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Introducing Israel to the Deaf and Hearing Impaired

The Orthodox Union has formulated a new program to introduce one of the smallest minorities in the Jewish People to Israel.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 6/20/2010, 9:50 AM / Last Update: 6/20/2010, 9:54 AM

courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism

The Orthodox Union has created a new program to introduce one of the smallest minorities that exists among the Jewish People to Israel– that of the deaf and hearing-impaired. However, at least 20 people are needed to make it a reality.

The program, which is scheduled to begin in September, will run for 18 months, culminating in a dream trip to Israel in January 2012.

The OU's National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD) opened the Torah and Israeli culture learning program to members of “Our Way,” the NJCD's program for the deaf and hearing impaired.

"Tanach Achshav: Learning and Living" features classes once a month that discuss various aspects of Jewish and Israeli life. Among the topics for discussion are the history of Israel, the Five Books of Moses, relationships between Jews and Arabs, Jewish history, culture and daily life, prayer, various books of the Prophets and a discussion on why it is important to even have a connection with Israel.

The classes are taught by deaf rabbis,and hearing individuals who use sign language in a series of video conferences.

An equally important element of the program is its savings plan: participants are asked to put aside six dollars a day for 18 months. It is estimated that at the end of that period, each will have saved enough to cover most of the expenses of the trip, and also appreciate in a deeper way all they have learned in the classes they have been attending.

Sign language interpreters and oral interpreters will accompany participants on the trip, which is open to Jews of all backgrounds and levels of observance. The program will be run under the guidelines of the OU, with singles, young couples and families all being welcome to attend. Participants will have a special account set up with Our Way to keep track of their funds each month.

“The deaf community is small,” noted Batya Jacob, Our Way national program director. “The Jewish deaf community is tiny.” As such, she added, the trip will be tailored around the specific needs of the participants, who will have an opportunity to connect with members of the Israeli deaf Jewish community while touring, and on Shabbat.

To register, and for more information, contact Batya Jacob at 212-613-8127 or at jacob@ou.org . Information can also be found by joining the Facebook group, “Our Way – Jewish Deaf & Hard of Hearing” .