Inclusion was the theme this past weekend for the Central Queens Jewish Community Circle (CQJCC).
Rebbetzin Mushky Mendelson of Congregation Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills and founder of CQJCC wants “to open ourselves up to the understanding that we all have different experiences in our Judaism, and we need to be open to seeing our fellow Jews as the souls they are, no matter how different we look or act.”
The guest speaker on Sunday, February 20, was Judy Rosen, a licensed clinical social worker and a substance use disorder counselor, who works with people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
People with ADHD can experience anxiety and impaired impulse control, and can feel scattered. There are ways to “harness that energy” and their “thinking outside of the box.”
Extracurricular activities keep them engaged, especially the arts, music, and physical activities. “When they get the energy out in a positive way, it’s very helpful,” said Rosen.
Creativity and intelligence can be present with ADHD. They respond better to activities they find interesting.
Structure is good, as well. Remind them when it’s study time, “because they will probably forget or they will pick up a more interesting book and get distracted.”
Talk to the teachers, get them involved, and be involved with your children. “Teach study skills and good habits at a young age so they will thrive in college, study, and work.” “They do best if there is structure.”
Early diagnosis is important, said Rosen. It is debatable which age people can start taking medications like Ritalin or Wellbutrin.
Rabbi Yossi Mendelson of Congregation Machane Chodosh said that the Torah commandment to “Love your fellow as yourself” “encompasses all of what Jewish teaching invites us into.”
At times, “We aren’t inclusive enough, or we can sometimes be inclusive in a way that is patronizing – in a way that highlights the weakness, flaws, and difficulties a person might encounter. Inclusion can sometimes be a magnifying glass on disability.”
Rabbi Mendelson said that the Jewish teaching about the whole world is that G-d is one. “There is no space that isn’t within the divine reality.”
“Either we see ourselves as separate and alone in the universe” or “part of the great, orchestrated, organized chaos – the meaningful direction” of the universe.
“The Torah is really helping us, inviting us, into the divine reality in which we see ourselves, and our fellow peoples, not as separate animals, each struggling against our own problems, but all of us are part of a sublime, divine organism.”
“We are part of the One, that’s what Jewish teaching is inviting us into.” As long as I am alone or ignoring my fellow human being, I am disconnected from the truth of the universe.”
“I am not looking at another human being to fix or as a helpless person to step up for. I am, rather, opening up myself to be truly connected with those around me – in the fullness of their experience and the fullness of what I can offer them.”
“I am not looking at a person with a disability as a problem. I am simply understanding how I fit in with them in a helping and a connecting way. It’s a connection of a truly sublime love and cosmic connectedness.”
Relating it to this week’s parshah, “All these half-shekels, when they’re joined together in one service, makes the Temple, the sanctuary for the divine,” said Rabbi Mendelson.
“Inclusion starts with ‘I,’” said Rebbetzin Mushky Mendelson. Her husband, Rabbi Yossi Mendelson, added, “The oneness with everything starts with myself and embraces the fullness of myself.” “Love your fellow as yourself,” because truly we are part of the same divine reality.”
CQJCC watched Chabad’s presentation of inclusion called, “Shabbat Together” after Shabbat on February 19.
Judy Heumann, a disability advocate, author, and a White House advisor; Justice Richard Bernstein, the first blind Justice elected to the Michigan Supreme Court; and Rabbi Shais Taub, a scholar and an author, were among the speakers. The hour-long event is on shabbattogether.com.
“What is Mindfulness?” with breathing practices, meditations, and movements will be on Monday, March 14, with Adam Rudich, owner of HigherPose.
For Purim and Pesach, the Central Queens Jewish Community Circle is planning food for the homebound or lonely neighbors. For more information about upcoming events, go to www.cqjcc.org.
By David Schneier