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Being a Deaf Lubavitcher

Lubavitcher1Jul 12, 2012
Community News Service
By Yehoshua Soudakoff - N'shei Chabad Newsletter

Yehoshua Soudakoff shares his life story: The suspicions during childhood, learning with a deaf Rosh Yeshiva and becoming Lubavitch.

My parents didn't see it coming.

It was on a warm May evening that I was delivered into the loving hands of my parents. We lived in the heart of the Los Angeles Jewish community, within walking distance of most of our extended family. My mother eagerly looked forward to enrolling me in the local Jewish school in a few years. Though my parents weren't strictly observant of Jewish tradition, they felt comfortable interacting with the Jewish community and identified with it.

Both my father and mother had no doubts that I could hear. After all, they were the only members of their respective families who were deaf.

A few weeks later, while a loud lawnmower worked its way past the window of the room we sat in, my parents and grandparents noticed that I didn't react at all to the noise. Could he be deaf? After a visit to the doctor, their suspicions were confirmed. I was deaf.

Lubavitcher2My parents' lives were turned upside down. They had to begin a search for a school that would meet my educational needs. They sought speech therapists and met with various teachers. In later years, my parents had two more children, my siblings Michael and Rachel, both of whom were also deaf.


Bris bridges two communities — deaf and Jewish

TragerThursday, July 12, 2012
by ellen simon pifer
j. correspondent

The sanctuary at Congregation Beth Torah in Fremont was crowded with people for little Braxton’s brit milah on June 22, but the noise level before the ceremony was surprisingly low.

That’s because nearly half of the people in attendance — including Braxton’s parents — were chatting animatedly but silently in American Sign Language.

Photo: Rabbi Moshe Trager, the mohel, holds baby Braxton as guests and sign language interpreter Shelley Lawrence look on. photo/ellen simon pifer

Marissa Cohen and Joey Mignone, the new parents, met more than seven years ago when they were both high school students at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont. Now they were getting ready for the bris of their first child, Braxton Dov Lev Cohen Mignone, just 8 days old.

“I’m nervous,” Marissa Cohen said through an interpreter, her mother, Cheryl Cohen.

“Don’t be nervous,” said Rabbi Moshe Trager, the mohel who would perform the procedure. “I just need to check to make sure it’s a boy.”

Cheryl translated the joke into sign language, and Marissa smiled and relaxed back into the sofa, her son sleeping peacefully in her arms.

A brit milah ceremony is always cause for a new mother’s nervousness — and a community’s celebration — but as Rabbi Avi Schulman of Beth Torah expressed in his welcoming comments, this bris was unusually special.



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