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Dr. Simon Carmel Presents an Evening of Testimonies from Collected Stories of Deaf Holocaust Survivors

On Friday evening of November 19, 2006, the Deaf community and their hearing families, friends and allies were treated to an event they will not soon forget. Dr. Simon Carmel, noted Cultural Anthropologist and Folklore scholar, presented his research of over 30 years on interviews by Deaf Holocaust survivors. The information was full of testimonies from those who got out and photographs of those living inside the forced labor and concentration camps during the period of 1933-1945. Dr. Carmel shared the kinds of treatment they endured in anti-Semitism, segregation and genocide that took place in Nazi Europe. Those in attendance were honored to have relatives of the survivors in the audience. Adult grandchildren and children of those who experienced the atrocities of the concentration camps were recognized and given support by the audience. We must remember the Holocaust was really not that long ago, and we still have people living who were there, as well as the next generation of children after the Holocaust. Dr. Carmel's presentation was poignant and touching to all who were there. We are so grateful that he was willing to kick off our three-part series on Deaf people and the Holocaust. People afterwards were anxious to know when the next event will be. This is wonderful as a way to get out information about the Deaf population that endured the Nazi Regime. One of my college professors at UC Riverside told me once: "The most oppressed are the most invisible" (Dr. Velez-Ibanez). How many of us ever heard the stories of Deaf people experiencing extermination during World War II? Dr. Carmel is to be commended for bringing this sensitive subject to the forefront. We may never have heard about this otherwise! Overall, there were 248 people in attendance that night. Community Advisory Committee (CAC) raised $1345.00 in ticket sales for the event. The committee that hosted this event including California School for the Deaf of Riverside (CSDR), Center on Deafness Inland Empire (CODIE), and offices of ASL/Interpreter Preparation Program and Disabled Students Program & Services at Riverside Community College (RCC) would like to thank the following: DawnSignPress for offering all of the wonderful Jewish dishes. Sprint for providing flyers. And, all the volunteers who gave of their time to make this happen. We truly are a blessed community to have so many people working together: Deaf, Hard of Hearing, hearing, and people of all faiths and walks of life. In the words of Tina Jo Breindel recently: "L'Chaim, this word is used as a toast from Yiddish lekhaim which means "cheers" or "to life!" That sums up the Holocaust Deaf Survivors' Testimonies Dr. Carmel made. I could not have said it better! In the last two part series, there will be a trip to the Museum of Tolerance at 9786 W. Pico Blvd of Los Angeles. For more information do look up their website: http://www.museumoftolerance.com, and last, a panel discussion of Inland Empire Holocaust Deaf Survivors and children of survivors later in 2007. For more information contact Deb Berzins at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

DeafDoc's New Website

Dr. Carolyn Stern, MD has a new website, www.deafdoc.org which has health information, education and video directory.

Smart Alex

Jay Blumenfeld, 52, is the owner of Smart Alex, a Chicago-based manufacturer and wholesale distributor of greeting cards and party items. Smart Alex - which bills itself as having "smart humor with attitude," has sold over 16 million cards that are usually sold at small, quirky family-owned shops. Blumenfeld and his late brother Richard, both deaf, were born and raised in St. Paul, Minn. Mainstreamed for most of his school years until his 1972 high school graduation, Blumenfeld attended the Rochester Institute of Technology. He graduated with honors and an associate's degree in photography, in addition to winning several awards for his photography. "My grandmother, Ruth Blumenfeld, started modeling for me at the age of 91 and continued to do so until the age of 96. This business is very much about tapping into the mood and tenor of society. A design that sold gangbusters last year may be a dud this year," Blumenfeld smiles. Ruth passed away at the age of 101 in 1992. The combination of humor, strong work ethics, and a willing market has proven successful for Smart Alex. The company has won six Louie Awards, greeting card awards that are the equivalent of Academy Awards. Smart Alex also received "Card of the Year" honors for three of its cards in 1991, one in 1995, and two in 1996, beating out thousands of companies. The Smart Alex website is at www.smartalexinc.com.

One Good Sign Leads to Another

For many years, the Jewish deaf population had no choice but to live as a separate segment of the community, cut off from religious communal life. "Fifteen or 20 years ago there were few, if any, accommodations for deaf people in shuls," says Shalom Lependorf, the principal of a boys' school in Brooklyn and a counselor for deaf clients. In regard to communal awareness and services for deaf people, the non-Jewish community was way ahead of the Jewish community. Back then, Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, noted lecturer and rav of Khal Bais Yitzchok in Brooklyn, was one of the few American rabbis to arrange to have an interpreter at his Wednesday evening classes. After years of interpreting and teaching deaf Jews, Lependorf says he's beginning to notice a welcomed shift. "It went from a virtual midbar [desert], due to total ignorance and lack of community involvement, to people actively expressing an interest in providing services for deaf participants. I attribute this turnaround to the fact that the community is getting used to seeing interpreters and deaf people around." The active concern of one congregant toward another is at the very heart of the accessibility movement. When Hillel Rosenfeld, a psychologist from Oak Park, Michigan, learned American Sign Language at the request of the clinic where he worked, he had no idea how far-reaching this skill would be. That is, not until he met Rabbi David Rabinowitz, a deaf man in his community. (The first deaf person to get semichah, Rabbi Rabinowitz is also North America's first deaf rabbi.) Dr. Rosenfeld happily took on the job of interpreting the prayer services for Rabbi Rabinowitz at Bais Knesses HaGra, the local shul. "The congregants were very supportive of my signing the services," says Dr. Rosenfeld. "Since Mrs. Rabinowitz [who is also deaf] is proficient in lip reading, my wife, Susie, would mouth a translation of the rabbi's divrei Torah and point to where we were in the Torah reading," says Dr. Rosenfeld. The Rosenfeld family recently made aliyah. "One of the hardest things about making aliyah was leaving behind the Rabinowitzes," says Dr. Rosenfeld, who still misses his friends. "Our serving as their link to the speaking world was a wonderful merit for Susie and me. We are grateful for having had that opportunity."