WINTER 2016 T H E
R A Y I M
M A G A Z I N E
SPARKS M AGA Z I N E
A project by Rayim, Inc.
Rabbi Jacob Freund, Founder & CEO
Sarah Kraus Executive Director
Editorial Board Editorial Director
Israel Kraus Editor-in-Chief
M. Deutsch Project Manager
Dini Landau Contributing Editor
Ruchel Einhorn Graphic Design & Layout
Design and Print 845.782.3382
Sparks Magazine. Published by Rayim, Inc. A non-profit agency providing services for people with disabilities in the State of New York. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, in any form without the prior written permission from publisher is strictly prohibited. Sparks and Rayim assume no responsibility for the contents of the articles and opinions expressed in the articles.
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Editorial Sarah Kraus
Seasonal Sparks By: Israel Fried
Visions Of Greatness
By: Rochel Bodek
Tips for Tips
By: Chani Juravel, LCSW
By: Sheindy Weiner
The Son Rise Program
By: R. Schiff
Son Rise - How it Works Straight Talk
By: Rabbi Shais Taub
By: Chavi Nussbaum
Sparks in Perspective: A Balancing Act
By: M. Deutsch
By: Esty Friedman
By: Draizy Lemberger
Pillars of Strength
By: Dini Landau
Rayim's Bulletin Board
By: Adina Jacobs
By: Malky Stein
Sparkling For Siblings By: Malky Stein
It was during a routine office meeting that we devoted lots of time to debating whether we at Rayim were ready to issue another edition of the “Sparks” magazine. We weighed all the pros and cons. We considered the expenses, the hours of additional work, and the overwhelming deadline pressures it would entail. It was not an easy decision, but thankfully, here we are! When readers sip a cup of coffee, entertained by the excellent articles and creative graphics, it is hard for them to imagine what getting to the end product involves. So many questions need to be answered. Is now the right time? What is our theme? How do we define it? Which material do we accept? Reject? Which staff members do we assign to which project? Does it affect their work productivity? Where do we get the resources to fund it? Who reviews for accuracy and reliability? There are so many things that need to be clarified and resolved before the first word is even written. So what was the deciding factor that swayed us to go ahead?
Later, during the same day that we had our meeting, I visited a shopping center in our community and bumped into a mother, holding hands and walking with a precious little boy at her side. This child has some special needs and his name had come up in the past in the form of a request to secure funding for a therapeutic/supportive device. We greeted each other and moved on. But then, after a second, it struck me. Is this child actually walking on his own? I turned back and looked again, and at that moment the mother too turned around and looked at me. It was the start of a very eye-opening conversation.
To make a long story short, a while ago she had been directed to our office to obtain funding for a certain medical expense she could not afford. For various reasons, Rayim denied the request but she remained on Rayim’s mailing list. She therefore received our Sparks magazine, and read a whole article about a certain type of innovative therapy/treatment called Feldenkreis. The rest, as they say, is history. The little boy walking, with the support and warmth of his mother’s holding his hand (literally and figuratively), was testimony to the far reaches and power of “Sparks” magazine. The answer was crystal clear.
A decision was made to once again bring to the public and our dear readers and consumers another edition of the Rayim “Sparks” magazine. You are now holding the result of it all. I’d like to congratulate the editorial team for a beautiful finished product, a masterpiece that will iy’”h change lives and leave a huge impact on those who read it. “Sparks” is the Rayim dream in action, in the written word. Of course, it is only Hashem who can repay the hard work and the long hours that were devoted to realizing our project successfully.
Working for Rayim, and especially the publication of this magazine, is a personal z’chiya. I am forever grateful to the Ribono shel Olam for giving me the opportunity on a daily basis to have a part in this avodas hakodesh. May we together be zoche to yeshuous, refuous, and besiros tovos.
By: Israel Fried
6 | SPARKS
שבת שירה- פרשת בשלח
s we are about to celebrate Shabbos Shira and its meaningful message hakoros hatov, let us take a look at
the significance of this special Shabbos. Shabbos
Shira is that memorable time of year when we
demonstrate to our children how we honor and recognize all living species in this world. We also model for them first-hand how important it
is to acknowledge those who have helped us. Yet, aside from the traditional message, the same week’s Torah portion also conveys a deeper message.
Parshas B’shalach tells us the story of kriyas
yam suf. It is known that the biggest hisgalus,
emunah, went forward as Hashem commanded, and jumped into the sea! He was
a living example of genuine
bitachon without any doubts or
reservations. That moment, in the z'chus of his
act of strength and unquestioning faith, Hashem
split the sea and His children walked through in song and dance. It was the degree of emunah that klal yisroel achieved at that time, emunah in the
darkest of moments, that enabled them to merit
the experience of reaching the highest levels of ruach hakodesh.
We have a rich history replete with stories
revelation that klal yisroel experienced since the
holiest nevuah didn’t come close to what a simple
murder, we have remained determined and
world was created was when Hashem split the sea for them. Chazal tell us that the Navi Yecheskel’s
maid witnessed during kriyas yam suf. Yecheskel
Hanavi was one of the biggest prophets in Jewish
history. What was it that gave a simple maid the ability to reach such extraordinary heights?
To understand the answer to this question,
we must look at the pasuk that precedes the splitting of the sea. "דבר אל בני ישראל ויסעו...",
Hashem told Moshe Rabeinu that klal Yisroel
should go forward. Geographically, this was impossible; going forward meant heading
perseverance in the face of ongoing persecution
and torture. Through expulsions and mass strong in our faith. However, throughout the
generations, our emunah didn’t only enable us to keep going; it was the foundation that constantly elevated our connection to Hashem.
Because becoming closer to our Tatteh in
Himmel is not just a result of overcoming our
nisyonos; it is the reason why Hashem sent us that nisayon to begin with.
As we celebrate Shabbos Shira and krias yam
suf this year, may we be zoche that its hashpa’ah
directly into the sea.
help us overcome our challenges and strengthen
demonstrated his mesiras nefesh and steadfast
השכינהwe yearn for.
The hester panim and confusion were
frightening. But then, Nachshon ben Aminadav
our emunah in Hashem, and that once again,
very soon, we experience the clarity and התגלות
SPARKS | 7
GREATNESS • Rochel Bodek •
8 | SPARKS
“Insight beyond Eyesight” “When You Learn, Teach, When You Get, Give”. (Maya Angelou)
“Giving is a Gift to Oneself” (Rabbi Yechiel Spero)
he above verses are my mottos, my
age. Up to the age of ten or so, with frequent
appreciate thier deep meaning, and, it’s still a work in progress….
print and go about my daily living activities with nary a hitch. As I approached my teen years, my
ambition, my messages for life, although it took a long journey for me to come to
My father is legally blind due to Retinitis
Pigmentosa (RP) and my mother has Post-Polio Syndrome and is wheelchair-bound. Nevertheless, our home was a fairly stable one and my childhood
was uneventful. There were times where I felt
somewhat self-conscious of my parents because of their disabilities, but for the most part, I was
very proud of them and tried to help out as much as possible.
I started wearing eyeglasses at a very young
prescription adjustments, my vision was relatively
correctible. I had enough sight to read a standard
eyesight began to further deteriorate to an extent
beyond correction with glasses. I was diagnosed with RP, the same eye condition as my father and
siblings. At around age thirteen, I was officially classified as legally blind.
What does legally blind imply in laymen’s
terms? Perfect vision is 20/20. That means that
one can see everything well and clearly from a
twenty feet distance. To be considered legally
blind one has to have 20/200 vision, which means Winter/2016
SPARKS | 9
that what you would see from twenty feet away, i.e.
My husband is a paraplegic due to a neuroblastoma
difference. (This categorization varies from country to
independent person. We both share the philosophy
the big E, that person would see it as if it would be from a distance of two hundred feet. That is a huge country, I am not sure why. There are some countries
where the criteria is 20/350, so a person has to have much weaker vision in order to be classified as legally
blind and to be eligible for services, compensation and
accommodations.) There are some people who are totally blind and have no light perception at all, and some who have mild light perception.
I struggled through my adolescence with the
emotional crises of regular teen-hood compounded by my visual impairment. It was extremely difficult for me to accept that I would never see ‘perfectly’ again, be
stigmatized as ‘disabled’, and have to be dependent on others in so many ways. I felt hopeless and despondent.
These issues (which I would only identify years later in ‘20/20 hindsight’) define some characteristics of my personality: yearning for perfection and desire for independence. I couldn’t see how I could have a future with a lack in these abilities.
It took a lot of strength and courage, support
from family and friends, as well as professional
that occurred during his youth. He uses a wheelchair to get around, yet he’s a very capable, bright, and
of being as independent and productive as possible despite our disabilities. We are proponents of focusing
on abilities and trying to make the best of what life
throws at us. This is easier said than done of course, but being where I am today certainly proves that we invest tremendous effort to live by this principle.
B”H, my husband and I were gebentched with
adorable twin boys who are now eight years old.
Although there were some challenges along the way
as parents with limitations, we try to raise our kids and provide them with the best chinuch we can.
Our children are aware of our disabilities and its ramifications, as we are very open with them about it.
Even though we do some things differently than other parents, we invest our utmost efforts to provide our children with a relatively normal upbringing. • •
So, at this point how does my daily routine differ
intervention, for me to come to terms with my
from yours? How do I go about the usual stuff with
that I could strive for aspirations despite my vision
my husband and children, make sure the laundry
vision loss. I began to change my outlook on what
a meaningful life is all about. Once I determined
impairment, I started exploring options of building my future, of persevering. I eventually learned how to use a special magnifying screen known as the CCTV,
which enlarges any text placed underneath a lens and the size and color can be adjusted. I taught myself how
to write with this equipment as well. I subsequently got a CCTV at school, which facilitated my academic
progress. I also learned how to read and write Braille
with the kind coaching and guidance of my Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) provided by the local school district. Furthermore, my TVI ordered some
of my English textbooks in audio version on cassettes and some of my books in Braille. I studied hard in high school and excelled academically.
The year after I graduated I got married. Mazel Tov!
10 | SPARKS
limited vision? Really my day is probably more similar
to yours than you think. I too have to be there for is tackled, do homework with the kids, get to work on time, cook, socialize a little, shop, run errands,
pay bills, keep dentist appointments, and still find
time to enjoy the gift of my family and my health. Sounds familiar? Ok. Ok. So I do have to make some
accommodations here and there, but by and large the pattern of our days probably follow the same trail.
How do I know what to wear in the morning? How
do I know which skirt matches which top? Which
jacket belongs to which twin? When the eggs are boiling? What time it is? Most solutions are practical
and simple, and like everything else, take getting used to.
I received Rehabilitation services through the
Association for the Visually Impaired (AVI), a local
exactly where they belong,
visually impaired. My rehab
and, B”H, they are pretty
teacher provided me with
good at it.
various items and tips to help me run my household
more independently and
appliances and devices so
that I could operate them
points, so I could know how
tactile dot stickers to mark
dial by the three, six, nine
gave me a Braille labeler and
next to each oven and gas
I concentrate on buying
efficiently. For instance, she
on my own. We put dots
A device used to print braille to assist in labeling items.
etc. I try to make some differentiation
my twin boy’s clothing too.
For example their jackets
high the flame was. Additionally, she presented me
are different sizes, I put a button on one tag. When
the amounts I can get to the exact measurements
shopping with a companion who knows me and what
with individualized measuring cups and spoons; an
individual ¼ cup, a ½ cup 1 cup, so by size and adding when preparing food.
We then came up with a solution for measuring the
formula and water when making bottles for my twins.
My teacher cut special grooves in the bottles by the right measurement mark so I could feel the spot.
Some people have the mistaken notion that people
who are able “read” Braille by feeling the dots, can
also feel raised numbers and letters, like on a bottle or credit card. But, it’s really very different and I
can’t know which card I want to use based on that. So
how do I choose the insurance or credit card I need?
I try to be very organized. Looking for things is very time-consuming and frustrating so I create a system
in my pocketbook, in my wallet, in my drawers.
For example, I keep twenty and fifty dollar bills in different compartments in my wallet. I keep different credit cards and ID cards in different pockets, so that I am confident I am using the right one without doublechecking or asking for assistance.
The same goes for the fridge and kitchen cabinets.
I am very meticulous about putting specific things in
their designated places so I don’t have to fumble to find what I need. I try to teach my husband and my children to follow the same system in placing things
the tag fell off, that became my “siman” for which
one belongs to whom. For color and style I always go I am comfortable with. As far as cleanliness goes, it’s usually my husband who double-checks so it’s, “Ask Totty.”
My kids are not the only “things” that have to be
kept clean. My kitchen and the rest of my home fall
into the same category. I’ve found creative, innovative,
ways to do that and with the help of my husband and children, we manage well, B”H. When I sweep the
floor, I follow the same thorough pattern every time, a system that ensures I don’t miss any spaces. I also get down on my hands and knees, (yes!), and feel with my
hands if I did a good job. I wash my counters again and
go over them with my hands to feel if any tiny crumb or dirt escaped my vigorous sponge-down.
I tell time by using a talking watch. It was one of the
gadgets my teacher offered me, but it took a while for
me to start using it, since I was self-conscious about
making it talk in public. Eventually I got used to it and have a talking watch at all times to this day.
Going to the supermarket is another challenge. I
pull my cart behind me rather than push it ahead of
me, so I generously “spare” some people's toes and ankles. Occasionally, I use my portable CCTV to “read”
cereal boxes, detergents and the like, and my kids Winter/2016
SPARKS | 11
enjoy helping me. I learned to ask for help when I need
for the time being, my cane remained in my speech
and if there is a salad bar or Viennese table, I will ask
an old jingle would come to mind. Remember how
it, especially when choosing loose vegetables.
By simchas, for exmple, I ask what’s on my plate,
someone to tell me what’s available and to serve me. I rather not touch the food and mess things up. In that way, I can have my cake and eat it too!
I smell things before others around me do, and often
I hear things other people don’t pick up. I don’t think
my senses are stronger, I think I compensate for my
vision by being more attuned to my surroundings. I’ve been asked if the fact that I had good vision during my
youth makes life easier, and the answer is definitely yes. If things are described to me, like specific shape, color, size, etc., my memory is very helpful in getting
me to visualize what I can’t see. As far as my kids are concerned, I recognize them by their voices and, believe it or not, their footsteps! I cannot really see
their faces and pictures do not get enlarged clearly on my CCTV, but generally I am not so desperate to see well as I am to connect well by communicating well.
How do I get around on a daily basis, to work to
appointments, to the supermarket mentioned above?
My Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instructor worked with me to improve my independent travel skills. As part of my training, my O&M instructor introduced me to the cane, taught me how to use it properly, and purchased one for me. However, my peripheral vision is fairly good and I can generally see enough to
demonstration bag. I know this might sound silly, but
somehow every time I would think of using my cane,
we used to sing, “In came the teacher with a big fat stick…”?
Shortly after I completed my O&M training, I
started speaking in schools and at public gatherings about my disability. I discuss how I live and function
as independently as possible, in spite of my vision loss. As part of my lectures, I show Braille and different
devices visually impaired individuals use. And, of course, one of them is the cane. I would explain its purpose and state that I didn’t really need to use it, as my vision loss is not that severe. Sometimes, I would
even jokingly state that my O&M instructor thinks
it would be good for me to use it just for others to identify me as an individual with a visual impairment,
and then proclaim: “That’s exactly why I don’t want to use it”.
At this point, I went for some training in another
field, using more assistive technology. I have an
accessible phone loaded with software to assist the visually impaired. There’s audio software that reads text to me. It reads back to me everything I do
or write on my device, so I know I am sending the
correct message or email to the appropriate person or looking in the right place for the information I need.
buy, and it will read the
instructor emphasized that
information to me. There’s
a secondary goal in using
a digital talking book file
the cane is for others to
where I can download mp3
identify me as an individual
text files and then listen to
with a visual impairment.
them. I also own a portable
But I was rather hesitant
CCTV, which I use when
about utilizing the cane since I had no interest in ‘advertising to the world’ that I had limited sight. So,
12 | SPARKS
text, such as information on a product I want to
using a cane. Yet my O&M
primarily for this reason,
I can take a picture of any
writing. My words come up
A device that is used to type directly onto specialized braille paper.
in magnified type on the screen, so i can see what I
am writing. The wonders
and marvels of modern
was a Bluetooth available
on my computer called
(for the audio), it was
I learned how to use and
that would connect to both
obtained special software
my phone and my computer
Zoomtext, which enlarges
procured for me and has
the text and has a screen-
made a huge difference in
reader, which reads the
the ease and speed when
text out loud to me as well.
using both. I keep my desk
The combination of large
type and audio feedback facilitates
vocational specialist helped
me create a resume' and
prerequisite to my being
resourceful and competent,
Zoom Text software - enlarges text on a computer screen.
tried helping me find a job.
and I file things in the order
they happen before I go on to anything new.
I work with passion,
She emphasized that there was no need for me to write
because my heart is in it. I understand first hand
employer must hire me if I felt I could execute the job
be aware of the available services. I want to help as
on my resume that I was legally blind as, according to
the federal Americans with Disability (ADA) Act; an requirements with reasonable accommodations.
I had seen an ad in the local paper for a position as a
Service Coordinator. I thought I met the requirements
to fill this position and submitted my resume'. That
agency contacted me and they were pleased with my resume. However, when I mentioned that I was legally
blind, they chose not to give me the job. I noticed another ad for the same position at a different agency
and decided to try to apply there as well. This time, I elected not to tell them anything by phone and figured it might make a better impression if I presented
myself as a capable person at an interview and then
mention my disability. This strategy worked well and I was ultimately hired there. About a year ago, I had
the privilege of being offered a Service Coordinator
what it’s like to need services and how confusing
and difficult it can be to navigate the system and to
many people as much and as quickly as possible, and at Rayim I am enabled to do just that!
Several years ago, AVI hosted a Vision Awareness
Seminar and I offered to give my usual lecture at their
event. After my talk, an O&M instructor for the NYS Commission for the Blind came over to me and asked,
“If you are trying to make your community aware and sensitive to individuals with visual impairments, don’t you think you should be a role model and use
your cane even if you don’t need it as much for your own visual needs?” An argument ensued amongst a
few of the participants. My O&M came to my defense and said that I need to feel comfortable using the cane and everyone needs to do it at their own pace….
I came home and thought a lot about this, but
position at Rayim. I accepted this offer and am a proud
couldn’t get myself to entertain the idea of using a
have accommodated all my needs in an amazing way.
eye condition as mine. He only started using a cane
member of the Rayim family.
Working at Rayim is a wonderful experience. They
My computer, and the programs and devices I need to be productive and efficient, were all provided happily and willingly. However, more importantly, the
atmosphere is pleasant and conducive to accomplishing and working successfully. When I heard that there
cane. The stigma attached to it was too much for me
to bear. As aforementioned, my father has the same very recently when he absolutely needed it, as he was bumping into things and tripping on objects. And even then, it was quite a challenge for him in the beginning. This further discouraged me from using the cane.
Yet with time, I started realizing that the Winter/2016
SPARKS | 13
cane can be helpful for identification purposes
“God has given each one of us a task, which we can
about two years ago and I figured if I had my cane
possible... What really counts in life is the quiet
sometimes. Therefore, I did try using the cane on
perform better than anyone else. We must find out
with me at the hospital it might be easier than
meeting of every difficulty with the determination
who was present at the time. Surprisingly, she
At this point in my life, I thought I had met my
some occasions. My husband had a major surgery
what that task is, and how to do it in the best way
having to explain to everyone that I was visually
to get out of it all the good there is” (Helen Keller)
wasn’t as shocked as I thought she’d be and agreed
share of challenges and felt content and proud that I
and afterwards, when we received the great news
difficult test of all was yet to strike. The older of my
impaired. I mentioned this to my mother in law that it might be a good idea. I had the cane parked
next to me throughout the duration of the surgery that all went well, I nearly forgot my cane in the waiting room. My mother-in-law remembered it at the last second!
I attended AVI’s first White Cane Awareness Day in
Rockland County about a year and a half ago. My dear
friend, who’s totally blind, and her entire class were
had overcome them with flying colors. But in a matter
of time, Hashem chose to test us once again. The most
twins has been diagnosed with RP and is already legally blind. Observing him struggle is a cause of daily pain and heartache. It seems like an insurmountable hurdle.
But I keep telling myself to move on and try to make the best out of this situation.
There is a very special heimishe organization
present. I went over to her afterwards and told her I
called Computer Science for the Blind, CSB Care. They
cane moved from my speech demonstration bag to my
organization is that they customize the enlargements
was making a resolution to start using my cane more so that she will feel more comfortable using hers. My
active pocketbook at that point. (The cane is foldable
and fits in easily.) But, although I did use it here and there, I was still uneasy about just walking out with it
in the community. I used my cane once in a while with some negative and positive outcomes.
For instance, I once used it when I walked into a
local bank, as I figured instead of having to explain why I needed help completing a form, they’d just
see me with my cane and understand. Believe it or not, when I walked up to the teller with my cane in tow and asked for help, she asked: “Why do you need help?” I answered that I was visually impaired in a not too pleased manner. On another occasion,
I needed to do fingerprints for a new job located in a local hotel. When I walked in with my cane,
the woman behind the counter immediately asked where I needed to go. She offered to show me where it was right away, and even asked: “Can you see
enough to follow me, or do you want to hold onto my arm?” There are all kinds of people out there, and most of them are kind.
14 | SPARKS
provide technology and software to assist the visually impaired and disabled. The amazing thing about this
or the Braille based on your individual specifications.
It is largely to their credit that my son can use a siddur, a tehillim, and a chumash. They prepare things for him in Yiddish, like his chumash translation and print
children’s stories and books that can be used Shabbos
when computers are muktzah. The opportunities, both
in learning and enjoyment they have made possible for us, are tremendous!
So although there are fortunately people, resources
and devices to simplify our challenges, I found myself yet again having to figure out novel strategies to deal
with our new circumstances in a proactive way. While
advocating for my son and researching appropriate resources and services, I’ve encountered many obstacles and am constantly learning new things in this field.
In the interim, I’ve started networking with other
parents and professionals with visual impairments and
have been involved in bolstering the support system for
parents of the visually impaired. Another mother and I have coordinated a frum support group for mothers of
visually impaired children
my visual needs, especially
my focus and mission. I
might not notice, etc. I’ve had
when it’s dark, when there
Eyesight’. This has become
are stairs or obstacles I
am now pursuing a degree
more positive experiences
in Education Certification
than negative ones since I’ve
and hopefully, eventually,
been strolling around with
becoming a Teacher of the
my cane. Last week, while
walking on the street, a man
This past summer, my
cautioned me to be careful
son attended the National
about a piece of plastic on
Federation for the Blind’s Braille
the ground. I was caught by
surprise and just walked
on without responding. I
then thought to myself: "I
program, is encouraging
should’ve told him hello,
the kids to use canes and to improve their Braille
skills. We borrowed a cane for my son for the program
that’s what the cane is here
Magnifies any text that's placed underneath the lens.
and they actually gave him
for," but then I thought: "He was just trying to be helpful. I should’ve said thank you".
I don’t know if and when
one of his own as well. Afterwards, another mother
I will be completely comfortable using my cane, but
really”. This was a wake up call for me and made me
the greater population at large. I have adopted a new
at the program mentioned to me that she had asked
my son whether I used my cane and he said, “Not recalibrate. I said to myself, “if I’m not comfortable using the cane, how can I expect my son to use it?”
This gave me the final push to start using it more
‘out in the open’. I prepped my husband and kids on
this and declared that Hashem gave me the visual impairment and I didn’t choose it. Thus, there is no
reason for me to be embarrassed about showing everyone that I am visually impaired. I officially now use it when I walk to work and am gradually using it more and more.
I recently asked my son whether we should use the
cane while walking somewhere, he instantly responded,
“For sure! Then all the cars will stop for us”. That gave me a laugh and a boost. He’s not so wrong about it
either. Vehicles are definitely more aware, considerate, and patient when I walk past them or cross the street,
which makes me much safer as a pedestrian B'ezras
Hashem. And truthfully, the cane is also beneficial for
I’m using it regardless and am actually benefitting
from it. Hopefully, so is my family and community and mantra and keep saying it to myself and others, “if you want to do or use something that will help you, as long
as it’s not hurting others, there’s no reason for you not to do or use it”.
I have read many biographies of individuals who are
visually impaired, and, others who have prevailed over
hardships and obstacles. Some of them have mastered outstanding feats and reached great heights. I would
love to emulate some of them and make the world a better place. But I’ve come to the realization that the best I can do is contribute my share, to my utmost
potential, on a small scale. My hope is to acquire the
capacity and knowledge to teach and advocate for children so that they can recognize their capabilities and achieve their dreams. As Helen Keller so eloquently
remarks, “It is not required of every man and woman to do or be something great. Most of us have to be content to take small parts in the drama of life.”
SPARKS | 15
Chani Juravel, LCSW
16 | SPARKS
ears ago, I heard a young woman speaking about the trials and tribulations she went through during a family crisis. The most difficult, she expressed, was dealing with other people’s insensitivities. Their thoughtless comments and suggestions were infuriating. The way she learned to deal with it, she said, was by shifting her anger to rachmanus: “I realized how sorry I had to feel for them if they were that clueless about someone else’s suffering, that they really don’t have the understanding and sensitivity I’ve gained in life. I told myself that it is pathetic that they feel so little sympathy and have so little ability to relate to the pain and discomfort of others.” Her attitude was impressive, but it no doubt came following a lot of distress and anguish.
As hard as it is to live with a tough situation, the layers of complications one can experience- from too curious relatives, overly helpful friends, and well-meaning advice that is often off target- make it even harder. How do we navigate relationships that are important to us in stressful times? How can we be gracious about sharing and including those we need in our lives without losing our need for privacy and confidentiality? How should we handle all the spiritual advice and medical tips others offer without losing our composure? And what are we to do when misguided well-wishers say things that can have an impact not only on us, but on our children? First, let’s breathe. In spite of all of this being so uncomfortable, there is a bigger picture and in some way it will all work out for us. In the meantime, let’s keep this in mind: all of our feelings come from our thoughts. That being the case, by shifting our thoughts, we can shift our feelings. So let’s tackle some of the feelings that are aroused during these situations and see if we can challenge some of the unhelpful thoughts they create.
I feel that people are invading my privacy by asking all of these personal questions. That feeling is based on the thought that they see the questions as personal. Firstly, they may feel so close to you that they see it as affecting them, too. Or they may feel that asking shows their concern and makes you feel supported and less alone. In either case, just educate them by saying something like, “We really appreciate your concern. That’s not information we are comfortable sharing, but we really value your interest and your tefillos. We hope you understand.”
It feels like all the advice and mussar (“You may want to take on a kaballa…”) are forms of criticism. They make me feel inadequate and blamed. That would be true if people meant what they were saying as something personally relating to you. It may be that they are so desperate to alleviate your suffering that they grasp at anything they think may be of help to you. It’s very likely not so much about you as much as it is about their need to feel that they are doing something to ‘fix’ your situation. You can say, ”We know how you feel; we are anxious for solutions, too, but rest assured that we are in good hands with experts and rabbanim
(daas Torah) advising us. Your support means a lot, but all of the advice we get can become quite confusing… Please just have us in mind in your davening and know that your caring is appreciated.”
Our family members aren’t really there for us; so many of them are avoiding our problem by not mentioning our issue and ignoring the situation. It’s like they’re in denial. I feel invisible. As much as we don’t want too much notice, too little can hurt, too. Always consider that perhaps there is another reason for their seeming inattention. Is it possible they don’t know? Can it be that they think (or were told) that you’d prefer “being treated as though all is normal?” Or can it be that they are afraid of saying the wrong thing so it’s safer to just stay quiet? In the worst- case scenario, they may very well be in denial because they can’t emotionally deal with what is going on. As hard as that is, it also shows just how pained they really are for you and how much they feel for you. If you’re close enough, you can always say something like, “It seems like you’d rather not talk about what we are going through. Just know that I’d prefer being real about it. Please don’t think Winter/2016
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that you need to ignore it for my sake. I’ll let you know if there’s anything I’d rather not discuss, but I’d appreciate being able to be open about it.”
Others make me feel like having my special needs child at home is unfair and even damaging to the other children in our family. People are anxious to ‘fix things’ for us, and make our problems go away. They really believe that “their” way of handling “your” situation would’ve been better, fairer, simpler, etc. Often they make callous remarks about the wisdom of opting to have a child at home and that can be very hurtful. The judgment is unfair and reflects a lack of understanding of how you feel about all your children deserving your home and attention. Remember: your challenge comes along with the adrenaline of seeing things more clearly than others do. You may know and accept that your children are bashert to be part of each other’s lives and see firsthand how they benefit from each and every sibling. Sadly, outsiders only see a very small part of that tapestry. Reframe it for them with something like, “You can’t imagine how beloved this child is to his/ her siblings. Stick around a little and I’m sure you’ll see and feel it differently. We can’t imagine our home any other way!”
and advice with us when we were going through a medical crisis. After one too many times, I said, “I know that you mean to help, and it must be a lot of work to get all of this information. But trust me: you can work less and be more helpful because what I really need is for you to be there for me and hear me out when I need a listening ear. Your research and advice aren’t necessary now and I’m sure that takes a lot out of you. So right now, less is more.” She couldn’t believe that listening was all I really needed, but she promised to take my word provided I’d let her know if I changed my mind!
What you are going through leaves you feeling drained and out of control in many ways. In addition, realizing how people’s reactions and comments are upredictable and out of your hands, can be very frustrating. So is recognizing that it is impossible to protect your children, or how they are affected by thoughtlessness and careless talk. It’s a lot… Just remember that the only thing that ever is in our control is our reaction and how we choose to handle what gets thrown our way. If we treat our loved ones with as much respect and appreciation as possible and keep relations as peaceful and neutral as we can, we are definitely in great shape. It’s another thing that we can say to Hashem, to be rewarded for in kind: “I’ve been very understanding and non-judgmental of those people, in spite of how I could have felt hurt by them. So Hashem, even when I can seem less than sensitive to You, please treat me the way I tried to treat them!” And also, by modeling a sense of calm with others, they will ultimately get the message that it is what works for you as well.
ing I feel that people are invad my privacy by asking all of these personal questions
These are examples of how we can think differently about some of the given scenarios and hopefully cushion these hard feelings as a result. The bottom line is that it may be less personal and hurtful than we think. And even if it is personal or hurtful, we don’t deserve to see it that way! Sometimes we may be tempted to “give someone a piece of our mind” and confront someone’s insensitivity. Remember that almost all confrontation can be replaced by education. That means that if we don’t assume bad motivations, we can simply let the person know our thoughts/needs/feelings/rationale without getting into an argument. And if you want to convey your need to be heard without a debate, educate them about that as well. (“This is taking a lot out of me. Please just listen to me without arguing. It would mean so much to me…”) I remember that one family member was overly anxious about sharing opinions
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Give yourself credit for every comment you depersonalize and every reaction you diffuse. You are an inspiration. Be proud of the sensitivity and empathy you and your family will show others as a result of learning from your own experience and challenges. Be prepared to be a model for others not only how to handle the tough stuff, but of how you will iy’H bask in the yeshua that will come your way b’karov!!
WINDOWS Ominous clouds, threatening thunder, floundering in the dark,
For every step in our challenge is monitored by the One Above.
Feeling, wanting, hoping, waiting for that spark.
Every moment of our struggle destined with clarity and love.
Life is hopeless; my future is disappearing;
Hashem does not make mistakes, I know,
I retreat into darkness, with no light appearing.
For every obstacle is my opportunity to grow.
My eyes are open, but I cannot see.
My nisayon is helping me become the person I want to be
Everyone can go on with life; why not me?
Bringing me closer to Hashem, closer to my destiny.
I believe that struggles and hardships are not in vain
If my life would be different, the struggle I would not bear,
I believe that Hashem wants achievement from within my pain.
Since this is a handpicked journey Kavyuchel and I share.
There should be more than black clouds in the skies,
Although some days it may seem very dark,
I should see the sparkles and see the sun rise.
I’ll use my newfound perspective to search for that spark.
I take a step and move the curtains away,
I’ll look out for those messages, which Hashem sends my way,
I search for a glow within my shades of grey.
I’ll look for the gleam, for the light in the day.
Since behind every challenge the benefit is concealed,
My tachlis is clear and I will try my best ,
There is infinite value waiting to be revealed.
With tefillah and hishtadlus, I know I’ll pass life’s test,
I want to feel that warmth of the sunrays’ light,
As I take that step to move the shades away,
I want to find the glimmer which will make my life bright.
I press my forehead to the window, and I clearly see a single ray…
By: Sheindy Weiner
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Autism has been consistently on the rise in the United States and
around the world. The standard treatment for autism has been ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). It has been used for as the treatment of choice because its effectiveness is scientifically documented.
In 1983, the Autism Treatment Center of America™ was founded to serve as a worldwide teaching center for the Son-Rise Program®. The Son-Rise Program® is a very innovative approach that contradicts most of ABA’s principles and ideas. It promotes the concept of acceptance and love, as well as allowing the child to control the process and pace of progress, as opposed to ABA, which puts the parent, teacher or therapist in control. The following articles and accounts are eye opening and very encouraging. Enjoy the read.
AUTISM BREAKTHROUGH The groundbreaking method that has helped families all over the world. Raun K. Kaufman
ou love your child more than anything in the world.
In the early days of your child’s life,
long before any diagnosis was made,
You may have felt that many doors were suddenly closed to the child you love because this diagnosis is often accompanied by a list of dire predictions:
there may have been a hundred different hopes,
• You child will never talk.
peek-a-boo. Perhaps some were as far-reaching as
• Your child will never have a job or get married.
dreams, and plans you had for your child. Maybe some
were as simple as cuddling with your child or playing your child’s high school graduation or wedding day.
But then your child was diagnosed with an autism
• Your child will never have friends.
• Your child will never hold your hand.
• Your child will never love you.
You may have been told to discard many of those Winter/2016
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hopes and dreams and be “realistic” in the face of
and connection, that is something you can have, not
“Autism is a lifelong condition.”
bike, going on a trip with you, or playing with other
your child’s diagnosis. Certainly, there are many,
many parents who have heard the pronouncement: No one could fault you for feeling grief-stricken,
scared, or even angry. You have just been told all of
the things your child will never accomplish – as if it had been decided ahead of time. But before reading any further, it is crucial that you understand this:
you don’t have to accept the limits placed upon your
just for a fleeting second but on a sustained basis.
Do you even imagine your child playing ball, riding a
kids at the park? These events are possible. Children on the autism spectrum are capable of great change.
Who am I to tell you this? I’m someone who’s been
there – not where you are, but where your child is. I used to be autistic.
I know, I know. That one’s a bit hard to digest. You
don’t often find “used to be” and “autistic” in the same
and developing warm, loving, and satisfying
which autism is viewed by the people diagnosing it.
Your child has the capacity for learning and
communicating, for experiencing real happiness,
relationships. Your son or daughter can learn to enjoy affection, play a game, and laugh at something silly.
He or she can learn to savor the experience of being hugged or held by you. That moment when your child
spontaneously looks into your eyes with genuine joy
My Story: When I was a young boy, my parents (authors
and teachers Barry Neil Kaufman and Samaria Lyte
Kaufman) saw that I was developing very differently
sentence. This is truly unfortunate, because it points
to the intense pessimism and utter hopelessness with So you know what my chances of recovery were, according to the specialists assessing me? Zero percent.
That’s right. 0%.
Here’s what happened.
at a pen, mark on the wall, even my own hands, for long periods of time.
I didn’t want to be touched or held.
I spoke not a word (nor did I cry, yell, point, or
from my two older sisters. I cried incessantly and
do anything to communicate), displaying a total
a severe ear and throat infection, compounded by a
And then a startling development: I became
inconsolably. When I was picked up, I let my arms dangle
loosely at my sides. Before my first birthday, I suffered violent allergic reaction to the antibiotics prescribed.
My life briefly hung in the balance. After a battery of hearing tests, my parents were told that I appeared deaf. As months passed, I seemed increasingly cut off, spiraling ever deeper into my own world. I stopped responding to my name. I ceased making eye contact.
I appeared alternately repulsed by, and oblivious
to, the sights and sounds around me.
I appeared deaf to a loud noise right next to me and
then mesmerized by an almost inaudible whisper in the next room. I lost all interest in other people, but I
would remain transfixed by inanimate objects, staring
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muteness that stood in sharp contrast to my earlier crying marathons.
fascinated with the simplest of repetitive activities,
spinning plates on their edges for hours on the floor, rocking back and forth, flapping my hands in front of my face.
As my condition worsened, my parents raced from
specialist to specialist, trying to find out what was wrong. Tests. Tapping pencils. Shaking heads. More
tests. (Keep in mind that, in 1973, the year I was
born, autism was much less common than it is now, affecting one out of every five thousand children. The latest study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the incident of autism at one out of every fifty children while in the UK the
National Autistic Society gives a figure of one in one
trying to understand without pushing, to provide the
less than 30.
amazing that my parents began from this most kind
hundred children.) Soon I was diagnosed as severely autistic. My parents were informed that my IQ was What feels like a devastating verdict is not really
due to the autism diagnosis. The devastation comes
primarily from the prognosis - all the things parents are told that their child will not do and can never accomplish.
Like many parents today, my parents were told
that the prognosis was certain. I would never speak
or communicate in any meaningful way. I would never prefer people over objects. I would never emerge from
my solitary world and be “normal”. Moreover, I would never have a career or play ball. I would never write a poem or drive a car. I might one day, be able to dress myself or eat with utensils, but that was the ceiling of my possibilities.
My parents, seeking solutions, were given only grim
pronouncements. They searched for a light at the end of the tunnel, and were given only dark predictions.
Over and over again, it was drilled into my parents’ head: autism is a lifelong condition. The specialist
other person with an experience of safety and caring without attempting to get him or her to change? How and useful starting place.
Coming from this reverential vantage point, my
parents asked themselves what they could do to understand me and my world. The answer began with something that my mother did. She wanted to understand me-and also to show me that she accepted me as I was. That I didn’t have to change to be loved.
So she began to join me in my repetitive, supposedly
autistic behaviors. I would sit on the floor and rock… and she would rock with me. I would spin a plate on
its edge… and she would spin her own plate next to mine. I would flap my hands in front of my face… and she would flap with me.
My parents respected me to the degree that they
focused totally on what my experience was, not on
whether I looked strange
explained that when I got older, my parents would
need to look into permanent institutionalization so that I could be properly looked after.
I am still astounded at what my mother and father
chose to do in the face of such hopelessness. They didn’t believe what they were told. They didn’t write
me off. Instead, they turned their backs on all the
dire prognoses. My parents looked at me and saw possibilities, not deficiencies. Instead of looking at me with pity and despair, they viewed me with wonder.
And so they began an experiment. They began by
seeking to create an environment where I felt truly
safe. They didn’t push me. They didn’t try to change my behaviors. They sought first to understand me.
Think about this for a moment. How often do we really
do this-with anyone? People behave in ways we don’t
understand all the time. For most of us, our knee-jerk
response is to try to get that person to change-whether that person is our friend, employee, parent or indeed,
our child. When do we ever begin our response by truly
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different to other people.
Hour after hour… day after day… month after
month, my mother waited. Patiently, both my parents
remained a constant safe presence in the background of my consciousness.
Every once in a while, and only while “joining”,
as my parents came to call this true participation in my interests and activities, I glanced at my mother. I
smiled at her. I grazed her with the tips of my fingers. And as my parents began to truly understand my
world, as they communicated in a thousand different
ways, over and over again, that I was safe, that I was loved, that I was accepted, something astonishing
happened. A connection began to form. Slowly, carefully, I began to peek out from behind the veil of my special world. Tentatively, I began to join them in theirs.
As my mother spent hours upon hours on the
floor working with me, she made herself my friend in my world. In so doing, a bond of trust evolved. She cherished and celebrated every look, every smile,
every moment of connection which she longed to feel. She cheered me on with every small step.
As my relationship with my parents and the world
grave doubts and concerns that my parents were “doing their own thing” and not leaving treatment in the hands of the specialists who “knew best”.
Remember, too, that in those days, the world of
autism treatment was a barren wasteland. There were no stories waxing on about the latest treatments
or detailing the lives of families with children on the spectrum. There was no Autism Awareness Month.
My parents witnessed children being jolted with
electric shocks, tied to chairs, placed in dark prison-
like rooms, and held down. And this they were told was progress; the best modern medicine had to offer. To help me, they had to walk in the opposite
direction, alone. Without any support, they supported
me. They worked and waited. They persisted and persevered. Not knowing what the future held, not
expecting my reciprocation of their love, care, smiles, and cheers, they gave me every chance.
For three and a half years, they worked with me,
painstakingly building a bridge from my world to theirs.
And it all paid off.
I recovered completely from my autism without
of people strengthened, my mom and dad continued
any trace of my former condition. The years of work,
to them, to laugh with them, to take their hands.
fruit it was never supposed to bear. It produced the
to build an entire program of therapy around me. They helped me increase my social connection
They constructed interactive games based upon my
interests, such as animals and airplanes. At every turn, they were supportive, encouraging -never
the late nights, the persistence in the face of ongoing
criticism, the love and dedication-it bore the kind of outcome it was never supposed to produce. And I’m living the life I was never supposed to live!
Shortly after my recovery in the late 1970s, my father
pushing, always inviting.
wrote a best-selling book recounting our story entitled
hopeless predictions for me. They continued to reach
parents for help.
Can you imagine this? They embarked on an
experimental journey after hearing nothing but out to me even when I gave them nothing in return.
And they persevered in the face of consistent
criticism. Learned professionals told my parents
Son-Rise - now updated as Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues. As a result, people began to approach my In 1983, they founded the Autism Treatment Center
of AmericaTM (ATCA). The ATCA serves as a worldwide teaching center for the Son-Rise Program®. It is situated
that their “joining” would reinforce and increase my
on a gorgeous hundred-acre campus in Sheffield,
behavior modification techniques they recommended-
training facility for parents and professionals. It offers
no hope of succeeding”. Family members expressed
inappropriate autistic behaviors. These professionals
chastised my parents for doing the opposite of the and for having “false hope”, for putting their time into an unproven (and newly created) approach that “had
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Massachusetts. The Autism Treatment Center of AmericaTM is a 5-day programs during which parents learn how to use techniques of the Son-Rise Program® with their own
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he following will give you some very
of the scratching-and the person is grateful!
principles of the Son-Rise Program . In
to addressing your child’s core challenge. Every autistic
simple and clear techniques you can use
to help your child progress based on the ®
some cases, these strategies may sound like the exact
opposite of what you have been told to do. This is no accident. Many of them are the exact opposite.
The problem is, autism is not a behavioral disorder;
it is a social relational disorder. Do our kids behave
differently? Sure. But those behaviors are symptoms, not causes. If you saw someone scratching his arm and
then set as your goal the elimination of the scratching
behavior, there are a number of approaches you might try. You might tell the person to stop scratching. You
might threaten him with an unpleasant consequence if
he continues scratching. You might try to distract him
by putting something he wants (an ice-cream cone, for instance) in the hand he is using to scratch. You might even tie his arm to his body so that he couldn’t scratch.
Or you could actually look for the reason for his
scratching and discover that he has a mosquito bite.
Then, you could put some anti-itch cream on the
bite. Bingo! No more scratching! And instead of not addressing the real issue while
at the same time totally alienating the person,
you solve the cause
Raun Kaufman joining in with a child in the Son-Rise playroom
This analogy illustrates the difference between
trying to stamp out your child’s symptoms, as opposed
behavior your child exhibits is a symptom. Trying to extinguish these behaviors does not address the actual
autism and only serves to seriously disrupt the trust and relationship between you and your child.
This trust and relationship are your most important
assets in helping your child progress!
So we want to change the question we ask ourselves
when seeking to help our child. Instead of asking, “What
do I need to do in order to change my child’s behavior?”, we should to ask “What do I need to do in order to create a relationship with my child?” Once we ask this question, everything changes. Our whole approach shifts.
That is why the Son-Rise Program® is guided by the
The children show us the way in, and then we show
them the way out.
How do we do that?
Well, you know all these stimming behaviors that
everyone is trying to get your child to stop doing? Not only do we not stop these behaviors, but we join in with,
and participate in those very same behaviors. Some
of the reasons we join is that we create commonality with the child since no one else is doing what
he is doing. We’re saying, “I want to be your friend. I want to do what you’re doing. I’m
here for you. I love you and accept you no matter what.”
When the child is
involved in an exclusive and repetitive
behavior, we do exactly what he does with a full heart and lots of love.
We've never seen it lead to
increased stimming. In fact, we see the
opposite; the more we join a child, the less
the child stims. Time and time again, we join
children and then watch as these children look at
us more, pay more attention to us, smile at us more,
and become steadily less interested in the stimming
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behavior which previously so captivated them.
While joining is the right hand of the Son-Rise
Program®, motivation is the left hand. Motivation is
the engine of growth. It is the single most important
factor in your child’s learning and progress. When a
child is following his or her own intrinsic interests and motivations, learning comes fast and furious.
It’s the exact opposite of the reward system. Instead of first identifying what you want your child to do, think about what motivates your child. Once you focused on that, you need to think about what
you want your child to do or learn that relates to that. So, when you are interacting and enjoying
each other’s company, whether it’s a catch game or knocking down a tower, that is the opportune time to take him to the next level by “requesting”
something from him. You know he is motivated since he is smiling, physically indicating or telling you verbally. You will then “request” according to
the goals that were set for him according to the SonRise Developmental Model®.
Celebration. All of us thrive when our successes
are celebrated. It’s a clear indication for us to continue what we’re doing. So when you are playing
with your child in the Son-Rise playroom, remember to celebrate every little accomplishment and be very
specific and clear about what it is you are celebrating. Be sincere and vary the way you celebrate. Use different words, tone of voice etc., so that you don’t
sound predictable and repetitious. Ideally, this is all done in a non-distracting environment which we call
the Son-Rise playroom or the fun room. The attitude
is that we truly believe in our child and that he/she
could succeed. With genuine love and acceptance expressed in a non-judgmental manner, the child’s
potential can be tapped and realized. Love and acceptance are so important when fostering learning and growth!
First it’s about what you’re feeling inside, the
energy, excitement and enthusiasm. Then it’s
about transmitting that to your child with your body language. ”Hey, I’m enthusiastic about this experience!” You want to be really compelling, an
inviting and exciting person to be around. So go ahead and try it. It really works!!
Personal account Personal Account by
- B. Pollak
I felt totally frustrated: I had no sense of direction and absolutely no clue how to proceed with helping my four-year–old son. He was developmentally delayed, and all the therapies we tried seemed to help so much, yet at that point we were at a standstill. Although we saw, and were constantly told that he had potential to achieve much more, we did not feel we were offering him enough in terms of change and progress. It was then that a friend referred me to a 5-day start-up course on the Son-Rise Program®. It was being held in Massachusetts, and I was very hesitant to leave my children behind. But, with the guidance of my family, we decided that it was time to go “out of the box”, to explore new options. And so I attended the training sessions, and got way more than expected. The Son-Rise Program® taught me how to work with my son, how to teach him language, social skills and appropriate behaviors, how to motivate him to participate and learn new skills that seemed beyond him. They worked with us parents to help us deal with our personal feelings, how to accept our children as they were. We learned that acceptance didn’t mean that we would stop trying to help them. It also didn’t mean “giving up”. It meant that, “I am ok with where my child is now, yet remain determined to help him reach new heights.” We received an in-depth manual that walked us through the key elements of the Son-Rise Program® step-by-step. Since we were about 80 parents in the same boat, it was the first time that I felt really comfortable asking questions, without the fear of being judged. Although our children’s diagnoses may have varied, they were all under the umbrella of autism. It was a great opportunity to brainstorm strategies, and network with other parents and
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optimism and say: “I am going to enable my child to accomplish more.” Your child’s potential is limitless!
Yes, children on the autism spectrum are capable of
tremendous change, including recovery. If the experts
Frequently Asked Questions
say it can’t be done, well, did they try long and hard enough?
Ultimately, what people say is irrelevant, because
this story is only one of many that have happened and will continue happening. For over a quarter of
a century, parents from across the globe have been
When people hear the story of Raun Kaufman many are skeptical and say that “autism” and “cured” don’t really go together. They claim that it’s impossible that this is about someone 100% autistic and therefore, they have difficulty associating this success story with their own child’s prognosis. How can we address such comments? When a parent thinks: “What will become of my
child?” it is not the diagnosis that prompts the question,
it’s the prognosis; being told all that your child will never
do. It’s our choice to adopt a sense of
An interactive SonRise session
attending training programs at the Autism Treatment
Center of AmericaTM-putting in their time, energy and love-and achieving remarkable results with their own
children. Many children have made full recoveries.
What are we going to do? Say that all of them never had autism?
Of course, every child’s journey is unique. There
have been so many children who, though they have not made full recoveries, have made tremendous progress. We’ve witnessed children with no language skills learn
to speak. We’ve seen friendless children blossom into social kids with healthy friendships. There are so many
different levels of growth that our loved ones on the spectrum can achieve, and each one is a victory.
Of course, we can never know in advance what a
child will accomplish. But it’s also wise not to think we know in advance what a child will not accomplish.
All our children deserve all the opportunities we can offer them!
People have come to the realization that ABA does not yield the results they would love to see. Therefore, they are more open to other childled techniques, including FLOORTIME. Would you be able to highlight some key differences between the Son-Rise Program® and other approaches? There are several factors that make this approach
unique. To start with, it was parents who created it.
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That alone was a huge departure from the doctor/
professional/lab-created norm. Second, it began
Raun’s parents started by joining the child in his
professionals facing similar challenges. We learned so
repetition, as the doorway to learning. Moreover,
sun shining, the world welcoming me to give my child a
and had welcoming attitudes and emotions. And
of my son! But the change didn’t end there. We started
interaction over stronger academic achievements.
and came over to hug me. I was moved to tears. Our
flexibility over naming colors, adding numbers
told us at the Autism Treatment Center of America™, it
concerned, yes, people do often compare these
opportunity for growth!
therefore some terminology and techniques
was not the traditional way to go. Others told us that we
approach considers progress in the social arena
(applied behavior analysis) for 2 years. We spent so much
that success is based 99% on the attitude and
We trusted ourselves and our judgment of what was
will look to disengage a child from inappropriate
Who else, they asked, knew and understood our child as
stop (stimming) since the expectation is that the
We now have a part-time Son-Rise Program® operating
with the premise that children on the autism
spectrum are capable of limitless growth. Third,
world rather than forcing the child to conform to
much from one another.
they focused on ensuring that the children were
brand new opportunity to succeed in life.
finally, unlike every other treatment out there,
seeing progress in all social areas. A few days into the
They encouraged mastering tasks such as eye
positive attitude at home really made a huge difference,
and sorting objects.
was going to be 99% attitude and 1% technique. Our son
theirs. Fourth, they used motivation, rather than surrounded by people who were non-judgmental
I came home like a different person. I finally saw the
The very first day I came home, I got three words out
Son-Rise’s priorities were on improving human
program, while in the Son-Rise playroom, he stood up
contact, verbal communication and increased
not only to our son, but also to our entire family. As they
As far as the FLOORTIME approach is
was no longer that difficult challenge; he was now an
developed 10 years prior to FLOORTIME and
there were those who discouraged us telling us that this
to FLOORTIME. For example: the FLOORTIME
had tried so many techniques that failed, including ABA
‘attitude’ as important. At Son-Rise the belief is
suddenly were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
is not necessarily non-judgmental since they
the mantra at the Autism Treatment Center of America™.
Son-Rise method where the child is not told to
always be there for our children.
wants to interact.
in the afternoons and weekends he participates in the
two programs. The Son-Rise Program
People noticed the progress. It was undeniable. Still
used in the Son-Rise Program seem similar
wouldn’t get too far. But we persevered. We knew we
a primary goal, however, they don’t see the
time, money and effort to help our son, and now we
1% on the technique. The FLOORTIME approach
good for our child. “Parents are the best resource,” was
behaviors such as stimming. This contradicts the
well we did? We, the parents, were the ones who would
child will initiate an interaction because he/she
in our home. Our son attends school during the day, and
These days, ABA therapy can be covered through insurance or through the child’s school district, while the SonRise Program® is a costly commitment considering the training, consultations,
a lot of positive persistence. It’s the progress that keeps
Son-Rise Program®. It’s a huge commitment, and requires us going. As a parent, I encourage you to attend the Son-Rise start-up course at the Autism Treatment Center of America™. You won’t regret it!
SPARKS | 29
children whose lives have been changed, the cost is no longer a question.
There are people who are trained through the Son-Rise Program® who offer to train others to initiate a Son-Rise Program® for their child. Is it important to attend the 5-day start-up course directly through the Autism Treatment Center of America™?
Frequently Asked Questions
Parents are the best resource. Therefore, they are
the ones directing their child’s Son-Rise Program®.
No matter how devoted a therapist will be, it doesn’t
come close to the long-term commitment a parent
hands-on assistance, etc. Why should someone spend the money when a different program is available free of charge?
has-forever! The parent is the one who needs to set the
The Autism Treatment Center of America
has a staff of over 80 people. Included are trained
environment and atmosphere in the home with a totally
accepting and respectful attitude. This is so important when fostering learning and growth. At the Autism
Treatment Center of AmericaTM, parents are given the
professionals who are available to give these families
tools they need to run their own successful Son-Rise
They offer financial assistance to those who meet
it’s about absorbing concepts of acceptance and love
the best of what they can offer, and they need to cover the expenses that running the program incurs.
the criteria, and of course,
the progress speaks for
itself. When one meets
the thousands of
Program®. Attending the 5 day start-up course is not
only about learning the techniques of the program; and truly understanding your child and what he/she is going through. Furthermore, the power of being in
a growth-oriented environment among other parents
and professionals for five consecutive days, is what really makes a difference.
The Son-Rise Program® strongly encourages home schooling to ensure maximum results. For most people home schooling is difficult. Is there an option of incorporating the program at home and on weekends, and still see the desired progress? As with any therapy, the key is
consistency. It’s like putting something in
the oven to bake, but constantly taking it out
Raun Kaufman playing in the Son-Rise playroom with a child
30 | SPARKS
to check. Of course it will take longer and won’t
rise properly, but eventually it will get done. Can
you compare that with the quality of something that
was baked in the oven with the perfect temperature,
and without being removed? That being said it is clear that that there are circumstances that make
it nearly impossible for a child to stay at home. In that case it is very important to try to get the
school to work along with you and cooperate with your approach as much as possible.
Personal account Personal Account by
A Trained Staff
When I was first introduced to the Son-Rise
There is the common belief that structure is love. The Son-Rise Program® is based on the concept that encourages a relaxed and stress-free environment without structure and discipline. How can we explain the concept of giving control to the child while in the Son-Rise Program®, without it having long-term negative effects?
Program® I had serious doubts regarding the
Think of a rope with a knot in it. One person is
That ended up inhibiting their growth and our
knot gets because neither are letting go. You can
non-judgmental approach, I was skeptical and
there is enough slack for the knot to loosen and
program, and then having the chance to experiment
want your child to be less controlling (and thus
for who he is rather than for what he does. (It works
to give your child as much control as possible. A
of when a child does something that’s difficult for
spontaneously, versus being told constantly what
awarded with an incentive (ABA approach).
and empower our children to have as much
well-defined environment for them and for us.
with people instead of inanimate objects (stimming
and limits that children need to learn that they
results of those two methodologies and therefore I
effectiveness of the methodology they used. I was coming from an ABA background where every behavior a child exhibits is judged as negative or positive, appropriate or inappropriate. I was quite limited in my perspective and didn’t realize that there was an underlying cause for every behavior. According to my training, kids were judged and molded by the yardstick of rules we set for them.
holding fast to one end and another person to the
understanding of what was “normal.”
never release the knot by pulling harder. The only
hesitant about considering it a viable option.
eventually be unknotted.
with it, I quickly changed my mind. I saw how much
more flexible and able to learn more, grow
with every child.)
relaxed and stress-free environment enables the
him because he feels good about trying (Son-Rise
other end. The harder it’s pulled, the tighter the
When I heard about this new and completely
way to release the knot is to let the rope go so that
However, after learning more details about the
The key to understanding is this: if you
more could be accomplished when you love a child
more and ultimately achieve more), you have
I watched the different results and reactions
child to initiate activities and communications
approach), and not because he wants to be instantly
Creating clear, strong boundaries enable
relaxed and happy self when they were being joined
but the combination creates a very safe and
want to be part of our world and love to interact
room’, yet there still may be certain boundaries
I have personally experienced the different
control as possible. This may seem confusing,
I saw kids open up and display a more naturally
I saw kids progressing to the point where they
We want our Son-Rise playroom to be a ‘yes
cannot do in there, i.e. something that is not
confidently recommend the Son-rise Program®.
SPARKS | 31
Personal account Personal Account by
glass, metal or plastic, observing with intensity how it Malky D.
My sweet little nephew entered this world, one fine day, with little fanfare or complications. His parents and the rest of our family were delighted and full of joy. Pretty soon after his birth little worrying signs started popping up here and there. Although physically he grew and developed rather normally, he seemed delayed when it came to milestones and behaviors expected during each stage. He did not smile and made little or no eye contact. He did not reach out to grasp things, did not reach up to be held, and never babbled. It even appeared that he wasn’t recognizing the familiar faces he was surrounded by. It was a difficult and frustrating time. After going to several doctors and specialists, my nephew was diagnosed with PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, which is under the autism spectrum), at the age of four. He was then placed in a school for children with special needs. As he grew older his behaviors became more abnormal, more unpredictable, and often more dangerous. He was also constantly involved in stimming behaviors. The following is the official definition of stimming: “Self-stimulatory behavior, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.” In real life that translated to an unmanageable child who was totally out of anyone’s reach. My nephew would flick the light switch on and off endlessly, watching in fascination as the room went from dark to light. He was always aware if a bulb ever burnt out or wasn’t bright enough, and that was enough to make him hysterical. He loved to touch fire; any flame, be it on the stove, a candle, a match, there was something about fire that transfixed him. He would throw any object he saw; whether it was
32 | SPARKS
smashed to smithereens when it hit the floor. Another serious problem was that he liked to push anyone near him and watch him or her fall. Often when he would push a child the child would get hurt, especially if they were near a staircase and went tumbling down. It was scary and everyone around him was always tense and on edge. It was impossible to reason with him or to try to discipline him, since he would barely communicate, answering limited questions with only yes or no. He exhibited no emotion and no facial expressions. To make matters worse, he ate very little, being extremely picky about his food, and vomited frequently from anxiety. He was also very particular about what he would wear and how he would dress. Once my nephew started going to school, the school professionals there to discussed his behaviors and decided that ABA (applied behavior analysis) would be the best treatment option. The results of the ABA were very discouraging. He exhibited extreme robotic behaviors, continued his stimming and remained unmanageable. We then realized that ABA was simply not effective for him and his specific issues, and would not help him become a functional part of society. It was time to take things into our own hands. We were struggling and suffering every minute of every day, but clearly, so was he. At one point we considered joining one of my sister’s friends who gave courses for play therapy. Her son’s autism was in many ways similar to my nephew’s, so we thought that was a good idea. Then, we heard about the Son-Rise Program® and the amazing results people saw with it. We decided to go with that instead. We went down to Massachusetts where they teach the Son-Rise Program® and adopted their positive beliefs and techniques. We learned how to build his social awareness and skills through recognizing what motivates him. We were taught how to introduce new foods in a fun and exciting way. We were encouraged to give him more control by offering him choices when it was time to get dressed in the morning. We were
empowered with confidence and the gift of knowing how to deal with him.
He stepped off stage when he was done, saw the camera focused on him holding his new chumash, he
These were concepts and techniques we were not
looked directly at it and … smiled!
aware of before we visited the Autism Treatment
I highly recommend this program to all autistic
Center of America™. When we returned we established
children sentenced to an abnormal life because of the
our own Son-Rise Program playroom in our home
lack of understanding surrounding them and how to
and followed the program for two hours every day
treat them. I sadly watch autistic children growing up
(considered a part-time program).
with a bleak future ahead of them. I contrast that with
The amazing part of this program is that involves
my enjoyable, successful experience with the Son-Rise
lots of love and an understanding of the autistic child’s
Program® and how it has saved thousands of children.
daily struggles. You literally join them in their world
I wish I can spread the word and let everyone know
and then watch as they step out of their world and
about the Son-Rise Program® and its effectiveness. Yes!
join yours. We saw awesome results as my nephew
With Hashem’s help, autism can be cured!
slowly emerged from his robotic state. He is now in a mainstream classroom and blends in beautifully with the other children. (He is a grade behind his actual age level in order to help him catch up in his academics, yet we rather take this over his previous state.) He is very flexible, eats many different new foods, and interacts with other children. He makes direct eye contact and expresses love of the world around him. He has gained confidence and talks and laughs with his friends easily. He is more articulate, and could share his day’s
For more information on the Son-Rise Program®, you may contact the Autism Treatment Center of AmericaTM at 1-877-766-7473 or www.autismtreatmentcenter.org You may also contact Amanda Louison, Senior Program Advisor; 413-229-8063 ext. 174 or firstname.lastname@example.org Raun K. Kaufman, (2014) "Autism Breakthrough" Kate C. Wilde (2015) "Autistic Logistics" Autism Treatment Center of AmericaTM (2014) "AUTISM Micro Tutorials-DVD
experiences. When I ask him for a favor, he says: “Sure.” It is a pleasure to be around him, since his past negativity has been replaced with a positive attitude. The turning point in my nephew’s young life was the day of his chumash seudah. He was mainstreamed into a regular class, and was on stage, participating and singing along with all the other boys. It was an emotional moment for all of us present. Gone were the stimming and unpredictable behaviors. Gone was the child who was picky with everything he wore, everything he ate, and every bulb in the house that wasn’t burning bright. Gone was the child who verged on hysteria when he suspected you wanted to snap a picture of him. In that place stood a sweet, cooperative and proud child.
A child facilitator joining a child’s fascination with a mirror. Winter/2016
SPARKS | 33
Among the many confusing choices, decisions and diagnoses parents of special needs children have to deal with, there is also another area that often begs for clarity. How should they deal with their specific challenges from a hashkafic and Torah standpoint? Parents want to understand and ask, “What and how much is expected from us and why?” In the following column, renowned columnist and lecturer, Rabbi Shais Taub sheds some of his unique insight and light on this a very common dilemma faced by parents of special needs children.
parks Magazine has asked me to weigh in on
of their child’s special needs and to what extent should
perspective. I hope that IY”H it will prove helpful to
preface with a general definition of what it means to
(faith) and hishtadlus (effort) when raising a child
think we often tend to confuse being busy with
a frequently asked question. I am humbled
by the invitation and happy to share my
Where does one draw the line between emunah
with special needs? In other words, to what extent should a parent accept and work within the realities
34 | SPARKS
a parent push to try to improve their child’s situation? Before I address this distinction, I want to
exert effort. This is not a question specific to raising
children, let alone children with special needs. I
being productive. Just because we are spinning our wheels doesn’t mean we are getting anything done.
| Rabbi Shais Taub Winter/2016
SPARKS | 35
So what does it mean to legitimately put forth effort?
The gemara says (Brachos 33b) that hakol bidei shamayim chutz
m’yiras shamayim, everything is in the hands of Heaven besides
for one’s awe of Heaven. Our power is not in choosing reality, but in choosing how we are going to react—namely our attitudes and
our behaviors. In other words, no matter what the situation, we
always have the power to make our own choices. What we don’t have, is power over the choices that other people make, including how they treat us, or our children.
Just like we are unable to force people to treat our children
the way we wish they would, so too, and perhaps even more
importantly, we must remember that with all the hishtadlus in the world we cannot force our children to be different than they are.
Hishtadlus may mean that we as parents make extraordinary
efforts to be there for our children; that we make sacrifices and give up certain luxuries. It may mean that we put a lot of effort
into raising our children. But all that effort is directed at ourselves.
I once worked for a firm where they brought in a time
management specialist. We spent the whole day learning about
time management, which ironically I believed had been a waste of time. However, one thing this fellow said that has stuck with me,
is this: There really is no such thing as time management. Nobody can slow down or speed up time. Really what we mean by time management is self-management—managing yourself and how
you use time.
Many times, I think that people think of chinuch as “child-
management.” If one is a parent of a child with special needs, then it’s “child-with-special-needs management.” But nothing could be further from the truth. Chinuch is self-management; it’s about
being the kind of parent that you want for your child.
In other words, your job is not to parent a child with special
needs, but rather to be the special kind of parent that this child needs.
A related issue has to do with the expectations that one has for
one’s child. Much of this is done under the banner of “hishtadlus”
and it can take on various forms. Some parents are looking for the “miracle cure.” They will run from one end of the earth to the other in search of a “solution”.
Then you have the opposite extreme, the parent who claims
that they have “emunah” that this child is the way Hashem wanted her to be. The child is then left to grow and develop without much
investment from the parents. This attitude can manifest in various
36 | SPARKS
ways. For instance, when parents have no expectations for and
from the child, and, when the child wreaks havoc at a
child are in “therapist mode”. You must internalize the
opportunities for therapies or for mainstreaming and
to see to it that I am providing this child with the same
emunah, respectively. Most parents are at neither
and yes, therapy. But I am not the therapist; I am the
restaurant, they feel the world just has to learn how
to deal with it. Or perhaps it means that they pass up just “let the child be”.
Both extremes are distortions of hishtadlus and
extreme, but do tend to go back and forth a little bit
from end to the other. How does one gain clarity about this issue?
A colleague recently told me a story about a
woman whose daughter has cerebral palsy and is in
a wheelchair. This woman met another mother at the
therapist’s office who also has a child with CP and is also in a wheelchair. This other mother’s only mission
in life was to make her child walk and this was the only thing that concerned her and consumed her
life. She was convinced that with her willpower and determination, plus all therapies, she would eventually succeed.
Over the years, her child made a lot of progress in
her overall balance, posture and mobility. Yet, her child never walked. This mother spent all those years setting
My role as a parent of a child with special needs is
support that I would provide any of my children—food, clothing, a place to live, emotional support, discipline,
parent. I am the one researching which therapy could be helpful for him; evaluating the effectiveness of the therapy; and the one to reach out for additional assistance to help me with this child. As a parent, I’m
also the one who has to take away this child’s favorite toy when he uses it to hit his sister over the head. I am the one who has to hug this child and allow her to cry on
my shoulder when she experiences failure. That’s being a parent, and that is my obligation. When I fulfill my
obligation, then I have faith that Hashem will give my
child what he or she needs to live a happy and satisfying life and to accomplish their mission in this world. -•-
Another important question related to this topic is:
Where does one draw the line between emunah (faith)
a goal that was not achieved. Instead of enjoying her life
and hishtadlus (effort) when teaching our children how
As parents we need to view each child as an
children with special needs who have at least minimal
set. By celebrating small milestones and recognizing
ourselves to how people treat us. We can put up
and her child’s other accomplishments, she mistakenly and sadly perceived her child’s whole life as a failure.
individual. We need to focus on goals that are small and attainable, in addition to the long-term goals we
each child’s unique progress and effort, we enable
the child to experience and enjoy healthy feelings of success and self-worth.
Another important point is, that while this mother
spent her child’s entire childhood looking for a cure,
she left herself without time or energy to simply be a parent. I think a clear line between hishtadlus and emunah can be drawn when you start feeling more
like therapist and you find yourself less often in your natural parenting role.
In other words, it’s okay to hope that your child’s
condition will improve. It’s not okay when you take it to the extreme so that most of your interactions with your
to cope with other people’s reactions or behaviors?
(Please note that the following is applicable for
communication and cognitive abilities.)
We don’t have to either passively or actively subject
boundaries, or even disengage completely, if need be. But we can not control how people are going to behave. Now, all parents want to shield their children from
disappointment and hurt. This, much more so in the case of a parent of a child with special needs. Often, the parent will assume the role of “fighter” taking on
any perceived mistreatment of the child. And, while we would like to raise our children in a perfect world—
until Moshiach arrives, may it be speedily and in our days—the world is not perfect. It does not adhere to our definition of perfection even though we know that somehow, at the end of the day, gam zu l’tova. This too is for the good.
SPARKS | 37
Applying this to the matter at hand, this means that we cannot
prevent our children from encountering hurtful experiences.
This includes teasing by children or discrimination by adults. No amount of “hishtadlus” can prevent that since ultimately we
have no control over such things. It is up to Hashem, who runs the world, to choose which experiences our children will have.
What we do have power over, is our attitude. And perhaps, more important than anything else we give our children, is the way
we model for them that attitude and the ability to face adversity with courage and joy.
Ironically, when we put too much focus on getting others to
behave the way we’d like them to, it can actually teach the child to feel like a victim. Instead of focusing on where he or she has the power of choice, too much energy is spent trying to control
the uncontrollable. One of the most important lessons a parent
can teach any child, but especially the child with special needs, is that our success in life has nothing to do with how people view
us or how they behave toward us. Only we have the power to choose that for ourselves.
A Chabad shliach and his main financial backer came to the
Lubavitcher Rebbe to show him a picture of their new building.
In his typical fashion, the Rebbe congratulated them and then asked when they were going to start the next project. The
“balabos” smiled and said that they already had plans for the next building and then added, “Rebbe, last time there
were those who opposed us and caused us problems.
We ask for a bracha that this time they should not
bother us.” The Rebbe responded, “What they do is their
free will and I cannot change that. But I can give you a bracha that no matter what they do you will overcome and accomplish your goals.”
Teaching our children faith means modeling for them the
confidence that Hashem knows what’s right for us. And, if
Hashem leads us to an experience, even an unpleasant experience, it’s for our own benefit.
At the same time, obviously there is justice in this world
and those who mistreat us are accountable. But that is not our business. That is between them and Hashem. As Yosef HaTzadik
told his brothers when they were afraid he was going to take revenge upon them in mitzrayim, “Am I instead of Hashem? You
meant to harm me but Hashem intended it for good.“ (Breishis
50:19-20) In other words, we can tell people who have harmed
38 | SPARKS
us, or at least we can think to ourselves about them, “Am I
instead of Hashem? If you had bad intent, then that is
in a smart way. First of all, like we mentioned, it was
I am aware that this is a very deep concept for
then the proper attitude for the mother to model for
between you and Hashem. As far as the effect it had on me, Hashem intended it for good” .
even an adult to internalize. But, I believe that we can
and really must model this attitude for our children,
especially special needs children who need to learn how to stay positive even when they are mistreated.
As mentioned earlier, that does not mean that we
need to be passive. We cannot choose how people
behave, but we can choose what kind of behavior we subject ourselves to. What’s done is done; but if I know
a certain situation or person is unsafe, I can choose to avoid that person or situation in the future.
When it comes to faith, there is a big difference
between what has already happened, what is happening or what is about to happen now. Something that is over
and done with was obviously hashgacha pratis (Divine
Providence), and what’s the greatest proof of that? That it happened. It’s over and we have to have emunah
that Hashem knows what He is doing even when we don’t like it. But when something is happening now, or
something is about to happen, we have no obligation to subject ourselves to mistreatment or abuse.
To give a practical example, a mother and her
Down’s syndrome child were at a large extended family get-together, and an adult was organizing a
game of soccer among the children. The child very much wanted to join but the adult relative excluded him and actually sent him away from the game. The
child was understandably upset and was about to cry. The mother asked him, “Are you sad that they didn’t let you play?” The child said yes. “Should we tell them that you want to play?” The child wasn’t sure what to
answer, probably because he was wary of being hurt
again. So the mother took the child by the hand and walked over to where the game was being played. In
something that was happening in the present, not something that was already in the past. If it had it been,
Shmuli, would have been “gam zu l’tova”. But since it
was happening, she was still able to do something.
What was also handled well was that she did not
act as her child’s “lawyer” or fight his battles instead of him. She helped him speak up for himself. In doing so, she enabled him to internalize the fact that sometimes
people don’t treat us nicely, and we can’t control that, but we can speak up and ask to be treated differently.
Now, obviously, this was a situation where the
mother was dealing with family members who are more likely to respond well than strangers. Also, the mother was dealing with another adult, and not only kids. She made a decision to help her son speak up for himself
based on these factors. There are situations, however,
where parents have to “choose their battles”, so to speak, but this is also an important lesson for the child.
Let’s say it had been a group of neighborhood kids
and the mother knew that they weren’t going to be
receptive. She could have told Shmuli, “I’m sorry that the children didn’t let you play. That wasn’t nice of them. I know that you wouldn’t do that to your friends.” She
would then do well to guide her child to another activity. Of course, since it’s not always that simple, if the
child would become inconsolable or have a meltdown, there would not be much that the parent can do about
that. We can model for the child how to take the experience, but ultimately we cannot force the child to have a specific reaction.
In conclusion, this brings me back to a point that was
touched upon earlier, and that is that one distinction between emunah and hishtadlus is to remember, that as a parent, your hishtadlus is only effective in changing
yourself, not your child. We can teach the proper
front of the adult she asked him, “Shmuli, do you want
attitude by modeling the proper attitude, but we cannot
realized that he had been wrong in shooing away the
I hope this has been helpful. May you have much
to play soccer?” At first he was nervous, but then he answered, “Yes, I want to play.” At that point, the adult boy and he let him join.
This is a great example of a mother getting involved
control how much our children learn, or how they feel or behave.
nachas from all of your children.
With Blessing, RST Winter/2016
SPARKS | 39
40 | SPARKS
By: Chavi Nussbaum
was walking in a forest, surrounded by tall, tall
trees. Way above I could see patches of light through the treetops, but I was surrounded by only darkness. I stood still, lost and confused.
How did I get here? And how do I get out?
I woke up to a piercing wail. I could tell it was
Miri, but I didn’t know why she was crying, where
she was or even where I was. I was lost in the trees
– and when I woke up-my dream was jumbled with reality and it took me time to sort it all out.
“I had a nightmare,” Miri hiccupped, climbing
into my bed. “Chani teased me that I didn’t know the aleph-bais, and she said it wasn’t true that we had a new baby. And she pushed me, and I fell!”
That didn’t sound like a nightmare to me. More
like an actual event. “Did you tell your Morah?”
Miri nodded. “Yeah, and Morah made her go far
away from me. But Chani said it isn’t really true that we had a new baby. Morah said she’s just jealous. But
is she right?” Miri looked at me searchingly. “Is she right? Do we have a new baby? Or not?”
It was way too early in the morning for this.
Not that I could think of any time of day that would have been better. I’m only in ninth grade; how am I supposed to know what to tell Miri?
I decided to start with the truth. “We definitely
have a new baby,” I told Miri firmly. “Don’t you
remember? Mommy and Tatty went to the hospital,
and Tatty came home and told us we have a new baby sister? He gave you pink candies, remember?”
Miri’s eyes were large and round. Her hair,
mussed with sleep, hung softly around her face, and she looked like a china doll. “But where is she, Rochie?” Miri whispered. “I don’t see our new baby
anywhere. Tatty came home from the hospital, but
not Mommy. And no baby. So is Chani right? Or is she jealous?”
A burning feeling came to my eyes. “Chani is not
right,” I said forcefully. “We did have a new baby, and
she is in the hospital with Mommy, and soon, very soon, they’re going to come home!”
SPARKS | 41
When I got to school a couple of hours later,
everyone else and ask them when we should get
to her teacher about what was going on, but I wasn’t
My brain unfroze. “No, Esty!” I said urgently. “We
I dropped Miri off by her classroom with an encouraging nod. I thought that maybe I should talk
sure what the adults would think of my mixing in. And what would I tell Miri’s Morah anyway? I didn’t really understand everything myself.
I walked into my classroom slowly, smoothing
out my face and trying to look normal, like nothing had changed. No one looked at me though; everyone
was standing around Debby’s desk and talking loudly and excitedly. “What’s going on?” I asked no one in particular.
Lieba turned toward me. “Oh, hi Rochie,” she
said. “Guess what – Mrs. Liebowitz posted the
groups for the Shabbos project.” Lieba gestured
toward the knot of girls, and I could see papers scattered everywhere. “Everyone’s just trying to see
which group they’re in and what topic they got and everything.”
I moved closer to the group. There were shouts
together to start. Okay?” She was moving before I could even respond. “We can all come to you, right?”
cannot get together at my house. Let’s go to you – or to someone else. Sorry. Okay?”
Esty looked at me in surprise, but then she
understood. “Oh – right,” she said. “I forgot
your mother just gave birth. Sorry. I’m a little scatterbrained sometimes, you know,” she winked.
“Okay, so let’s see if we can go to Faigy.” She waved Faigy over.
I watched Esty run around and get things
organized. That was Esty. She was good at this – organizing, delegating, getting things together. I could never do it.
I heard her tell Faigy we couldn’t work at my
house because my mother just came home from the hospital, but I didn’t correct her.
of, “You’re in my group!” and, “We got ‘neiros!’” The
“What are you doing, Rochie?”
of Shabbos fair that the entire school and all our
I tore myself away from my notebook. I love that
Shabbos project was a big deal. Each group created a full exhibit on their topic, so it culminated in a kind
“Can I see? What are you doing?”
deep concentration when I’m working on a new
knows how to draw. I can’t draw a straight line, you
front of me, and nothing else exists. Or in this case,
Esty grabbed my arm. “You’re in my group,
Rochie,” she said. “Thank goodness, at least someone know that.” She smiled comically, threw out her
arms and mimed a tightrope walker wobbling in a line. I had to laugh. “Who else is in our group?” I asked.
Esty read me the list. “And our topic is challah,”
she said happily. “So, that’s easy. Let’s find
project, how everything else in the world disappears,
and it’s just me and my paints and the blankness in my pencils and sketchbook.
I showed Miri what I was doing. “It’s for a
project in school,” I explained. “Everyone has to do
something about Shabbos, and our group is doing
challah. A whole classroom gets dedicated to our exhibit, so we have lots of room for all different
types of displays. I’m sketching the layout for the different sections, and here,” I flipped the page, “are some ideas I’m working on for the scenery.”
My voice was animated like it always gets when
I’m working on art, but Miri is only four, and she wasn’t interested. “I color in the lines better than
you,” she said critically. She sounded like she was in
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a bad mood.
“How was it with Chani today?” I ask casually.
“Chani made fun of me because I don’t know the
aleph-bais as good as her. And she says we don’t really have a new baby. Where’s Mommy?”
“Mommy’s in the hospital!” I say exasperatedly.
“Don’t listen to Chani!”
“But sometimes people go to the hospital because
they’re sick. So maybe that’s why Mommy’s there. Is Mommy sick?”
I’m only fourteen. What in
the world am I supposed to do for Miri?
I pulled her close to me. “Don’t
worry, Miri,” I told her. “I have
good news for you. In a couple
the game in that department. We still need to work
on the text for each part of the exhibit, and the
instructions for the activities, and the pamphlets we wanted to give out. Let’s do all the writing stuff today, and we can come back to the scenery when we’re calmer – I mean, when we’re ready.”
I didn’t say anything. Everyone else nodded in
I’m only fourteen. What in the world am I supposed to do for Miri?
more days Mommy is coming
home, and then everything will be better.”
We went to Faigy’s house after school today. She
has a huge unfinished basement, and we unrolled reams of scenery paper. I could hardly wait to start
painting! But after a couple of minutes I noticed I was the only one working.
“Uh, guys?” I asked, looking around. “Everything
Blank faces stared back at me. “What should we
be doing?” Esty asked.
I was confused. “What do you mean, what should
we be doing?” I gestured at the paper. “Paint! What else?”
No one moved. “I don’t know how to paint,” Esty
said blandly. “Not straight lines, or crooked ones
agreement, and we sat down at the table. Faigy handed out
pens and Esty, of course, made a list of everything that needed
to be written up. Then she gave everyone a job and paired us up.
She assigned Dina and me to
work together on the pamphlet. Dina had tons of ideas. “We can
have instructions on how to
braid challah,” she said enthusiastically, scribbling
as quickly as she could. “And we can include all different interesting challahs from all different
communities. Oh – and shlissel challah too! And we can include some nice stories about challah, you
know, for inspiration. We want people to be excited about this mitzvah.” She jotted down some good lines, like “Challah weaves generations together,” and “Challah Do’s and Dough’nts.”
Dina wrote and wrote, and I sat quietly. I didn’t
write a single word. I couldn’t believe how easy
painting was, and how hard it had seemed to the other girls. And I couldn’t believe how hard writing was, and how easy Dina made it seem.
Mommy came home
either. We discussed this, remember?”
today. She seemed
I had done – “so all you have to do now is paint.”
I chuckled. “Right, of course. But I already
sketched everything –” I motioned toward the work Rivky rolled her eyes. “That’s all,” she mimicked.
“Just paint!” She folded her arms across her chest.
“Wait, guys, let’s not fight,” said Chayala. “Look,
very quiet, not excited I
maybe we should do something else today. We already planned all the artwork, so we’re ahead of
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remember when the other kids were born. She was very tired and went to bed right away. I guess that made sense, but still. Something felt wrong.
Miri felt it too. “Are you sick?” she asked Mommy.
Mommy looked surprised. “No,” she said. “Why
do you ask?”
“Do we have a new baby?” Miri persisted. “Chani
says we don’t, but Morah says she’s just jealous.”
Mommy looked confused. “We have a new baby,”
she said slowly. “A beautiful baby girl. But our new baby is… sick. So she is still in the hospital.”
Miri looked at me. “I told you
the hospital is for sick people,” she said.
“What’s wrong with the
baby?” I asked Mommy. I was so
tense, my palms were clammy,
“The problem is that you’re not into it. That’s
the problem! You were so excited about it, but now
you’re… kind of…” she searched for the words, “flat! Like a balloon without air!”
I giggled reluctantly. “Good one,” I said.
“Seriously,” Esty persisted. “What’s up? We want
to do an amazing project, but we need you.”
I didn’t really want to tell her what was up. “I’m
not good at writing,” I blurted out. “Dina can do it. I’ll stick to the art stuff.”
“Do we have a new baby?” Miri persisted.
and I could hear my heartbeat loud in my ears.
Esty stared at me for a
minute. “We can do it that way,” she
everything up, and everyone
does only their own job. But it will be harder that way, because
really everything ties into each other.”
“I can’t write,” I repeated.
“And I can’t paint,” said Esty.
“She has a… problem… with her heart,” said
“But can you really paint the entire scenery and all
If the doctors think they can fix it, why does
“So we’re all good at different things, and we’ll
Mommy. “But the doctors think they can fix it, and then she can come home.” Mommy look so sad?
“Do you think Mommy also has a broken heart?”
When school was over yesterday I heard someone
call my name on my way out. “Rochie, wait a minute.” It was Esty. “I want to talk to you.”
I wasn’t really in the mood of talking.
“What’s going on with the Shabbos project?”
asked Esty. She fell into step beside me so we were walking together. I wished she would leave me alone. My head was full of stuff I needed to think about. I
had that lost-in-the-forest feeling again. The trees loomed over me, blocking any sun.
“What about it?” I asked listlessly.
“Exactly,” said Esty. “That’s the problem!”
I was confused now. And impatient. “What’s the
44 | SPARKS
the banners yourself without help?” I didn’t answer. She was right.
all help each other. And then we’ll have a beautiful exhibit! Right?” Esty looked in to my eyes.
Something about that idea warmed me. “Right,”
“Can you do my homework with me?”
I looked down at Miri. “Me?” I asked in surprise.
Miri shrugged. “Mommy is resting and Tatty is at
work. I don’t know the aleph-bais, and Chani always makes fun of me. I need to practice.”
I felt bad for her. “Okay,” I said. “Come here.” I
waited while she got her book and snuggled her close to me.
Miri started to read. She mixed up bais and vais,
and vav and zayin, and after yud she was lost. I tried
to help her as much as I could. “Bais has a ball in his belly,” I explained, emphasizing the “b” sound. “Oy
vey, vais doesn’t have a ball!”
It’s not like I meant to eavesdrop. But I was in
Miri looked sad. “Don’t worry,” I encouraged her.
the kitchen, and they were in the dining room, and
Esty’s words popped right out of my mouth.
“Miri, sweetheart? Come sit here, I want to talk
“Aleph-bais is hard. You’ll get it soon.” “Chani says it’s easy,” said Miri.
“Everyone has different things that are hard for
them,” I said. “We’re all supposed to help each other.”
After supper Mommy called me into her room.
“Rochie, you’ve been working so hard, and I really appreciate it,” she said.
Whenever parents start off like that you know
there’s going to be a ‘but.’ I waited.
“There’s good news,” said Mommy. She was
talking slowly, I could tell, thinking about each word before she said it. “The new baby is doing very well.
The doctors are satisfied and they’re talking about her coming home on Thursday.” I felt frozen. I could
tell something else was coming. I couldn’t say a word.
I just… overheard. I guess I could have moved, but, well, anyway. to you.”
I could hear Miri crossing the room noisily,
carrying the project she had been working on and her favorite book. “Look what I made, Ma!” A thump. “Here, can you read to me?”
“Hmm, right now I want to talk. Miri, tomorrow
the new baby is coming home.”
“Oh, good. Then Chani can see her, and she’ll stop
“I’m going to talk to your teacher about Chani.
But right now I want to tell you something about the new baby. She – “
“Is she still sick? And that’s why you’re sad
“No, she – What? I’m not – I mean –”
“You have a broken heart,” said Miri matter-of-
“I have to tell you something important,” said
“The baby needed surgery on her heart, you
something important. The new baby was born sick,
I fixed my gaze on a corner of the carpet.
know that,” she continued. “But the baby also has
other health issues. She has…” she hesitated, like it
I wasn’t sure, but I thought I heard Mommy
chuckle. “Listen to me, Miri. I’m telling you
hurt her to say it. “She’s not going to grow and develop like other kids.” I said nothing.
“We don’t know yet what her level of
functioning will be,” Mommy continued softly. “When our other children were born we basically assumed they would walk at a certain age and talk at a certain age… But with the new baby everything is going to be more complicated.”
I nodded silently.
“If you have any questions, you
can ask me anytime,” said Mommy. I nodded again. Then I escaped.
SPARKS | 45
so she had an operation on her heart. But she was
that are hard for them."
“Does she look weird?”
why she had delayed it too long.
also born with other stuff that makes her different.”
I could just picture Miri scrunching up her face. “Well… no. She just looks like a tiny baby. It’s just
that as she grows up, things are going to be hard for
her. Things that everyone else can do, she won’t be able to do.”
“Aleph-bais is hard for me.”
“Right... It will be hard for her too. But other
things, like walking and talking and playing, those things will be hard for her too.”
I couldn’t help it. Quietly I moved to the
doorway and peeked through. Miri sat, completely
unconcerned, while Mommy struggled for the words to teach Miri to accept her brand-new special needs sibling.
As I watched Mommy’s face, it occurred to me that it was also a struggle
for Mommy to accept it.
wisely. “I know,
Ma,” she said in
Like talking to me and Miri was hard for you,
Mommy, I thought silently, understanding at last
"That's right, Miri," said Mommy. She sounded
surprised. "I'm glad you understand."
Miri nodded happily. "Rochie explained it to me,"
When I came home from school today, both cars
were in the driveway. That meant Mommy and Tatty
were both home. I walked inside and there was Mommy, holding the baby!
Miri came running over to me. “We have a new
baby!” she said. She looked ecstatic.
I smiled so wide my cheeks hurt. “Mazel tov!”
Mommy looked happy too. “We named her this
morning,” she said. “Ahuva, because we love her.”
I reached out for baby Ahuva and held her close
to me. Her eyes were closed, and she looked like any other baby. She slept so peacefully, unaware of anything around her. She didn’t know what life was all about. She didn’t know what challenges she would
face; what challenges we would all face. All she knew was that she was loved.
“I want to hold her!” Miri shouted. I sat her down
and gently placed Ahuva in Miri’s arms. Miri stared down rapturously. “Ahuuuvie,” she sang softly. “I loooove you.”
I looked over at Mommy. Her eyes were shiny, but
she blinked quickly when she caught my gaze.
I thought about the Shabbos Project, the
gorgeous scenery that was slowly coming together, the beautiful pamphlet that we had all helped write.
The forest didn’t feel so forbidding, and the sunlight
peeked through the trees. Everyone’s good at different things, and then we help each other.
Mommy smiled. I looked down at Ahuva. She
stirred in Miri’s arms. “Shush, shush,” said Miri. “I’ll
sing you a song.” She raised her voice sweetly and sang in a lilting tone, “Aleph, bais, vais, gimmel, dalet, hey…”
46 | SPARKS
Featuring: - A Balancing Act - Real Simcha - Chained
SPARKS in PERSPECTIVE Inspiration and Chizuk derived from every-day life situations, may at times be your guiding light. Reach out for them.
SPARKS | 47
By: M. Deutsch
he excitement in the air was electrifying. The tension was palpable and the noise was deafening. Thousands of people had gathered to watch the famous tightrope walker traverse the wire strung between the two skyscrapers. Would he make it? What if he loses his balance? The thought was chilling.
Suddenly there was silence. The tightrope walker was addressing the crowd from his perch high above them. “Do you think I should try walking across the wire on one leg? Do you think I can do it?”
The crowd responded with enthusiasm, encouraging him to give it a shot. He did. Then, after each subsequent successful attempt, he became more daring and creative as he planned his next exploit. Then came the climax, the grand finale. The thousands of assembled, all revved up and thrilled with his spine-tingling performance, listened with bated breath as he proposed one more feat. “Should I walk across the wire holding a chair?” “Yes! the crowd roared.
48 | SPARKS
His voice reached a screeching pitch. “Should I walk across the wire holding a chair with someone sitting on it?” The response from those below reached an ear-splitting crescendo. “YYYYYEEEEEESSSSSS!! “Go for it!” “Way to go!” “Okay! the tightrope walker shouted. “Who. Would. Like. To. Volunteer?”
Suddenly there was hushed, pindrop silence; no word nor sound was heard, only the echo and reverberation of the question dangling in the air. Dear Reader, Let us together resolve to think seriously before we encourage, advise or try to influence others to do what we feel is beneficial for them. Let us always remember that, unless we are ready to volunteer to sit on the chair, the distance from our comments and suggestions being helpful to being hurtful might just be a tightrope's width. As we watch our friends and family balance the challenges Hashem has sent their way, let it be us who, cheer them on with grace, unquestioned support, and confidence in how they choose to deal with their “rope” in life. Hopefully, iy”h, it will then be us whose resounding applause will be heard as we share in the glory of their success. .
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By: Esty Friedman 50 | SPARKS
here was celebration in both towns. The rebbe’s townspeople were so happy that finally, finally the rebbe found the right one for his only daughter. The coachman’s friends were thrilled that Hashem in His infinite kindness arranged for their friend’s “tzaddik” get engaged to the special girl he deserved. And just imagine, to get yichus too? It was a big simcha whichever way you looked it. In preparation for the wedding, the coachman called a meeting with his friends one evening. They all agreed that it would be appropriate for them to make a good impression when the distinguished rebbe and his entourage arrived to town. Maybe the rebbe would feel uncomfortable with such a simple mechutan, with no lineage, no money and definitely not too much in the way of lomdus or learning. Perhaps if they all dressed a little more respectably and took some time to learn a shtickel gemara here and there, they would come across more refined and sophisticated. It was, after all, the least they could do for their dear friend.... The same evening, in preparation for the wedding, the rebbe sat with some of his closest chasidim to discuss his dilemma. He did not want to go to his mechutan’s shtetl and have his new mechutan feel inferior. He was afraid that coming with too many of his followers and with his regal rebbishe garb would emphasize the vast differences between them. The chasidim nodded sagely, in awe of their rebbe’s sensitivity and humility. It was agreed that it would be appropriate for the rebbe to wear simpler clothing which they would purchase for him, and to limit his entourage to just a small, select group of those closest to him. It was after all, the least they could do for their dear rebbe.... After months of hectic organization and planning, the great day finally arrived…. Is there a hint of a smile on your face? Are you picturing the kabalos panim?
Enjoy a chuckle, but remember, we are all always most b’simcha and best off when we remain true to ourselves, and to who we really are. Winter/2016
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By: Draizy Lemberger
52 | SPARKS
always loved animals. The details of how each one survives in its own habitat and the distinct features each one was created with to find its food and to defend itself is nothing less than fascinating. Also, some animals are beautiful, graceful, strong, sociable and smart. It was, therefore, always a mystery to me how human beings managed to keep huge and tremendously powerful elephants in captivity. In zoos and in circuses, in countries where they are used for warfare and hard labor, the elephants stand in one place, held by only a chain around one ankle that is tied to a peg in the ground. Why, I wondered, don’t they just give one mighty tug and set themselves free? The answer, when I found it, was astounding.
When an elephant is born, a heavy chain is placed around his leg. At that stage, the chain is way too thick and strong for the newborn elephant to break. The elephant then gets used to the idea that the chain is unbreakable, that it is stronger than he is. No matter how big and powerful this baby elephant grows, no matter how many trees he can uproot with a gentle pull of the forty thousand muscles in his trunk, how the ground rumbles and the earth quakes when he walks, nothing changes, he stays in the same place. Why? Because in his mind he remains forever with the knowledge and certainty that the chain is unbreakable. Ridiculous, but true! Are we sometimes “elephants”? Are we sometimes chained to old ideas, stubborn habits, and impressions based on stereotypes? Do we neglect to try, to risk, to take the initiative, because we know with certainty and clarity that it can’t be done? The next time you doubt yourself or your abilities, think of the elephant. Give a vigorous shake of your leg when no one is watching, and go forward with strength, poise and confidence to change your world.
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54 | SPARKS
Pillars of Strength
By: Dini Landau
Strength & courage, shared by three amazing siblings
When we read biographies of great men and women of the past we are often left wondering, in awe of how these people achieved such levels of piety, steadfastness, faith and courage. We marvel at the heights human beings can reach and we become inspired by their accomplishments, but we often close the book and don’t relate to them personally. Sometimes it’s because the people we’ve read about lived in a different generation, hundreds of years ago, or they might have struggled with challenges during times of war or persecution, which fortunately we do not suffer from. Sometimes, it’s because the personalities were heilige neshamos, tzaddikim whose madreigos in ruchniyos are so far from what we feel we can ever attain. The interviews we present here are with heroes of a different sort; everyday heroes just like us. They are siblings faced with nisayonos on a daily basis but find the emunah and strength of character to accept, to smile and to continue dong their best. Perhaps no biographies will be published about them, but we are proud to share with you a glimpse into their lives. It is our hope that you will gain personal inspiration and chizuk.
Introduction: Can you tell us a little bit about your sibling with special needs? Simi R.*: My sister Leah was born when I was
two years old. The fact that I was so young at the time made my reaction innocent and my memories of her early infancy fuzzy. I was excited and happy about a new baby girl in the family and didn’t dream of any difficulties ahead. Leah was born full term and was discharged from the hospital as a healthy baby. When she began lagging behind in achieving her basic milestones, my parents became very concerned and took her for evaluations. At around 18 months of age, Leah was diagnosed with global developmental delay and M/R (mental retardation). In hindsight, my parents associated her diagnosis with a lack of oxygen she experienced during birth. Leah was subsequently enrolled in an EI program and received all the therapies she needed. It was that first learning center that alerted me to the realization that her educational setting was worlds apart from mine. Leah and I would never attend the same school. It was an uncomfortable
reality I was forced to accept and adapt to. Despite the predictions of naysayers, Leah grew up fairly independent and achieved many milestones in school and at home, albeit at her own pace. Presently, Leah is 34 years old, and resides in a group home with other girls her age. Categorized as ‘high-functioning’, Leah is capable of doing simple tasks at the various job sites she attends through her Day Hab program. She’s very sociable among her peers and plays an active role in the Shabbatons and summer getaways that she attends. An avid reader since her teens, Leah reads and writes exceptionally well and even keeps a journal of her daily activities. Values that were important to my mother were instilled in Leah from a young age. As a result, Leah is now very independent in all areas of self-care. Her grooming skills are on an age-appropriate level, and her appearance is always neat and put together. She never neglects any basic daily activities that affect her appearance and quality of life.
*Names have been changed to protect identity. However, should anyone like to contact any of our interviewees for further information or guidance, they can do so by reaching out to the Rayim office.
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Pillars of Strength
Raizy M.*: Yoely was born prematurely almost
13 years ago. It was immediately obvious that Yoely would require lots of help to reach his basic milestones. He exhibited low muscle tone and was generally delayed from early on. As he grew older, Yoely’s diagnosis was repeatedly changed with doctors explaining his numerous symptoms and disabilities as different syndromes and varying conditions. These days, he’s clinically diagnosed with a Dandy Walker variant, as this characterizes the disabilities he experiences – low muscle tone, visual impairment, hearing impairment, digestive issues, pseudo tumor cerebri, hydrocephalus etc. Yoely’s infancy revolved around frequent hospitalizations and therapies, but he was later enrolled in a special education school that was able to assist him with all his special needs. Currently, he attends a mainstream yeshiva, while being provided with all ancillary therapies he requires. Yoely is very personable and exceptionally charming and his appealing personality has everyone gravitating to him. When he was younger, his chein made him the natural center-of-attention wherever he went. His happy disposition always benefitted him, especially when his medical needs took over our daily lives.
Tzippy D.*: Five years ago, when I was a six
year old, my family experienced a very scary situation. A tremendous miracle happened. My brother Simcha, a perfectly adorable baby boy, suddenly went into what I was told is called cardiac arrest. Within seconds, he turned blue, and it seemed like he wasn’t going to survive. Hatzolah was called immediately, and they arrived in a few seconds. However, even these seconds were a little too long for little Simcha. Simcha was at first pronounced clinically dead, until, after several very long minutes, they managed to bring him back to life. Simcha was >>> Next page
56 | SPARKS
taken to the ICU of an excellent hospital, where he stayed for a while, until they managed to make him stable enough for him to leave the hospital and go to a rehab center. Simcha spent the next few months in that rehab to heal and get better after the shocking experience his little body went through. It was then that we started hearing and understanding many
medical terms and diagnoses. Simcha was diagnosed with a condition called Cerebral Palsy, which meant that while his brain would work, his body would have trouble doing things we all do every day, like walking, bending and moving. Today, five years later, Simcha still does not move normally, and he is in a wheelchair.
How old were you when your sibling was diagnosed, and how did it affect the dynamics within your family? Simi: Leah was diagnosed with M/R
the reality of her disability is something
when I was about 3-4 years old. Since her delays became evident at an early stage, I’ve always been familiar with.
deal with any feelings of disappointment or
was no sudden shift that affected our family Furthermore, since Leah is
the sandwich child in our family, all of us
siblings grew up with her and accepted her disability as a part of our childhood.
Raizy: I was 5 years old when Yoely was
positive attitude that “Hashem made it so,” was
Yoely’s condition always created logistical
a ‘challenge’, since our parents demonstrated
born and therefore the chunk of my childhood
memories follow the period after his birth. and medical challenges, but we never felt overburdened
exemplary optimistic approach to life. Their
something we grew up with in a very tangible way. In fact, we never viewed our brother as
their natural acceptance by repeating their motto constantly. “Nuch a mazel we have Yoely!”
Tzippy: As I said, I was six years old when this
and were very worried about him. They also
my happy and rosy world of dolls and coloring
all my hundreds of questions. This made me
happened, so I was too young to understand what was going on and was really not sure why
books was changing so suddenly. My parents spent an awful lot of time at Simcha’s bedside
did not understand exactly everything that
was happening, so they weren’t able to answer very tense and confused. It was a very hard time for me.
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Pillars of Strength
Did you ever experience a situation in which your sibling disrupted or ruined an occasion or special project? And how did you feel about it? Simi: Leah never exhbited any behavioral issues. She
was always very passive about her surroundings and never disrupted or ruined special projects or events. The fact
that she was well-behaved in public, also meant that she was always included in family simchas, trips, etc. To us, it wasn’t a matter of choice; she was simply part of the gang.
Raizy: Yoely is a naturally happy child and therefore
never ruins or disrupts anything. Additionally, our family’s acceptance of him is so strong that in the rare event that he does create a scene, I rather feel sorry for him than experience any sort of disappointment or anger. Technically
speaking though, his frequent hospitalizations as a child sometimes interfered with our simchas or plans, resulting
in disappointment. Momentous occasions such as my aunt’s tenoyim, friends birthday parties, Shabbos seudas, etc. were
placed on the back burner, as Yoely’s needs were always first priority. In spite of it all, I don’t remember feeling resentful
about any event in particular; rather I felt a sense of pity and compassion for what he was going through.
Tzippy: I always looked forward to our Shabbos table, when my parents would give me a lot of attention. They would
listen proudly to my parshah stories, and they complimented me happily for every question I answered correctly. However,
after Simcha came home, everything changed. He became the most important person and everyone was always busy with him. Even though I love him dearly and would never exchange him for a different brother in the entire world, it sometimes
bothers me that he gets all the attention. Also, I sometimes
have an issue being seen with Simcha in public because I’m
afraid that people will not understand and make fun of me or Simcha.
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Did your sibling get special attention and/or gifts that you didn’t receive? Did you feel jealous or resentful?
Simi: Leah was always treated equally within the family.
Whether it was chores that my
mother assigned to her just like to the rest of us,
or the expectations that she would follow basic
household rules, very little differed from how we were all treated. My mother spoke to her in
simple, clear language and didn’t sugar coat her demands. The fact that Leah didn’t receive special
treatment as a child enabled her to establish her independence as she got older, and it enabled us
to feel she was one of us. We learned to enjoy and appreciate her for who she was. Back in the days when Leah was young, organizations that are so common today did not yet exist. Leah rarely received special treats or gifts that could’ve aroused feelings of jealousy
among us. The only time my siblings and I felt that she was special was when summertime came around. Leah’s summer plans were always the focal point of the season. It was evident in the meticulous pre-camp shopping indulgences and preparations that Leah was privileged to enjoy, that her “vacation” was of paramount importance to my parents. My siblings and I on the other hand, had to make do with simple shopping and minimal extras. When Leah was in her teens, she began joining more major trips, such as touring Europe or Eretz Yisroel. Yet, in spite of all the ‘special treatment’ she received during that time, we never felt resentful, since we understood the need for respite that these summer trips granted my parents.
events. Sometimes we were acknowledged
with gifts too. When my mother would (rarely) sense an undercurrent of jealousy among us siblings, she would wisely remind us that “you don’t want to exchange your health for the gifts and presents that Yoely receives”. My mother’s simple approach to these situations quickly diffused the slightest resentment or envy we felt.
Tzippy: Simcha is very charming and cheerful.
do what is easy for everyone who is healthy. When
always do that. Also, my parents are more lenient
gifts than him. My parents always made sure that
showered him with gifts and privileges, since
he was going through many procedures and difficulties at the time.
We were included
in the fun quite often, and also occasionally
welcome to join many of the special outings and
He always knows what to say to make others happy and make everyone less tense or nervous. I can’t
with Simcha than with me and I understand that. They are extremely delighted with whatever goal
he reaches, since it is much harder for Simcha to
he is successful everyone gets excited and makes a fuss over him. I don’t remember getting fewer if our grandparents, family, or friends, brought over presents for Simcha they also brought something nice for me.
SPARKS | 59
Pillars of Strength
How do you deal with questions, comments or stares from strangers or even family members? Simi: As Leah’s older sibling, I developed
a strong instinct to defend and protect my sweet sister. I would make it my personal mission to stick up for her when any rude comments or stares came her way. If we would walk into the grocery and kids would stare at us, I’d typically react in a defensive manner such as, “What are you looking at?” Defending my sister in public became an integral part of my personality and of keeping my pride intact. Shabbos afternoon presented its unique set of challenges. Rather than watching my sister sitting idly on the sidelines while everyone played, I would opt out of joining the neighbors in the yard. I would instead stay home and wait for the hours to pass during those long afternoons. It is clear to me, in hindsight, that being so close in age to Leah definitely affected the way I interacted with her and with my own friends. These days, the comments and questions are less frequent, but can still touch a raw nerve. I remember a specific incident that occurred recently during a family gathering. I was standing next to Leah, when a cousin came over to us. Instead of asking the appropriate “How are you?” which would’ve been a suitable greeting for Leah, she said loudly and slowly, “Hi Leah! Wow! You became sooooo big!” Obviously, complimenting a young adult in such a condescending fashion did not show too much sensitivity.
60 | SPARKS
Raizy: We can’t control the world, and so we
Yoely. I became all upset and fiercely defended my special brother by reminding her that she could have been the one to be born with his disabilities instead of him. I told her the story of the Sanzer Rav who graciously chose to go through life with a limp instead of his kallah, sparing her a life of hardship and shame. The lesson of this story still keeps me going whenever I’m confronted with uncomfortable remarks or comments. On a personal level, I never felt shortchanged by the fact that Yoely wasn’t the typical brother. I always chose to dwell on and enjoy his easygoing and good-natured personality.
Tzippy: Since this happened a long time ago, I
rather because they do not know what to do or say. I tell them that everybody has challenges and this one is mine. I also learned to look at everything on the bright side. My parents and family are very helpful and supportive and are always available to listen to me when I am upset or get hurt. This helps me be able to face the world again.
have learnt that we can’t always shield ourselves or our special brother from rude comments or stares. We can, however, control our response to remarks from people who are lacking sensitivity and tact. Whenever I’m out in public in the company of Yoely, I deal with common stares by reminding myself that Yoely is a yiddish kind and that I truly love him to pieces. One difficult encounter that I experienced in school stands out more than the rest. It was during my elementary school years, when my classmate made a hurtful comment about
had enough practice to deal with these problems. When strangers stare at Simcha, I stare back at them making them feel uncomfortable. For anybody closer to me or my family, I will try to explain Simcha’s issues, because I know that people don’t stare because they are mean, but
How did this situation impact you personally? Simi: Being a sibling of a special needs sister
mature, confident and respectful interactions. I learned to stick up for my rights, and for the rights of others when necessary. I chose to pursue a career in the special needs field, because being a sibling of a special needs sister gave me the feeling of having ‘been there, done that’, and the insight I felt would benefit others.
Raizy: Yoely’s presence in my life undoubtedly
mature about life than most girls my age, is also probably connected to my experience as Yoely’s
helped me develop a ‘thick skin’, which later empowered me to deal with my personal difficulties. I also acquired a strong awareness of, and sensitivity towards, the special needs society. The self-conscious and defensive comments with which I responded to rude strangers as a kid, eventually turned into
taught me to be very sensitive to the general and special needs society. The fact that I’m more
>>> Next page
SPARKS | 61
Pillars of Strength
older sister. There is, after all, a certain level of resilience the sibling of a special needs child develops while facing everyday challenges. All in all, whatever impact Yoely has had on my life could only have been positive, since my parents were careful not to neglect our needs while they juggled Yoelyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s many medical emergencies and constant appointments.
Tzippy: At first, I was extremely angry and I
blamed everyone around me. However, with my parents, explanations and professional guidance, I learned that I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t change the situation, so I might as well make the best out of it. I also feel that it made me grow up and have a much more mature outlook in life than other girls my age. I will always look to help girls in school or on the street with anything they need. Sometimes I help someone study for a test, sometimes I help a younger kid cross the street; I always find ways to be kind and helpful.
What is your message to those experiencing these challenges today?
Simi: The level of acceptance and understanding
of special needs children and their families has increased tremendously and changed drastically
since I was a young child. The general population is more exposed, more aware and more tuned in to the disabilities and requirements of our special needs children. Education has replaced ignorance, and sensitivity and caring have >>> Next page
62 | SPARKS
replaced indifference and aloofness. However,
Also, although your parents are raising your
despite the progress, there still may be times
sibling, the more you invest in your sister/brother,
you can give your sibling the richer you will be.
when siblings will be confronted with hardships or attitudes from other people regarding their special This is my message to you, dear friends. During
those trying moments, don’t let anyone’s behavior influence you or cause you to distance yourself from your sibling. He/she has a special place in
your heart, which no force on earth can change, and, deep in your heart, you know that being his/ her sibling is more a privilege than a burden.
Raizy: From personal experience, I can attest that
the stronger your bond will become. The more time, love, patience, understanding and warmth
Being there for your sibling as a sister is a role no one, not even your mother or father, can play. Only you have this specific opportunity, and you can never know how strongly your sibling benefits from and treasures your ‘sisterly’ relationship. You can never assess the value of the everlasting gift you are giving her and yourself.
played in our healthy attitude and strength to deal
when we view things positively, coping becomes
with Yoely’s situation. We grew up with a richer
choosing to dwell on the dark side weakens our
her children, especially when they are young and
much, much easier. Every scenario can be dealt with, through either a negative or positive approach; abilities to rise to the challenge with grace.
Another thing I want to share is what an integral
part my mother’s wise insight and acceptance
understanding of life that enhances our every day.
Remember, a mother’s words mean the world to impressionable. To us kids, it was our dear and brave
mother’s words that molded us into who we are today.
Tzippy: We know that Hashem only gives us
in a while is a healthy way to get things “off our
Siyata Dishmaya and strength to deal with those
to have a good shoulder to cry on when you need it.
challenges we can overcome. When He sends us something difficult He also gives us tremendous
problems. This doesn’t mean that they will disappear,
or the situation will correct itself, but it will definitely make us into stronger and kinder people as we grow
up. Also, not only is it OK to cry, but crying once
chests.” It is also a very good idea to have a person
whom you can trust to discuss any issue with and
A listening ear always makes me feel better, and of course I am always thankful when I get good advice
and guidance. I hope everything always goes well for you, and remember, Hashem is always with you.
Sparks magazine looks forward to hearing from you, our dear reader. We encourage the submission of personal experiences, comments or suggestions. Your feedback is appreciated and will iy"h help us when our next edition of Sparks magazine is published.
To contacts us, please email to email@example.com. or call: 845-782-7700 #403
SPARKS | 63
From Rayim’s Bulletin Board New Monsey Office Division
significant growth in the In recent years Rayim has experienced Rockland county region that number of families and children in the families who appreciate the they provide services to. Parents and is known for, choose only personal and devoted style that Rayim order to meet the growing Rayim as their primary service team. In ices, two more service needs of those requesting their serv team to enable and support coordinators were added to the Rayim families navigating the world of OPWDD. is important, but more crucial is bringing Providing families with adequate staff that end inistration recognized that need and to the services closer to home. Rayim’s adm eniently their local branch. The new office is conv found a very central location to expand space in ge Rd., right off Route 59. The additional located in the heart of Monsey at 3 Colle s for , comfortable and private conference room these new facilities will provide adequate off drop location will make it easier to pick up, staff, providers, and family meetings. The expense will also lessen the commuting time and and sign documents and applications. It . offices. A win-win change for everyone for staff and clients coming to the Rayim
(Monroe Division) m ra g ro P e it esp r Teenaged Boys R ite programs fo structured resp
ed of brand-new eet the rising ne ative to develop a iti In an effort to m in e th n ke ta s h boys, Rayim ha d Sunday respite post-bar mitzva for after-school an ed ne e th d ice vo s since those rents have r-school program te program. Many pa af m ea tr ns ai m ey cannot join with much-needed for teenage boys. Th ing these families id ov Pr n. re ild ch elopment list, younger ’s projects-in-dev generally cater to m yi Ra on y rit io e of efore a top pr serves the purpos respite was ther The program also n. tio ui fr ng to di e oi m lling, av and has finally co ructured and fulfi st s le du he sc ’ ys g bo keeping these youn sets in. ise when boredom ar at th s l staff greeting lem ob pr e th yim’s professiona Ra d un fo , os cc Su g d them. It The week followin g schedule awaite in cit ex an re he w w site ike were eager to the boys at their ne nts and children al re pa ce sin e tim e was a very suitabl Tov season. after a hectic Yom e in ut ro r la gu re te in are meal get back to the boys participa es iti tiv ac y an m , arts ‘n’ Among the creational outings re , ng ni ai tr n he kitc program operates preparation and ulation, etc. The im st l ica us m , se ous meals for crafts, exerci ol hours. Nutriti ho sc r te af d an s are holiday variety of snacks on Sundays, legal g full days and a rin du ed id ary ov ss ce pr h are at is ne breakfast and lunc trained with all th e ar f af St s. ur t for all ter school ho uctive environmen od pr d offered during af an fe sa a re essionally to ensu medically and prof participants.
64 | SPARKS
By: Adina Jacobs
Brooklyn Office Expansion Since Rayim’s expansion into New York City in 2012, demand for their services has
been steadily increasing. Word about Rayim’s mission and reputation of maintaining a strong relationship with families and consumers, has quickly spread and many families have reached out to them as the better provider for OPWDD services. In the short 3-4 years since its inception, Rayim has gone from a single desk office to a location teeming with professional staff, all working with a common goal of assisting their consumers and families in need. Rayim’s dramatic growth has not diminished their focus on the goal, to provide personal and loyal assistance in a quick, efficient, and helpful manner. On the contrary, hiring more staff has translated into more timely and more supportive services. In the spring of 2015, Rayim inaugurated its new Brooklyn headquarters on 62 Rutledge St. The office is spacious, wellappointed, and equipped with a full kitchenette area. It also features a comfortable conference room that accommodates meetings with staff and parents. The central location provides families with a convenient spot to stop by for paperwork, documentation or meetings. B’siyatte D’shmaya, Rayim anticipates that this new location will be a source of support and assistance to the individuals and families they are proud to serve.
Rayim OMIG Audit
It was with a great sigh of relief that the Rayim administration received the news
that they passed the OMIG (Office of Medicaid Inspector General) audit with a 100% score and without a single citation or deficiency. Among the many government agencies conducting audits to review Medicaid billing, an audit from OMIG is known as the most comprehensive, detailed review. When the OMIG starts an audit the inspectors make themselves comfortable in the office of the agency they are investigating. They visit every day for weeks and months, scrutinizing every expense, service, payment and document that’s related to Medicaid billing. Rayim received notification of this audit in February 2015. Since they had never been audited on this level before, it came as a real surprise. Preparing for such an audit meant reviewing hundreds of binders of service documentation, and literally thousands of sheets of paper, to assure that everything was in place and ready for review. With loads of S’iyatte D’shmaya and with the support of a remarkably devoted team of staff members, Rayim pulled through! Finally, when the notification of 100% grade arrived it was received with huge relief and tremendous pride. A job well done! Winter/2016
SPARKS | 65
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66 | SPARKS
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SPARKS | 67
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Kiryas Joel Division Winter/2016
SPARKS | 69
e l c r In Ci ght l, piercing the ni Her voice is shril om ugh the silent ro And echoes thro s ne nfi ir in their co Her comrades st ce an eir nighttime tr Arousing from th to one and all, “Come,” she calls r ng, kicking in he Her mission itchi grocery store And in that little dance!” cries, “Come, let’s e sh e, or m ce On breaks out A soft rustle then hes , plums and peac Her fellow apples , Watermelon Lime and Lemon d out they prance Slowly stretch an Cantaloupe Mr. Banana and family in tow With friends and d Red Delicious Granny Smith an uncles, aunts Kids and cousins, out, one by one And so they file crowd ing through the Excitement rippl smugly smiles And Little Apple nce k, this nightly Da Proud of her pran twirl d they whirl and Round and roun oh, so very Cherries, berriesthis Dance! Merry, merry is e and elegance! What magic, grac
When, es a meek voice “Hi! Hello,” com in?” it shyly asks “May I please jo ers turn around And all the danc stands ture ‘fore them An unknown crea
70 | SPARKS
s, a,” she announce “My name is Guav y friend, m s n’ a, the Su ric Af h ut So om “I’m fr to this country, I was imported r. Ganz.” By our grocer, M says Pear efruit, “Weird,” “Odd,” says Grap aloupe Type,” says Cant “You’re Not Our Apple t,” pipes up Little en er ff Di ’re ou “Y pleads, demands As Guava’s face und ues, round and ro The Dance contin becomes a blur The circle’s whir eir sheer delight All reveling in th different stance Retaining their in s on from the side And Guava look and ecstasy Inhales their glee vy longing with en While yearning, s, expands As the circle grow nied to be But, no, she is de -knit family Part of this tight ows t, and no one kn She’s too Differen nds la e’s from foreign Her worth, for sh collapse twelve, all fruits es rik st k oc cl e Th k r nocturnal pran Fatigued by thei shelf rn, each to their Worn, they retu e tomorrow’s Danc Eagerly awaiting orning , a bright blue m Tomorrow dawns ightly on display All fruits stand br , ho will be chosen Waiting to see w s nd ning shoppers’ ha Picked by discer
Malky Stein shes in Cheery Mrs. D. ru e’s whizzing by Wig frizzing as sh day ab as her lunch to Whom will she gr ? tite’s demands To curb her appe Family Grape She passes over arm escapes Little Apple’s ch And… r prize, her find: Alas! She hits he nds! m she lays her ha It ’s Guava on who d, ,” she gushes alou “Oh, how Exotic , ecial you must be “How utterly Sp ” y! auty, a Rarit What a perfect Be nz. r pick, pays Mr. Ga And, caressing he u, nds, let me tell yo And so, dear frie ng lo e Who Don’t Be Regarding Thos e ng Shopper abov There’s a Discerni ds ecies and all bran Who knows all sp em Queer, u some might se And while to yo re Valuable and Ra Perhaps they’re up there; d” ke ho’s “pic w ow kn r ve ne You ecial— Consider them Sp chance. and give them a
tein Malky S
SPARKS | 71
Dea r Fuzzy Stein Malky
October 12 Dear Fuzzy, I like your name. It's so you. Soft, fuzzy, cozy, the way I wish everything should be, only not everything is the way I wish. But you, Fuzzy, are mine, and you are just the way I want you to be. I got you from Mommy when Pinny was born, almost ten years ago, and since then, you have faithfully served as my pillow and pal every night. (Sshhhâ&#x20AC;Ś don't tell anyone!) I wonder if there's another seventh grader who has a friend in the form of an old oversized teddy bearâ&#x20AC;Ś. My friends would think I'm nuts if they found out about you; that's why I always push you into a corner when they come. But Mommy never said a word about my attachment to you and that's enough for me. I think she understands that having you allows me to feel like the child I really am, even though the whole world expects me to act like an adult.
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I look at your pink furry ears, all shredded around the edges like a fraying quilt, and I know that you can hear me better than anyone else. However, these days my thoughts are so jumbled I can barely hear myself amidst all the noise in my brain. So I decided to write to you. I hope you don't mind.
October 15 Dear Fuzzy, Tomorrow is my birthday. I'm turning thirteen. Would you believe it? I wonder what Mommy will buy for me. Although she is so busy (sometimes I think she has a tighter schedule than the president), I know she won't forget my birthday. She never did.
October 16 Dear Fuzzy, Mommy forgot my birthday. I woke up to Pinny pounding and hollering like a thunderstorm instead of Mommy singing happy birthday the way she does every year. When I left to school, Mommy kissed me good-day as usual and I noticed her eyes looked kind of dark, the way it looks on Pinny Days. Today definitely was a Pinny Day. I thought there will be a surprise party waiting for me when I come home, but in the back of my mind I knew that it was wishful thinking. And on the bottom of my heart, Fuzzy, I felt happy that Mommy forgot. Almost… relieved. I don't always understand myself, Fuzzy. Do you understand me?
I thought and came up with several ideas. One was simply telling him a resounding “NO!”. Another one was writing to you, Fuzz. I have a couple of other tricks up my sleeve that I didn't even need to use yet. So far I'm doing great.
October 20 Dear Fuzzy, I got a beautiful watch! It's pink with a leather band and large silver numbers on a pretty white face. It smiles to me when I look at it and I can see its eyes twinkling. I love it!!!!! I can't wait to wear it
October 18 Dear Fuzzy, I'm proud of myself because I'm really great at controlling that obnoxious Tears these days. He used to be my best friend, or so I thought, and I would summon him every time my feelings were tickled. At one point, he began to show up unwarranted, and that was when I realized that this was quite an unhealthy, ridiculous friendship. Why would I want him to control me? And so I decided to show him who I was.
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Good thing I have you, Fuzzy. At least I can tell you everything. So here goes:
in school tomorrow. I'm sure Dassy and Reizy will ooh and aah over it. Of course I told Mommy how thrilled I was. I wanted her to know how much it means to me, but she only looked at me with sad eyes and said she can't believe she missed my birthday. I told her that it doesn't matter; all that matters is that she loves me and I love her. I thought that would make her happy, but all she responded with was a cough.
Everyone likes my new watch, of course. Even Mrs. Silber commented when she passed my desk during the Pirkei Avos test. (I really like Mrs. Silber, even if it's still pretty early in the school year.) Recess time, we all gathered around the teachers' desk as usual to chat and play this new card game Chavy bought. It was Dassy was who noticed it first. “Hey, Mims!” she called, “You got a new watch! I LOOOOVE!!” They all crowded around me. “Ooooh, look at that!” Breindy gushed. More exclamations: “Wow! How pretty!”
Dear Fuzzy, Again. Echo was the only one home to greet me today, again. I called Mommy on her cell and in my best chirpy voice told her I'm okay and yes, I see the sandwich she prepared for me, thanks a million. Then I put down the phone, double checked that it was put down, just in case, and… didn't cry. Instead, I let out a humongous sigh and told Tears an unequivocal no, not now. Inside I feel like soggy croutons in a plate of leftover soup, pathetic and miserable. I want my Mommy home so I can tell her what Dassy said to me today and ask her what to tell Miss Green when she puts a mark by my name in her rollbook for not having my math homework signed. Not at another appointment with Pinny. And I know when she'll arrive home, she'll have that Pinnylook in her eyes again and… well.
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“This is so in!” That was Toby. Trust her to know what's “in”. My hand was turning shades of purple. So was my face, I'm afraid, but I was enjoying it anyway. Then came Dassy again. “Birthday gift?” “Yup! You guessed right.” I answered cheerfully. “Hey, your birthday was last week, on the sixteenth, right? Why didn't you wear it till now?” Dassy inquired. My face must have gone from light purple to neon purple. I muttered something about adjusting the band, when the class suddenly went quiet. The silence felt unnatural, and stiff, like if someone would pull the plug out of the keyboard in middle of a wedding. WhWhat? My eyes flew to the door; maybe Miss
Green came early? But, no. All I saw was an empty doorway and twenty-something kids who, out of the blue, became busy doing all sorts of unimportant things such as organizing their briefcases and throwing candy wrappers in the garbage. Oh. It dawned on me. This had happened before. I knew this kind of abrupt silence well. I could just imagine what somebody (Reizy?) must've mouthed to Dassy when she asked her innocent question. “Ssshhhh, maybe her mother was too busy.” Or, “Don't ask Mimi private questions, you know….” Or worse, “Her mother probably forgot about her birthday, she's so overwhelmed with their Pinchas, nebach.” They don't get it! Pinny is as part of my life as chicken soup is part of the shabbos seudah. I love him and, yes, it's hard, sometimes very hard, but I am not a pity! Not if I don't pity myself… or, do I?
October 22 Dear Mimi, You are doing great! I am proud. Keep it up!
October 30 Dear Fuzzy, My watch is gone. Not lost, no worse. It's somewhere smashed in a garbage truck on the way to be buried in a landfill. Pinny tried making confetti out of it. Oh, Pinny, Pinny. Maybe Mommy will buy me a new one. Maybe not.
I wish things could just be normal. If not at home, at least in school, no Fuzz?
Love, Mimi P.S. If you have anything to say on this matter, please write back.
Dear Fuzzy, I wonder where I would be without Pinny. Today we got report cards. Mine was really beautiful, except for that low grade on math, which wasn't my fault—Mommy even said it's ok, this once. I reread the comment
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Mrs. Silber wrote, like ten times. It's
as if she tied a big bow around my heart.
rolling madly along the kitchen floor like
Here's what it says:
some Indian party gone wild. (The only
student who can handle challenge. Her sensitivity and
For a second I wished he had never,
and have earned her the respect and
would never, come home, so that I can
admiration of her peers as well as her
stay reveling in my moment of glory, so
Mommy's eyes wouldn't get cast over with
What do you say, Fuzzy? The first time I read it, Tears showed up, wanting to be part of my special moment. I was so
that Look again, so things would just be NORMAL. I guess I said some of that aloud without
(Even old friends should be allowed to
looked at me strangely, and then said the
share in special occasions, no?)
words I will never forget.
When Mommy read it her eyes were
shining like I haven't seen in a long time.
waiting for me to take my eyes off my
She kissed me and said she always knew
report card (which was lying scandalized
I'll make it. I wonder what she meant. All
in the river of soup on the floor) and
I know is that I made her happy.
concentrate, “You are a special girl. And
Then Pinny came home and took away all my attention again. In one minute, the kitchen, which our cleaning lady had left sparkling, looked like it was swept up in a typhoon. (We learned about that last year in Geography.) The pot on the stove was leaking costly butternut
all over. Every single disposable
and cup from our
76 | SPARKS
one big reason for that is Pinny. It is a lot because of Pinny that you were able to earn this beautiful report card.” “Pinny?” I whispered through gritted
teeth, my eyes shooting daggers in his direction.
escaped the room. “THINK!” I directed my brain. What did I need to do now? “Ground Pinny,” came the command from my mind. “Come, Pin,” I said, gently nudging him in the direction of the table. “Sit down and Mimi will serve you some soup.” His unfocused eyes seemed to settle for a moment as I sat him down in his seat. I ran over the puddles of soup to fill up his bowl, grabbed a spoon and fed him the way I was trained to. Let out some steam, Mim. Whooooooo. (One of my tricks!) That was not an easy feat for a kid of thirteen. None of this is easy. But I love him. And he loves me, I can tell, even in his blurry mind. And yes, I guess, my mother is right. He most likely does deserve a chunk of credit for making me the me I am proud to be.
November 18 Dear Mimi, WOW! Write more, please.
Love, Your fan always, Fuzzy
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How many names of fruits can you find in this boggle board?
Words can be made by letters that are connected in any direction. Letters may not be used more than once in the same word.
Hint: The following words can be found. Apple - Grape - Banana - Cherry - Strawberry - Pear - Peach Plum - Papaya - Mango - Kiwi - Avocado - Orange - Guava Lemon - Watermelon - Cantaloupe - Starfruit
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Fruit Basket Cupcakes
By Nissi Fruchter
Wouldn’t it be nice to present a basket of deliciously ripe fruits to the people you love in honor of T”u b’Shvat? Hmmmm..., I hear you say, how old-fashioned…. Well, what is better than plain fruits, then? Fruit candies, of course! Who doesn’t like those? Here’s how to create the most adorable virtual-fruit-basket. Oh, plus a great bonus: even the basket itself is edible! (No, it’s actually a yummy treat!)
You will need:
• Cupcakes - homemade or store bought, regular size or mini (See my favorite cupcake recipe below.) • Semi-sweet baking chocolate, for dipping • Red fruit leather • Twizzlers Pull n Peel licorice • Assortment of fruit candies • Toothpicks, broken in half
My favorite cupcake recipe: • 4 eggs • 2 cup sugar • 1 tsp. vanilla extract • 1 cup orange juice • 1 cup oil • 3 cup flour • 1 tbsp. baking powder
Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy. Add juice, oil and vanilla extract, mix. Slowly add flour and baking powder, mixing well. Fill ¾ of each cupcake holder with batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 min. Let cool. Yields about 25 regular size cupcakes or about 50 mini cupcakes
1. In a double boiler or microwave, melt chocolate. Dip the top of a cupcake in the melted chocolate and let rest, or place in freezer for one minute, until chocolate begins to harden.
2. To create the “napkin”, place cupcake upside down on the fruit leather. Using a knife, draw a diamond shape on the fruit leather around the cupcake, large enough to cover the whole surface plus allowing for the points to hang down. Once you are satisfied with your outline, cut through and turn back over. Press the center of the fruit leather tightly into the top of the cupcake allowing the pointy ends to hang down.
3. Then, place the fruit candies of your choice in the center of the “basket”. Press in a bit so that candies stick to the fruit leather. 4. Finally, cut the licorice to your desired length to form a handle arching over the basket. Peel off 2 strands to make it thinner. Insert the sharp side of a toothpick halfway through both ends of licorice. Then insert each end into either side of the cupcake.
Presto! You now have a beautiful basket to present that’s a real feast… for the eye too! Winter/2016
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M r. Fruity Frostman Brrrr…. Winter is here. It’s cold and dark outside as we eat exotic fruit and taste from the shivas haminim on T”u B’Shvat. Our table is beautifully set with an assortment of colorful dried fruit, nuts, ripe papaya, sabra, and starfruit, treats that we don’t usually eat on a regular basis. And who’s on a pedestal in the center of it all? Mr. Fruity Frostman, of course! His delightful presence reminds us of winter’s beauty, bringing home the message of T”u B’Shvat about appreciating and thanking Hashem for the miracles of nature around us. Want him at your table too? I don’t blame you! Here’s how:
You will need:
• 1 large and 1 medium styrofoam ball, found at your local crafts store • 3 medium size skewers • Toothpicks • Craisins • Dried apricots • Dried prunes • Dried papaya spears • Mega Bits (tiny jellies) • Twizzlers Pull n Peel licorice
Body: Place the smaller ball on top of the larger one. Insert a skewer through the center of the top ball all the way into the bottom ball, leaving about 1 inch sticking out on top.
Hands: Place 3 dried apricots on a skewer, with one craisin between each, pushing till the end of the skewer. Insert the uncovered part of the skewer into the the top left side of the bottom ball at a 45 degree angle. Repeat for the right hand Eyes: Press 2 megabits horizontally into the top of the “face”, one on the right and one on the left.
Shawl: Cut off 1-2 inches of a Pull n Peel licorice. Wrap licorice around the “neck”, between the two balls, crossing over on the right side, and secure with half a toothpick. Cover tip of toothpick that sticks out with a craisin as an “ornament”.
Buttons: Break off 3 toothpick tips. In a row going down the center of the bottom ball, insert the broken ends, almost all the way through. Cover each end sticking out with a craisin.
Nose: Cut a papaya spear to about 2 inches. Then cut width in half to create a thinner wedge. Insert a toothpick halfway through one end, and stick the other end into the “face”, at one inch to the right of the center point, and at a 45 degree angle toward the left side.
Shovel: Cut a papaya spear to 2 inches. Then cut width in half. Break a toothpick in half and insert one end into the top of the papaya. Then push the other end into the bottom of the first apricot of the left hand. Insert another half of a toothpick halfway through the bottom of the papaya and place a dried prune underneath through the tip sticking out.
Hat: Place 3 dried prunes flat side down over the tip of the skewer protruding from the top ball. Place one megabit to cover the point. Push skewer in deeper if necessary.
Enjoy Mr. Fruity Frostman and his timeless T”u B’Shvat message!
Mouth: Press about 7-8 megabits vertically into the lower part of the top ball, arranged in an upwards semi-circle.
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Tip: Rub off the bottom of the larger ball over the surface on which you plan to present it so that it becomes flat and the snowman can stand upright. Use the rubbed off Styrofoam as “snow” for decoration. (You may also create “snowballs” out of bits of cotton ball.)
Take out one and scratch my head, what was red is black instead.
I am always coming but I never arrive.
I can travel around the world while staying in one corner. I get wetter and wetter the more I dry.
I am a green house. Inside me there is a red house, and inside the red house there are lots of babies.
I am spelled incorrectly in the dictionary.
If you have me you want to share me; if you share me you don’t have me.
Feed me and I live; give me a drink and I die.
10. If you take off my skin I won’t cry, but you will. 11. You can catch me but you cannot throw me.
12. I am light as a feather, but even the strongest person in the world cannot hold me for a few minutes.
13. I am a room with no doors or windows and no one can enter me.
14. I appear once in every minute, twice in every moment but never in a thousand years.
9. A fire, 10. An onion, 11. A cold, 12. A person’s breath, 13. A mushroom, 14. The letter “m”
If you look at the number on my face, you won’t find thirteen anyplace.
1. a clock, 2. a match, 3. tomorrow, 4. a stamp 5. A towel 6. A watermelon 7. Incorrectly, 8. A secret,
What am I?
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Wrack your brain! 1. A basket contains 5 apples. How can you divide the apples among 5 kids so that one apple stays in the basket? (give one kid the apple still inside the basket!)
2. In an orchard there is a tree that has pears. After a strong wind comes, there are no pears
on the tree but no pears on the ground. How is that possible? (Since there were only 2 pears on the tree, the wind blows one pear onto the ground and one pear remains on the tree.)
3. Imagine you are in a dark room. How do you get out? (Stop imagining!) 4. The captain of a ship related, “We traveled the sea far and wide. At one point, two of my
sailors were standing on opposite sides of the ship. One looked east and one looked west. At the same time they were able to see each other clearly.” How is this possible? (they were standing on opposite sides, facing each other!)
5. A man was learning how to drive. Once, he went down a one-way street in the wrong direction, yet he didn’t break the law. (he was walking!)
6. You are travelling down the road to a distant village. You reach a fork in the road, and you
are not sure which direction will lead you to that village. You find a pair of identical twin sisters standing there, one on either side of the fork. You recognize that they are from that village and therefore must know which road is the right one for you to take. Now, one sister always says the truth and the other always lies. If you are allowed to ask only one question of only one sister, what will you ask to find the right road?
Here are some possible ways to find out: “Hello, there! What would your sister say if I ask her where this road leads?” (the
answer is always the opposite. The honest twin will truthfully answer the untruthful answer her sister would give. The dishonest sister will untruthfully answer the true answer her sister would give.)
Hey, what would you say if I asked you which road will take me to the village?
(Either way the answer will be true. The honest twin will answer honestly, and the
dishonest twin will be forced by the question to “double-lie”, thus answering the truth.) Excuse me, does an honest person stand on the road to the village? (If the answer is yes,
you are either talking to honest twin standing on the right road, or to the dishonest one standing at the right road. Either way you know that is the right road. If the
answer is no, you are either talking to the honest twin at the wrong road, or to the dishonest twin at the wrong road, either way you know it is the wrong road.)
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n o o t Car Corner
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SPARKS M AGA Z I N E
It is cold and dark. The fire is out. Its power to light and warm has been extinguished. There seems to be no hope. But wait! There is one tiny spark among the dying embers that still flickers with life. It has the potential to reignite into huge and glorious flames that will radiate warmth and light. Sparks, the power of rebirth, of bringing to life new hope and joy.