at LimmudLA (which is held in Costa Mesa) and finally got the chance to see what all the fuss was about. It was kind of like an old-school 60s Teach-in, combined with eastern/spiritual/hippie intersecting with funky new perspectives on old texts.

I had signed Danny up for childcare ahead of time using the online form, and went into some detail about his special needs, only no one seemed to have read. Oh well. Why should Limmud be different from all the other special needs paperwork I dutifully fill out, only to discover that the main information most groups really want to know are 1) Is he allergic to nuts, and 2) What’s my cell number?

I digress. The ages 5-8 childcare room worked out fine since one of the nice teenage babysitters knew Danny from Friendship Circle LA and was comfortable letting him play with all the wooden blocks and books, even if he laid down on the floor and took off his socks and shoes. The other kids stared at first, but seemed just fine with him after awhile.

While Danny was in childcare, I attended two very “grown up” sessions, one with David Siegel, the new Consul General of Israel, talking about shifting the conversation around Israel from the ongoing conflict to the start up successes and innovations coming out from that tiny sliver of land in the Middle East.  The other session I went to on my own was the SRO “Stories From the Fringe: A New Play”, which was a reader’s theater presentation, telling the stories of 18 prominent women rabbis, and made me want to laugh and cry, often close together.

I took Danny out of childcare for an early lunch, and then decided to take him with me to the Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial art dance) workshop. While he was sitting in his oversize stroller, I decided to give the dance steps a try, and figured Danny could just watch from the sidelines. But before I knew it, a lovely young women with henna tattoos (at least I think that’s what they were), wheeled him over to the drum area and helped him play around with those.  The dance steps were fun, but when it came time to get more athletic and kick my leg over my partner’s head, and I felt my muscles twinge, I was reminded that I really do need to get more exercise.  Instead, Danny and I became drum partners, pounding out the dub-dub-DUB rhythm that came easily to the rest of the group, but required my full focus.

Last, but certainly not least, Danny and I were part of a family panel on Jewish Special Needs called, “Better Together: A Presentation and Panel With Teens Who Have Autism and Other Special Needs” led by my friend and fellow short-person, Elaine Hall, founder of the Miracle Project, and Director of the Vista Inspire Program at Vista Del Mar. The panel consisted of other parents and older teens that we have gotten to know over the years at the Tikvah Program at Valley Beth Shalom and the Miracle Project. We’ve been through a lot together including the thrill of seeing our kids on the stage, having a B’nai Mitzvah and the sadder parts of life such as divorce, illness, even losing a parent. It was both familiar and strange to be taking our “show on the road” and sharing our lives as Jewish families raising children with special needs. Although there wasn’t a huge crowd in the room, it was enough to feel that our issue was finally moving from a sideshow into the center stage.

PS Be sure to read Julie Fax’s excellent and in-depth coverage of young Jewish adults finding their independence at http://www.jewishjournal.com/cover_story/article/finding_their_place_20120222/

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