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Jewish Event Blends Different "Voices"

Every year in May, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, CT holds "Voices," a dinner to thank women who've made gifts to the women's fund-raising campaign and a chance to hear a presentation by a prominent Jewish woman. This year it was held on May 8 at the Emanuel Synagogue with guest speaker Marlee Matlin, who at the age of 21 won the 1987 Oscar for best actress in "Children of a Lesser God." Rabbi Danny Allen, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, estimates that 25 percent of funds raised for the Federation comes from the women's campaign. Over 400 women listened as Marlee Matlin shared the triumphs and challenges of "a nice Jewish girl from Morton Grove, IL who just happened to be deaf." She recalled the reaction of movie critic Rex Reed after her Oscar win. He said the award was a sympathy vote. Others expected she would never find more parts. But Matlin grew up in a family that didn't believe in limits. She said next to the dictionary definition for chutzpah should be a picture of her parents.



After getting hooked on acting at a summer camp, Matlin pursued her career with the support of people like Henry Winkler and Whoopi Goldberg. Today she appears in films and television shows; last fall she published a children's novel, "Caution: Deaf Child Crossing," which has already sold 20,000 copies. "My life has been about making a difference," she said. "You have made a difference. Don't ever, ever stop." She commented on how appropriate the title "Voices" was for their work helping Jews in need. "Our voices are being heard," she said. "Listen to your heart. I will always listen to mine." Matlin has been visiting Jewish women's federations throughout the country because she feels Jewish causes "need much more support." Earlier in the day, Matlin also took the opportunity to visit the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford - it was her first time there-and talked with students. "It was very delightful," she said. "The kids were truly inspiring."

Deaf Swindlers Sentenced To Jail Time

Convicted swindler Gilda Seifried, age 65, begged not be sent to jail. "Please don't separate us," she said. "I love him very much. He's the only friend I have. Please give us another chance." Her son, Abraham "Avery" Posner, 30, convicted with her in the same Internet fraud, also asked for leniency, saying, "I want to apologize for what I did." The two admitted to defrauding 119 people over the Internet, many of them low-income or retired, but asked that they not have to serve any jail time because their disability would leave them open to mistreatment or abuse in a prison.

Seifried's attorney, federal public defender Randi Chavis, and Posner's attorney, Richard Haley of Hauppauge, suggested that because of their clients' deafness and contrition it would be appropriate to sentence them to home detention or community service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Baker, the prosecutor in the case, disagreed, arguing that the two should not be treated differently because of their handicap and should receive 12 to 18 months in prison.

Calling it "one of the more difficult sentencings I have had," U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler sentenced the two to 3 months each in prison and 3 years of supervised release, and ordered them to repay the victims. "I'm very sympathetic to the plight they face in jail," Wexler said, explaining why he was not giving the mother and son the longer sentence their crimes normally call for. But he also said the two had "set up a business of stealing ... and the public must know we will not tolerate this." According to court records, the mother and son were arrested by federal postal inspectors last year for mail fraud and conspiracy after they had operated their swindle for a year out of a room at the Marriott Hotel in Melville, NY. The two installed computers and TTYs and then advertised what appeared to be bargain merchandise over eBay and Yahoo. They collected the money but never sent any merchandise.

"Mad Dancers" Explore Jewish Traditions

In a recent play called "Mad Dancers," Director Liz Lerman combined dancing and narrative with meaningful gesture and movements to create a visual exploration of Jewish traditions. The cast included both actors and dancers, among them Fred Beam, founder of the Deaf male dance company the Wild Zappers. The sign language interpreted play was at Theatre J, a Jewish theatre in Washington, DC, and ran from April 29th through June 1. For information about future interpreted plays at Theatre J call 202/777-3229 (Voice).


Deaf Artists Book Wins Award

A landmark anthology on Deaf artists by Deborah M. Sonnenstrahl has received the Ben Franklin Award for Excellence in Publishing in the Teaching/Academic/Educational category. Deaf Artists n America: Colonial to Contemporary is the first ever collection of Deaf artists and their work and preserves the unique and significant contributions these artists have made to the art world. Sonnenstrahl is a Gallaudet University Professor Emeritus who taught Art History and Museum Studies for 32 years. Deaf Artists In America: Colonial to Contemporary, 7x10 Hb.; 236 Color Images, 77 B&W, 448 pages, ISBN: 1i8121-050-7, $64.95.


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