by Tamar Davis, CEO
My first memory of hearing anything was at the Shabbat table, hearing everyone answer “Amen” in unison when my father finished Kiddush, the blessing over the wine. I wasn’t fitted with hearing aids until I was 2 ½ years old, and with little natural hearing, I could only hear very loud sounds, like a group of voices saying “Amen” together with such meaningful resonance. “Amen” was even one of my very first spoken words. In our Torah, Shabbat was the first mitzvah, or commandment, given to the Jewish people. While we all have different memories of the Shabbat table — some of us grew up gathering around it every Friday night, and others weren’t introduced until later in life — Shabbat is all of our heritage.
That is why during JDAIM (Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month) in February, I wanted to highlight the power of creating an Shabbat experience that’s accessible for anyone who wants to partake in this age-old tradition. When I joined Gateways three years ago as a Board member, I fell in love with an unassuming yet compelling little booklet, “The Gateways Shabbat Family Companion” by Gateways’ Rebecca Redner, that had been published a few years earlier. The point of this book is to make it possible for everyone to have their rightful place at the Shabbat table. I invite you to make sure copies of this Gateways Shabbat Companion are available at your synagogue, in your schools, and for any individual or family who might benefit from it.
On this record-breaking coldest of days in Boston, may the Shabbat candles tonight warm our souls and may we all answer “Amen” to the message of JDAIM in our communities.