• Jodi Samuels

Do What Is Right, Not What Is Easy



I just read a heart-wrenching article by a parent of a special needs child. To many of you this article is sad and frustrating. To me as a parent of special needs child who has struggled with issues to have my 4-year-old with Down syndrome included in Jewish schools, it is so painful to hear this father’s story.


When I started my Jewish journey over 20 years ago I was inspired to learn that Jews were not just “Chosen” but also “Chose the responsibility of being a Light unto the Nations”. After our personal battle I see that we fail to be a light for our own people, never mind the world. Oh we know too well about half inclusion, easy inclusion. With notable exceptions our community’s mantra is “if you are not Harvard perfect please don’t apply”.


I have struggled to understand why it is so hard to do what is right. We live in a wealthy country and community. We have State supported services and knowledge about how to include successfully. We also have many models to reference such as Gateways in Boston. We also have laws that have been long established that gives disabled people rights. Yet the default is apathy, indifference and failure to move the needle. The people who will forward this blog will be those who work in specials needs or are closely, personally associated with special needs people. For the rest out there it is not their personal issue so they simply don’t care.


As a board member of a school that would not take Caily said to us, and I quote verbatim, “you brought this problem into the world, don’t make it our problem”. Yes a so-called Orthodox person told us that we could have screened and aborted our Down syndrome princess so that there would have been one less special needs problem for the community. I am not suggesting that all Orthodox people or all communities have the same perspective, but I am saying that sometimes our people have forgotten that every human is created B’tselem Elokim – In the image of G-d.


I have asked many learned scholars about the parsha where the Jews were called to be counted if there was exclusion for fat Jews, ugly Jews, arrogant Jews, hateful Jews or disabled Jews. There are no sources to justify the exclusion and no sources for only easy inclusion or half inclusion.


Only when a groundswell of people who are not personally and directly affected by special needs stand up and say “Enough! We will do what is right not what is easy” will our community change and take on the mantle of the responsibility that we collectively committed to at Mt. Sinai.


Originally published: July 19, 2012

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