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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yad Hashem’

Shema Kolainu

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Throughout the years, she’d hidden her in the windowless room at the back of the house. I always wondered why we were never welcomed over the threshold. I knew her daughter had been born with a problem, but it was never discussed and I’d only caught a glimpse of her from afar before she was hurried away. Oh sure, people gossiped, as people always do, but Chedva was my friend, and I defended and respected her right to privacy.

She wasn’t a bad woman or even a simple woman – I know now that her silence was a response to despair and self-loathing at her inability to reach out and touch her child’s soul.

A few months ago, she invited me into her home for the first time. She wanted me to meet her daughter. She was bubbling and brimming with enthusiasm as she opened my eyes to a whole new world.

The pretty little girl, about eight years old, frolicked happily in the living room among her siblings, not really seeing or relating to them, despite her perfect eyesight.

“She’s autistic,” Chedva said softly. “Which essentially means she lives in a bubble. I can’t describe the years of frustration, knowing that even I, her mother, wasn’t able to break through the impenetrable casing. No matter how hard I tried nothing worked.”

Chedva went on to describe a whole slew of difficulties she’s had to deal with. Unfortunately, autism has become more and more common, although partially as a result of more accurate diagnosis.

“I have discovered a whole network of parents who are in the same boat, and now that I know I’m not alone I don’t feel so awful. I’ve finally come out of the woodwork.”

Her daughter was in desperate need of special schooling that until a few years ago could only be dreamt of.

Their life is a long uphill battle, strewn with difficulties.

Recently, Dr. Joshua Weinstein, who does not promise miracles, has brought a measure of joy to parents like Chedva by showing them a way forward. He not only works with autistic children, he also teaches parents how to help themselves.

I was surprised when I met Dr. Weinstein. I had not expected to find that the man who has devoted his life to deciphering the mysterious world of autistic children was a chassidishe father of seven.

“I am a chassid of everybody,” he said warmly.

“How do autistic children differ from ordinary children,” I ask him.

“There is no one answer and sometimes autism can be very difficult to diagnose because autistic children look similar to regular children, when in actually their inner makeup is very different.

“Some children don’t talk at all, while others have very interesting speech patterns, repeating the same few words over and over again. The problem is that most people who can’t talk with their mouth speak with body language, whereas the body language of autistic children is often awkward and as a result of not being understood, they become easily agitated. In their younger years, they usually play alone, not initiating contact with other children, often unable to make eye contact. When they do approach others it will be inappropriately, thus, interestingly, distancing others as opposed to bonding with them.”

Dr. Weinstein is on a mission. Although based in NY, he spends a good deal of time traveling to and from Eretz Yisrael. His present project is a medical conference focused on furthering research into the symptoms and ways of bettering the lives of those suffering with autism.

“I am a chassid of everybody,” he says warmly once again.

With ideals and a mindset firmly based on Torah values, as well as broad knowledge and experience in education, he found his niche in the workplace. Before long he was the director of a company providing support and assistance for the physically challenged – both in institutions and at home.

One of his clients was a young woman with two disabled children. Once, during a conversation they began talking about autism. Although familiar with the term, as most of us are, Dr. Weinstein had a very vague picture of what autism is all about.

This young woman, a vivacious, determined individual had established support groups aimed at helping parents cope with their children suffering from differing disabilities. She told him about the almost twenty families she knew whose children were autistic and had no real support system to help them with their needs.

Fortifying Our Faith

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

When the shrill sound of the telephone ringing shattered the silence in our home at 5:30 in the morning on Monday, October 18, I got out of bed and answered the call with great trepidation and a sense of dread. I realized that if someone was calling our house that early in the morning, it was in all likelihood not good news. The voice on the other end of the line belonged to my father-in-law, who, in a trembling voice, told me my sister-in-law had passed away suddenly. I then had to turn to my wife and gently tell her that her sister was gone.

That phone call began a whirlwind of events: planning a funeral, working out the details of the shiva, explaining to our children that their aunt had died. Working through our grief and the shock of such a sudden loss, we somehow dealt with all the pressing issues that had to be immediately addressed.

As we were dealing with this unspeakable tragedy, we were simultaneously preparing for the birth of our fourth child. My wife, who had a Caesarian section scheduled for just eleven days after her sister passed away, spent a great deal of time during the shiva fielding questions about how she was faring with the pregnancy.

The week of shiva was utterly exhausting for all of us, especially for my wife, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law, who were mourning their loss. My wife left the shiva house late Sunday night after having received a steady stream of visitors throughout the day, and, though she was physically and emotionally drained, she went to sleep taking solace in the fact that the seemingly endless week of shiva was coming to a close the next morning.

Just a few hours later, at 1:30 in the morning, my wife’s water broke. Ironically, just as the phone call from my father-in-law exactly a week earlier had set into motion a dizzying sequence of events, so too we began our Monday with a flurry of activity. We called the doctor, who told us to go to the hospital immediately. The medical staff monitored my wife throughout the remainder of the night, and the doctor performed a C-section early Monday morning, four days earlier than originally scheduled.

My oldest child was breech, and therefore the doctor at that time was compelled to perform a Caesarian section, as opposed to opting for a natural delivery. After the first C-section, we had scheduled C-sections for each of the next two pregnancies, and both children were born on the dates their respective C-sections were slated for. There had been no reason in our minds to think things would be different with our fourth child.

At 7:22 a.m. – the same time the last minyan in the shiva house was taking place – our daughter was born. Instead of being at her brother’s house and getting up from shiva with her father and brother, my wife was in the hospital having a baby.

The proximity between the two events was particularly striking. In the span of just one week’s time we personally experienced the high and low of the life cycle and rode our own personal emotional roller coaster.

We named our new daughter Orit Netanya – “God gave us light.” One week our world was plunged into darkness, and then the next week Hashem once again brightened our world and illuminated our lives. Thankfully, God gave us light when we needed it most.

Our entire family feels especially blessed by the birth of our daughter. Though her arrival in this world can in no way cancel out my sister-in-law’s sudden departure, her birth nonetheless lifted our spirits and helped fortify our faith in Hashem during an incredibly difficult and traumatic time.

The significance of having our daughter born several days before she was “scheduled” to arrive – at the very time my wife was “supposed” to be getting up from shiva for her sister – was not lost on us. We are big believers in hashgacha pratis, divine providence. We recognize the importance of seeing the Yad Hashem, the Hand of God, in everything that occurs during the course of our lives.

That being said, we are not always capable of discerning the Hand of God in every instance. However, in this situation, we certainly recognized, and very much appreciated, the Yad Hashem that was extended to our family.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/fortifying-our-faith/2010/12/15/

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