Friday, November 17, 2017
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Mollie Herz on Emor
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Early Mother’s Day. It’s truly amazing to have the mothers in my life including my mom, my grandma, my MomMom, and my nanny. I actually want to honor my mom in another way, by talking about the important work she does. My mom works in a program called JumpStart that helps preschool children with special needs. I started helping at Jumpstart in the 4th grade. Actually most of the JumpStart ladies are here today.
While I am at JumpStart I get to help the kids when they have music, which I really love. I also help at circle time, where I help them bang on a drum or simply reading them a story. Jumpstart has helped me realize that everyone is special in their own way. For me it doesn’t matter if you have Autism or Down Syndrome, you still treat people like anyone else. From helping out so much, I’ve developed a soft spot for kids with special need. I prefer not to say the word disabilities because they all have abilities ---just different. I really love the kid’s there they are cute, sweet and so much fun to play with.
This brings me to my mitzvah project. My mitzvah project is Swim Angelfish. This is where I work with kids of all ages in the swimming pool. I chose Angelfish because I love to swim and have been a part of a swim team with the Italian Center Orcas for three years now. While working with Swim Angelfish, I have learned that the most frequent cause of death for a child with Autism is drowning. I have been really lucky to work with a very special person, Ailene, who has taught me how to work with kids with special needs in the water. Working with the kids helps build their core strength so that they are able to do other things outside of the pool. When I am in the pool with the kids, I help them by playing ball, kicking their legs or just splashing around. All of these different activities help to strengthen their bodies in different ways. I am proud to come from a family that loves to work and help kids with ALL different abilities.
It came to a bit of a shock for me to see that my portion Emor talks about priests with different abilities who were not allowed to lead services. As it says in Leviticus chapter 21 verse 18, the Lord told Moses to speak to Aaron and say to him that any man among your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect, shall not come near to offer up his God's food. Some Rabbi’s say it was because the Torah was looking for the perfection in their leaders, no blemishes and no past marriage’s. But other Jewish leaders, including rabbis and cantors, can have physical challenges. Elsewhere in the bible there are examples of people who have challenges but equally close to G-d. Moses had difficulty speaking, yet he was our greatest leader of all time. And there was Leah, Jacob’s wife who had weak eyes.
Working so much with people who are different has taught me a lot. People who are less able to walk might be able to swim better. People who might not see as well may be able to hear. We are all unique- we are all special. We are our own person, each of us with very special needs. And like I’ve always said “be yourself because everyone else is taken”. Which means don’t try to be what you are not BE YOURSELF!!