Friday, March 19, 2010

Deaf + Rabbi

Those two words sound like something of an impossibility, don’t they?  Well, tonight we heard the first female deaf rabbi and she was totally inspiring.

Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe spoke about her personal journey to the rabbinate in a sermon entitled “I Heard God’s Call... A Sacred and Personal Story...”.  There was a sizable group of deaf people at our Shabbat service and there were two interpreters who took turns signing.  I’m still trying to figure out how they signed the Hebrew we were singing.

Rabbi Dubowe was profoundly deaf since birth.  She speaks remarkably well given that she has never heard any of the sounds she utters.  She was mainstreamed in school and learned to read lips.  It was around the time of her bat mitzvah that she felt called to become a rabbi.

Attending rabbinical school is challenging to anyone, but particularly for one who was paving the way as she was.  She said the best quality a deaf person can possess is a sense of humor.  She told of a professor who had her stay after class one day to suggest that she could bring a tape recorder and capture the lecture in that way or perhaps she could get the notes in Braille!  Obviously this guy didn’t have a clue as to how to deal with her deafness. 

But she prevailed and did graduate as a rabbi from Hebrew Union College in the early 1990’s.  Since then she has served in an associate rabbi in two congregations, performing all the duties that anyone in that capacity would be expected to perform.

When she finished sharing her inspiring story, the entire congregation waved their hands in the air instead of clapping.  It had the same effect but with an added visual impact.  I’m hoping we will incorporate this practice into our service in places where we might otherwise be tempted to clap and yet it would seem irreverent.

I was filling in in the Temple Micah office this week while a key person was on leave.  I took the above photo just before leaving this afternoon.  The light seemed so perfect and there was not a sound even for hearing ears.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a moving story. I love the image of all those waving hands; it's been a long time since I've experienced that. The temple photo is beautiful; the light IS wonderful...very peaceful and inspiring.


12:38 PM  
Blogger Rayna said...

Both the story of the rabbi and the picture of the beautiful interior of your temple evoke very strong emotions for me.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

She sounds wonderful - reads wonderful - without a sound.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Gary said...


I read this post earlier in the week and wanted to comment but as usual crazy schedules have left me with little time. In the coming week I hope to catch up on your fantastic blog.

Anyway, my Deaf co-teacher Lauren was married by Deaf Rabbi several years ago and although it was not surprising to me I too wondered about the Hebrew signs. Each spoken language has a signed language and I suppose there is a bit of bilingualism taking place there as well.

As a teacher of the deaf I am constantly asked if I know braille. Other comments include "your class must be so quiet" (it isn't) or "oh, you teach the dead?" (does that even make sense?). Rabbi Rebecca is right about that sense of humor.

8:46 PM  

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