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The Story of Rabbinical Aide Steve Horwich

shorwichRabbinical Aide Steve Horwich reads the Torah one Friday night per month here at Congregation Bene Shalom. In 1996, Steve graduated from Hebrew Seminary of the Deaf with a certificate as a Rabbinical Aide and a Para-Chaplain.

He enjoys teaching deaf children and adults Hebrew and Israeli Sign Language to help them prepare for bar/bat mitzvah. He is also available to help with funerals for the Deaf. He enjoys helping at Cong. Bene Shalom.

Steve was born in Chicago and went to Bell School, where he learned to read and speak. He graduated from high school at Niles East High School. He has also attended college at Northern Illinois University and Harper College, where they have special programs for the Deaf.

Photo: Steve Horwich (from JDCC archives).

Steve grew up attending services in a hearing temple, but he did not study Hebrew until he was an adult. He met Rabbi Goldhamer in 1974, and for the first time, he saw the Jewish prayers translated into Sign Language.

In 1981, he went to Israel for the World Organization of Jewish Deaf Convention, where he met many Jewish people from different countries, with different sign languages. They encouraged him to study Hebrew.

Steve became inspired to learn more about Judaism, and he studied Hebrew privately with Rabbi Goldhamer to prepare for his bar mitzvah.

After his bar mitzvah, Steve continued to study Hebrew in night school. He has been to Israel five times, and learned Israeli Sign Language. He has also traveled in Canada, England and France.

Steve works part time at Bonefish Grill Restaurant in Skokie. He will be happy to meet you there for an early dinner.

Source: Shalom newsletter, Congregation Bene Shalom of the Deaf, Adar 1, 5768

Jewish Deaf Center Applauds Conservative Movement

HereshSignLanguageThe Jewish Deaf Resource Center (JDRC) applauds the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) for unanimously passing a historic Teshuvah positively impacting the lives of Jews who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.  With this Teshuvah, the Conservative Jewish Movement now recognizes that individuals who communicate in sign language are equals and that the Conservative Jewish community must strive to be accessible and inclusive.

On May 24th, 2011, the CJLS passed a Teshuvah stating the following in part:

"The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards rules that the deaf who communicate via sign language and do not speak are no longer to be considered mentally incapacitated.  Jews who are deaf are responsible for observing mitzvot.  Our communities, synagogues, schools, and camps must strive to be welcoming and accessible, and inclusive.  Sign language may be used in matters of personal status and may be used in rituals.  A deaf person called to the Torah who does not speak may recite the berakhot via sign language.  A deaf person may serve as a shaliah tzibbur in sign language in a minyan whose medium of communication is sign language."

Alexis Kashar, president of JDRC said, "This is a historic moment as we deaf and hard of hearing Jews are now able to stand along with the larger Conservative Jewish community as equals.  We truly appreciate Rabbi Pamela Barmash's pioneering efforts as the author of this Teshuvah."

The Jewish Deaf Resource Center is a national advocacy organization whose mission is to build bridges between Jews who are deaf and hard-of-hearing and the individuals and organizations which serve the Jewish community throughout North America.

Beth M. Mann, Associate Vice President of The Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA), said, "JDRC has been a magnificent partner in widening the tent of Jewish communal participation, a shared mission for both the JDRC and the JFNA.  The responsum from CJLS represents a pivotal Jewish moment in our history as a people and our ever-expanding quest to provide a dynamic and magnetic community in which our people wish to participate."

As stated by Rabbi Barmash, "This is yet another example of how Jewish law and spirituality, guided by the innovative spirit of tradition, embraces the challenges of the present."

A copy of the full Teshuvah can be found at

Source: Jewish Deaf Resource Center (JDRC)

Shoshannah Stern Takes a Silent Stand Against Sexual Violence

shoshanah_sternBy Renee Ghert-Zand
The Jewish Daily Forward

The deaf Jewish actress Shoshannah Stern is more than a little bit angry — and for good reason.

Stern appears in a new video, “Why is Shoshannah Stern Pissed Off?” It is part of the Lavender Revolution, a social media movement to end violence against deaf women. Deaf Hope, the Oakland, Calif.-based non-profit behind the campaign, seeks to end sexual and domestic violence against deaf women through empowerment, education and direct services.

In the video, Stern can be seen sitting in a chair in a parking lot, where she signs adamantly that she is forced to think of herself as a woman before she thinks of herself as a deaf person — or anything else — because of the danger of rape that women face every day. The 30-year-old actress sends a strong message against rape culture, in which the victim is the one blamed.

Stern, who is from Northern California, is known to audiences for her work on television series such as “The Division,” “Threat Matrix,” “Jericho” and “Weeds.” She has also worked on the stage and in film. Stern attended Gallaudet University — see our story about that school’s first Jewish president. The actress and her two siblings grew up in an observantly Jewish deaf family.

Source: http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/138618/

Photo: Getty Images

Gallaudet University Announces the Appointment of Marlee Matlin as Honorary Trustee

MMatlinWASHINGTON, D.C. – June 1, 2011 – Gallaudet University today announced the appointment of Academy-Award winning actress Marlee Matlin as an honorary trustee for the university, a lifetime appointment.

Chartered in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln, Gallaudet University is the world's only accredited liberal arts university for deaf and hard of hearing students that offers a bilingual learning environment in American Sign Language and English.

Matlin has served on the board of trustees since 2008 and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Gallaudet University in 1987. Matlin has served a highly visible role in the deaf community for many years since receiving the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1986; most recently as honorary chair of the WorlDeaf Cinema Festival in 2010 hosted on the Gallaudet campus.

"For many years, Ms. Matlin has been a tireless advocate for deaf people and has continually promoted awareness of the deaf community through her activism as well as her professional pursuits," said Gallaudet University Board of Trustees Chair Benjamin J. Soukup. "Her new position as honorary trustee will be crucial as we approach Gallaudet's 150th anniversary celebration and we very much look forward to her continued support and guidance to the university as it enters a new era."

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.

Source: http://www.gallaudet.edu/news/marlee_matlin_named_honorary_trustee.html


This Month's Video

Irina, our event coordinator, shares the exciting updates of the #DeafChanukah event in this video!

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