Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM)

New York Jewish Parenting


Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM) is recognized in February to raise awareness and promote meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities and their families in all aspects of Jewish life. JDAM began in 2009 and includes community programs such as “Our Stories-Our Abilities,” JDAM Reads, as well as individual organizational recognition.#JDAM14

“The goal of Jewish Disability Awareness Month is to shift our attitudes to see that having a disability is part of the human condition—and to see that humanity in each person we meet.”
– Shelly Christensen, Program Manager, Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities


JDAM Reads 2014 Selections

JDAM Reads 2014 introduces two engaging selections by inspiring Jewish authors, Rabbi Naomi Levy and Barbara Diamond Goldin. Both books provide your book club or organization the opportunity to discuss the role of Judaism in living with a disability.


Hope Will Find You: My Search for the Wisdom to Stop Waiting and Start Living
by Rabbi Naomi Levy

Hope Will Find You book discussion
7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 18
Beth E Synagogue, 5225 Barry St W, St. Louis Park

We all ask ourselves the same questions when we are struggling to move forward. As a rabbi, Naomi Levy frequently offered spiritual guidance to people seeking the answers. But when a doctor told her that her young daughter, Noa, had a fatal degenerative disease, Rabbi Levy’s own insights could not prevent her whole life from unraveling.

In Hope Will Find You, Naomi Levy shares her journey and the wisdom she gained.  She describes with humor and honesty how she came through a time of uncertainty and fear and learned how to stop waiting for life to begin. A natural and engaging storyteller, Levy has written a book filled with invaluable lessons for living in the present and for opening the door to an extraordinary future.

RSVP  for the March 18 book discussion to Shelly Christensen at or 952-542-4838.

Webinar Discussion
Join Rabbi Levy for an intimate, uplifting discussion of her astonishing memoir, “Hope Will Find You,” the official selection of Jewish Disability Awareness Month, at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. Levy, founder and spiritual leader of Nashuva, will discuss her story and engage you in a discussion about the spiritual and practical struggles of raising a child with special needs. Your questions and input are welcome in this international book event, hosted by
Register now — after registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.



Cakes and Miracles
by Barbara Diamond Goldin
Illustrator: Jaime Zollars
Hershel’s blindness doesn’t keep him from living life. He helps his mother by doing chores, but wishes he could do even more for her. When an angel appears in Hershel’s dream and encourages him to make what he sees when he closes his eyes, the boy sneaks into the kitchen, transforming his mother’s cookie dough into beautiful hamantaschen (three-cornered fruit-filled cookies) that can be sold to raise money for the family at Purim.

A special Jewish Disability Awareness Month curriculum is available, at no charge, through a collaboration with PJ Library and the Jewish Special Education International Consortium by contacting Shelly Christensen at or 952-542-4838. This book is available at as an e-book.

Contact Us

Shelly Christensen, Program Manager, Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities
952-542-4838 |

Inclusion Sponsors

Founding Sponsor | Lynne and Andy Redleaf
Sponsor | The Toodie and Frank Trestman Special Needs and Collaborative Education Endowment Fund

The Blessing of a Good Parenting Book

By: Jennifer Raphael


Parenting books make some lofty promises: a no-cry sleep solution, the happiest baby on the block and peaceful parents with happy children.

What lies they tell. What fantasies they peddle.

When our oldest son Maxon came home from the hospital, we followed the advice laid out in The Happiest Baby on the Block, which has nearly 1,000 five star reviews on Amazon. In order to help our son learn to sleep better, the book instructed that we try to replicate the conditions of my womb with swaddling, bouncy walking and shushing noises close to his ears. According to the author, a nursery can be a disorienting and stressful place for a baby who was housed in a noisy, jiggling body for nine months.

So, we bounced and swaddled and shushed. Baby Maxon went right to sleep. Magical.

Until we stopped bouncing and shushing.

Because you know what doesn’t bounce and shush? A crib. So, how long did Maxon stay asleep once placed on a static mattress?

Three seconds.

Every time we tried to put him in the crib it was like the opening sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones replaces a golden statue with a bag of sand. If my touch was off by one milligram, Maxon woke up screaming and poison darts shot out of the nursery walls.

Thanks a million, Happiest Baby on the Block. You helped us make our son dependent on movement and shushy sounds, and deprived us of even more sleep. How many nights did I shush and pace the room with the gait of a Cosby Kid, wondering how long it would take Maxon to fall into an Inception-level sleep so he wouldn’t sense the stillness of his bed?

I went through several sleep books trying to correct the mistakes I made from Happiest Baby. When Ezra was born, I would have none of that bouncing and shushing nonsense. Once those eyes started to droop, into the crib he went, shushless. To this day, Ezra falls asleep without incident. Maxon comes downstairs multiple times after lights out.


Needless to say, I didn’t buy the sequel, Happiest Toddler on the Block. Or any other parenting books, for that matter.

I OD-ed on sleep books during Maxon’s first two years. As my children got older, I tried some advice from child behavior books. But nothing really resonated with me. All the the books advised some variation of counting, timing out, making a chart, giving rewards, praising, and poof! I was supposed to have a magical, well-behaved child. I felt like an idiot counting to three (or counting to twooooooooooo …. and then pausing for 80 seconds because I was too tired to carry out whatever punishment I had promised once I got to three).

While lamenting the uselessness of parenting books to a girlfriend a few years ago, she suggested I read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel.

Finally, some common sense. Disappointment and failure do not need to be avoided at all costs. Parenting is not a democracy. My bedroom is not your bedroom. If your forget your homework, I am not driving it all the way to school for you.

I love this book for many reasons — not the least of which is because there are no instructions for chart-making and rewards. I love it for its tone and approach, for its focus on things that really matter such as honor, respect, self-reliance, acceptance, gratitude, spirituality and hard work. I re-read this book at least once a year. (As I write, I realize it’s time for a refresher on the bit about being very brief when offering rationale for parental decisions…)

Needless to say, I did buy Mogel’s sequel, The Blessing of a B Minus. By the time Maxon and Ezra reach their teen years, I’ll be ready.