By: Rabbi Baruch Rabinowitz
Dear Mrs. Sander, amush,
I really wanted to express a strong feeling that I have regarding
reader response to articles and the way it is being handled. If I am not
mistaken, it is the practice of most respectable journals that an author
be given an immediate opportunity to respond to criticism of the
readers. I have frequently read both the “complaint” and the author’s
reply in the same issue. Not only does this help complete the picture,
but it maintains the integrity of the author whom you chose to publish.
On many occasions the author will point out a misunderstanding or
express a clarification etc., which deflates what is sometimes
unwarranted criticism. Secondly, there are some authors who should be
allowed to be above reproach. While we may question to understand, I do
not believe that we have the right to make them the focus of criticism
or be given equal stature in disagreeing with them.
For example, if you were to reprint the Teshuvos of HaRav Shlomo Zalman
Auerbach ZT”L regarding foster care and adoption and some Baal Habayis,
housewife, social worker, or doctor, was to send in an article
criticizing and disagreeing with HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, would it
be right to publish it??? Is it appropriate that one who is not of the
same stature be given equal credibility??? (Of course we may ask to
understand...but do we have the stature to challenge and offer
critique??) These feelings overtook me as I read the Krausz’s response
(Controversy-Fuschia Cover Issue) to Dr. Abraham. As I said, I believe
any author deserves the courtesy of immediate response. But here we have
someone of world class stature who spoke, taught and wrote about things
which were direct result of his personal and repeated conversations with
HaRav Shloma Zalman Auerbach. He is the author of the most respected
seforim on medical Halacha including 5 volumes of Nishmas Avraham.
Everyone knows that he checked everything out with HaRav Auerbach ZT”L
(and a lot with Rav Elyashiv Shlita) and that the seforim have HUNDREDS
(if not THOUSANDS) of Pesokim of HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. In
addition, HaRav Neivirt Shlita told me that HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
told Dr. Abraham that Dr. Abraham could ‘paskin’ even Dinei Nefashos by
himself!!! How many people in the world have that type of Haskama??!!?
He is an ‘Anav’ and and ‘Adam Gadol’. He is an outstanding MD and a
great Talmid Chacham. He is filled with Yiras Shamayim in the most
remarkable way. All that he said about adoption and foster care were
DIRECT Pesakim and advice of HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. When he
repeated these things to a special session of Rabbanim and Roshei
Yeshiva at the Agudah convention a few years ago he completed the
‘shiur’ about 1:00 a.m. I met him in the dining room at 7:30 a.m. and he
looked exhausted. I asked him why he was so-o-o tired and he said that
he was awake until 5:00 a.m. thinking over all that he had said. HE WAS
CONCERNED WHETHER HE WAS ACCURATE IN REPEATING ALL THE WORDS OF HARAV
SHLOMO ZALMAN AUERBACH without altering their message, meaning or
intent. Only after he was certain that he was true to the message and
that he didn’t put his subjective self into the advice was he able to
fall asleep until he arose to daven at Netz Hachama like he does every
day of the year!!! How many Rabbanim have the Zehirus??? How many
While I have tremendous respect for the Krausz’es and admiration for
all they do, I believe that the tone of the letter was improper when
considering the author of the article (speech) who was being analyzed.
The article doesn’t cite a Rav of equal stature who differs with Dr.
Abraham. I once sat with Dr. Abraham as we visited a certain well known
rebbe. The Rebbe had serious questions about what Dr. Abraham repeated
in the name of HaRav Auerbach and even HE expressed it by saying that he
doesn’t understand the ‘psak’ and that we must seek further
After Dr. Abraham originally presented these Pesakim in Nov.-Dec. ‘93
at the Agudah Convention and at Shomrei Emunah, the Krausz’es and others
understandably questioned how the Psakim reflect upon adoptive families.
I received clarification and elaboration from Dr. Abraham, and I have
shared many a late night discussion on the topic. Dr. Abraham expressed
to me that his intention was certainly not to denigrate existing
adoptive parents who are Boruch Hashem providing living Yiddishe homes
for children with special needs. After the fact that these Yiddishe
neshamos are not being kept by their own family, the adoptive families
(and the Krausz’es certainly b’rosham!) are doing the GREATEST of
Chesed. Rather, the Pesak addresses the initial responsibility that
biological parents have to their children NOT to remove them from their
natural home. It focuses on the requirement that those biological
parents have to learn to accept the will of Hashem even if it is
difficult, and work on themselves to parent ALL of their children with
love, joy, and dedication. It stresses that THEY should not view
adoption as an option and that THEY can provide more love and affection
than anyone else.
I hope that I have been clear...in defense of Torah Velomdeha
Umelamdeha. Thanks so much for everything and CHAZAK VE’AMETZ!!!
Rabbi Baruch Rabinowitz
CONFRONTATION: MORE ON INCLUSION
Recently, we have heard some suggestions from a few people that perhaps
kids with special needs would do best in segregated programs, and that
they don’t really gain from inclusion. After all, “special ed programs
allow their specific needs to be dealt with on a regular basis”. The
reality is that such a perspective overlooks the greatest need of all -
THE NEED FOR EVERY CHILD TO BE AN ACTIVE PART OF HIS OR HER COMMUNITY!
After a child finishes school, grows up, and then becomes part of the
“real” world, there are no special needs grocery stores, no special
needs bakers, laundromats, synagogues, etc. A person who spends the
first 18 or 20 years of life in segregated environments, where the only
other people around are also those with disabilities, will not be ready
to function in life, and will, of necessity, be a dependent human being
forever! How many parents want their child to be forever dependent?
Simple logic says that if we want a child to grow up with independent
living skills, he needs to be exposed to “typical” role models on a
regular basis. This means that he/she needs to go to school with the
neighborhood children, go to synagogue with brothers and sisters and Mom
& Dad, so that he/she is a part of the regular community. Then, as an
adult, he is likely to know how to participate in synagogue services, go
to the grocery store, dry cleaners, library, etc., and has a chance of
being able to include those normal activities in his/her life.
Probably much of the misunderstanding about inclusion comes from people
thinking it means throwing the child with special needs into a regular
class room and let him/her cope. That’s not inclusion! That’s “dump and
run”! Inclusion means that every child deserves to live, learn and play
with the same people and in the same place he would if he had no
disability, but that appropriate accommodations may need to be made. In
particular, it must be recognized that children with disabilities can
learn, but they may need a significantly increased number of learning
opportunities to succeed. If a classroom can’t accommodate a child with
clear disabilities, then we question if it is meeting the needs of most
of the so-called “typical” children, because there is obviously no
attempt to consider the individual needs of each and every child.
Our Rafi, 4, and Gavriella, 2, who have Down syndrome, go with us to
the grocery store, the department store, the bakery, etc., where they
are learning how to behave, where they have “friends” who say hello to
them, and where they are learning how to function in normal society.
They both attend the Chabad pre-school here in Denver, where they have
friends, can play with other kids, where the other kids can appreciate
them with their differences, and where they can be a real part of their
Jewish community. (By the way, the public system sends an aide for
Gavriella and a speech therapist for Rafi to Chabad!) Rafi comes to shul
with Dad on Shabbos, and goes up to everyone, extends a hand and says
“Good Shabbos”. If they don’t respond, he insists, “Shake!” He’s
learning how to behave in shul, and to be a part of our community. We
want no less than that for him, and no parent should expect less for
We, who have adopted children with special needs, along with those who
have given birth to them, want them to achieve inclusion in their
community when they are adults.
Reprinted with permission from the Spring ‘97 newsletter of the Jewish
Children’s Adoption Network, Denver, CO
As always it was a pleasure to see your magazine in the stores.
However, after reading your “Editor’s Message”, I was very disappointed.
It seems so out of character for you to write lines like “Let’s Get
Real” when talking about parents who have chosen inclusion as the best
path for their children. What happened to acceptance and tolerance?? Not
all children with Down syndrome are the same!
My daughter is in an Inclusion program in the Beis Rivka Yeshiva. She
does not attend after school or Sunday programs. I don’t believe that I
am in “denial”. I understand fully that my daughter is mentally
retarded. However, I strongly believe that the more she participates in
the so called “normal” world the better it will be for her. After all,
there are no “special ed” banks, supermarkets, stores or neighborhoods.
Our children need to know how to function in the real world, and yes,
young children do have the ability to understand and accept the
differences in a special needs child. If you would like to observe an
inclusionary program, you are more than welcome to visit Sara Mushka’s
class. My daughter is doing very well in school - no, she is not reading
on the same level as the other children, but she has almost mastered the
alef-beis. She understands the concept of nikodos and we are very
optimistic that she will indeed read. Her day starts at 8:30 am and she
is home by 4 pm. Sara is not a behavioral problem and enjoys her day.
She is popular and she does have friends.The children understand that
Sara is different. They help her, but most importantly - THEY ACCEPT HER
FOR WHO SHE IS. Her speech has improved dramatically. Sara started out
with one word at a time and is now speaking in sentences. She has
I cannot understand how you can lump all children with Down syndrome
into one square. Sara comes home from school and plays with her
siblings. I do not have to entertain her. She loves her dolls and also
playing school with her sister. Shabbos is not long - Sara is busy all
day. She goes to shul, she loves kiddush and the Shabbos meal. After
lunch she plays or goes through her books which she enjoys. Often she
takes a nap with her Tati or goes to the park. On Sunday she has ballet
class and spends the rest of the day with me.
You use, as an example of inclusion, your Moishey going to shul. We have
worked hard on training Sara to behave properly in shul. We were
successful with this because we consistently took her there and taught
her to do what is right. We didn’t take her home because we were
embarrassed - we told her “no”. She does not yet daven but she does kiss
the Torah and plays with the other children, some of whom are her
classmates. Sara also understands “Mukzeh”. She does not turn on lights,
touch the computer or ring the doorbell on Shabbos. Sara also lights a
Shabbos candle and makes the brocha. She knows from that moment on
Shabbos is here and life is different - we are Shabbosdik.
Inclusion is not an easy concept for people to understand. And it does
not apply just to school. Inclusion begins at birth, first with the
family, then the community and schools, and society at large. We feel
very strongly that Sara can only benefit by living as normal a life as
possible. In other words, our main concern is that she be a mentch!
Later, if we find that academically it is too much for Sara, we will
then work with the Yeshiva to open self-contained classrooms so children
like Sara can be mainstreamed wherever possible. There is absolutely no
reason for her to go to public school, nor to go to a school outside of
the neighborhood. As wonderful as the Bi-lingual program is, it is not a
I would suggest that you do a little more research on Inclusion before
you come to the decision that it is not appropriate for children with
Down syndrome. Besides the Beis Rivka program, I would also suggest
visiting the Surfside School in Coney Island. Surfside is a public
school which has successfully fully included 19 severely disabled
children. It is a truly inspiring experience and the principal, Mr.
Stephen Levy, and his staff, are knowledgeable, caring people.
Our Yeshivas must wake up. Every Jewish child is entitled to a Jewish
education. I understand that inclusion might not be the right road for
your child, but sarcastic remarks about parents who do choose inclusion
is not appropriate in a magazine like yours.
Let’s get back to tolerance and acceptance. Not all children with Down
syndrome belong in segregated special education programs.
Heart to Heart
The American Jewish Society for Distinguished Children
Dear Chana Shetichya:
Honestly, I was not surprised that my views on “inclusion” evoked such
firecracker emotions. in a world where idealism reigns supreme, i
expected this reaction.
contrary to your accusation, i am not lumping all down’s children
together. just the opposite! I'm saying that pushing for inclusion
blindly is more of the ‘cookie cutter’ process.
I did do lots of research on inclusion, as you suggested, however, way
before i wrote my opinion about it. i had several hands-on experiences
too. When moishey was approximately 4 years old and pesach tikvah did
not yet exist for us on Sundays and legal holidays, my husband and i
decided that it would be a good idea to enroll him in a regular
‘yeshiva-cheder’ class for every Sunday. we did some painstaking
research into what our options in the community were. after our tireless
investigation we chose a ‘cheder’ that had an excellent reputation among
the parents we consulted: small-sized classes, excellent ‘rabbeim’, lots
of toys, creative activities and good lunches. we were very hopeful. I
called the administrator and had an amazing conversation with him; it
turned out that he was the parent of a down’s child who was given up for
adoption because his wife felt overwhelmed by the challenge. the young
man was still aching as he spoke to me. toward the end of our
conversation, after i had told him of our plans for moishey, he said he
would consult with his colleagues in the administration and get back to
us with an answer. several days later he called back and said that the
administration had vetoed moishey’s acceptance unanimously. i laugh out
loud today when i think back to the buckets of tears that i shed then. i
called my sister on the telephone and sobbed bitterly, repeatedly
moaning, “this is our first rejection of moishey since he was born!”
several days later the remorseful administrator called back to say that
‘the case was reviewed’ and we can come down to the yeshiva with
moishey. we arrived on a Sunday morning shortly after ‘cheder’ started.
there were 2 ‘rabbeim’ “shmoozing” in the hallway, while approximately
55 children (3-4 year olds) were raising hell. kids were climbing on
chairs, jumping off tables, and there seemed to be an ever-colorful
array of bodies in the air as though suspended by lack of gravity. we
were shocked. we tried to walk moishey through the classroom and
introduce him to some toys, all the while watching his reaction. moishey
chose a quiet corner, safely out of reach of all those flying bodies,
and started to self-stimulate.
We took him by the hand, went home, and the next day I called the
administrator with this message, “thanks, but ‘No’ thanks!”
the reason why i have described the above episode in detail is for you
and others out there to understand, that in very crowded communities,
this is what yeshivas have to offer.
In fact, while I was gathering data for my “inclusion” issue, I wanted
to ask a close relative who is also a teacher, to write about her point
of view as a teacher of some 30 plus students, and what it would be like
to be given the additional responsibility of also having several special
needs students in her class. I felt that as a relative of a child with
down syndrome (moishey), readers would accept her writeup and feel her
sensitivity, yet honesty, about this very difficult situation. however,
once I had discussed this issue with her, I was afraid she wouldn’t be
able to walk down the avenue anymore, because the “politically correct
inclusion-pushers” would be slinging mud at her.
I boldly reiterate my stance on this issue. yes, it is advisable, if
and when the situation is ideal.
My husband and i have an acquaintance, an affluent businessman, who is
also the father of a teenager who has down syndrome. the young ‘bachur’
is in a classroom of ‘normal’ “bachurim” his age. When my husband
questioned the father in bewilderment about the boy’s ability to keep up
with the intense torah studies, the father winked and answered as
follows: “a well-padded ($$$’s) handshake with the administrator and
‘rebbe’ does the trick.”
Is this what we want for our children?
The summer before moishey turned four we were home in the city for the
months of July and august (I had just given birth to a baby). because we
were in the process of changing moishey schools, he had no official
summer program to attend. I enrolled him in one of the local toddler
playgroups. at that particular playgroup there was a little girl who had
down syndrome as well, who was not enrolled in any special ed program.
playgroup had been her ‘formal schooling’ since she left her mommy’s
apron strings. The parents of this young child vehemently denied their
daughter’s true needs, and claimed that if they threw her into the ‘real
world’ then she would grow up like all the ‘real’ people. The playgroup
teachers were amazed when they saw the difference between these 2
children. Simple skills like crayon/pencil grasp are so much more
refined in a child that has received fundamental therapies. Now, years
later, that child is still in a very inappropriate school setting,
albeit ‘included’ with the ‘normal’ population.
So, is “let’s get real!” really such a sarcastic comment?
Of course, Mrs. Goldstock, you are very lucky with your success at beis
rivkah!! but, how many beis rivkah’s are there out there??
I also feel like i should personally defend the bi-lingual program that
you have slighted in your letter. a ‘yiddishe’ program that boasts 75
children with varying disabilities within a public school,yet is
totally segregated, is a yeshiva setting by all means. and just to
respond to your outburst that there are no ‘special ed’ banks,
supermarkets, stores, etc.., you are 100% right, and this is precisely
what today’s special ed programs are preparing the children for. Moishey
has gone on school trips to the supermarket, to the dentist, to the
seamstress, etc. the children are being taught about the real world.
Talk to your other children. when was the last time they were taken on
such trips by their schools? I would be compromising my child’s
education if i were to deprive him of these real-life opportunities!!!
As for the shul scenario, that isn’t either an isolated incident that
passed without much static.. moishey is our first and only son, so I
don’t have much shul-going experience with my children. However, because
of my strict upbringing regarding the ‘kedusha’ and ‘kovod’ of a bais
hamedrash, I always felt uncomfortable when I saw young children running
wild in shul. So, we were torn in our hearts: take moishey to shul and
demand of him, and expect him to sit through the entire service? we
wouldn’t even be happy knowing that he is capable of being such a
‘klutz’. On the other hand, running around and being noisy goes against
our values system. also, there is a danger factor involved - there are
doors leading out to the street, doors leading to boiler rooms, a door
leading to the mikveh (danger! danger!), and percolators filled with
boiling water. Realistically, does my husband go to shul to daven or to
entertain and chase moishey?
We did discuss this scenario with many a professional and special
parent. All agreed unanimously, that it was unreasonable of parents to
try to subject themselves and the child to a complete morning session of
shachris and mussaf prayers. sensible suggestions ranged from - “work
your way back, by taking him to shul at the end of davening, just in
time to wish everybody a ‘gut shabbos’” to “take him for the last 10
minutes and keep increasing by five minute intervals.”
There are no easy answers. however, appreciation of opinions other than
one’s own, can only lead to open-mindedness with any issue.