Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I used to interpret for one rabbi who had a thing about all eyes being on him, so when I interpreted for his drasha [the speech on the week's Torah reading] it upset him that people were watching me. I explained to him that people were trying to figure out how what I was doing was related to what he was saying and so it actually mad people attend even harder to his speech. I don't know if that was true or not, but it made him happy.
What has been your experience as a Deaf person in a Jewish setting or as an interpreter in one?
I am a convert, so my childhood was not Jewish, but I always had a religious sense that I wanted to worship God. I asked my Mother to take me to church, but she refused because she had a very negative experience with the Catholic church. I asked my father to take me; he had been raised Lutheran, and although he never attended church as an adult, he took me every week and I was baptized Lutheran. I felt it was not spirited enough for me, and when I meet a girl in high school who was very gung-ho about her religion (Baptist), her parents would pick me up every week and I had a conversion experience and was baptized Baptist. The woman who served as my God mother in the church was very fascinated with Judaism, which she felt was the Christian Church had sprung from and was still the foundation stone. I later read Nietzsche, the "God is dead" philosopher and although he was against religion in general, he felt that Judaism was a noble religion and that Christianity had perverted it. This piqued my curiosity and I started to read more about Judaism.
I felt very allied with Judaism and sought out a rabbi who was the Hillel director at my college in Detroit at Wayne State University. He discouraged me from converting, as rabbis are supposed to, because non-Jews don't have to keep rituals like kosher and Shabbat, just be ethical, but once a person converts, s/he must follow Jewish law, and if s/he changes his/her mind later is sinning by not following the Law. I studied with him for four years and when I went to graduate school at University of Michigan, the Hillel director there facilitated my conversion. I was an Orthodox Jew for 12 years but somehow I lost my kavanah (enthusiastic intention) and still love to study about things Jewish and interpret in Jewish settings.
Please tell us about your childhood experiences.
I have studied about Yiddishkeit (Jewish topics) for over 40 years. I read Hebrew, learned Talmud in a yeshiva, learn about the Parsha (Weekly Torah reading), have gone to two Jewish Deaf Congress conferences, am writing a book on interpreting in Jewish Settings I will call The work of our hands, am filming a Jewish sign Dictionary for Jewish Holidays and History in ASL, and working on video vignettes (3 to 4 minute signed discussions on Jewish topics) which will become a website called DeafJews.com in the near future. Tell us about your interests in Jewish things. I used the term Yiddishkeit because it includes all the aspects of the Jewish experience, not just religion. You may related to Yiddishkeit through Judaism, Israeli dancing, politics, literature, language, or what have you. Tell us about yourself.