man holds his hand near ear and listens carefullyTo escape poverty and pogroms in Eastern Europe in the late 1800s, my grandfather chose to emigrate, and subsequently legally immigrated into the United States.

As a young man he married Pearl, a first generation American Jew. They purchased a semi-attached two-family house in Brooklyn’s Flatbush and raised three children in an observant kosher home where the Sabbath was strictly followed. Their three children married Jews, but none maintained a religious home or regularly attended temple except on the High Holy Days. After my grandparents passed away, Pesach focused more on tradition than religion.
Of the seven grandchildren, only two married Jews.
I am one of the two.
My husband and I (a few months shy of our 43rd wedding anniversary) are very proud of our Jewish heritage, but we’re not religious. We once belonged to a reform temple, but felt lost with prayers and songs we didn’t understand. (But we enjoyed Oneg Shabbat!)

A few years ago I attended a Sabbath service at a reform synagogue. However, I couldn’t hear much of what was being said because I am legally deaf. The bulky headsets offer amplification, which helps those with moderate hearing loss.

Yet, there have been times when I wanted to attend synagogue or seek a rabbi’s guidance. Normal hearing friends suggest sitting up front. But, speakers turn their heads to canvass the audience, move around the stage or have a difficult to hear voice pitch.

I certainly am not alone. Unable to hear the preacher, millions of Americans of faith avoid worship. Thankfully, technology is readily available, and people who wear hearing aids or have cochlear implants can hear everything being said!

Hope College social psychologist and author David G. Myers has written numerous articles advocating assistive listening and created hearingloop.org. Meyers explains the hearing loop in “Let’s Loop America’s Worship Centers.”

The simple “hearing loop” technology takes a feed from a PA system and transmits it through a wire loop surrounding the worshippers. The loop projects a magnetic signal to an inexpensive “telecoil” receiver, now found in a growing number of new hearing aids… The telecoil also serves as a receiver for magnetic signals transmitted by “hearing aid compatible phones,” which include all landline phones and designated cell phones. (For any without suitably equipped hearing instruments, portable receivers and headsets are available.)

It’s not just houses of worship that can benefit from hearing loop systems. All public places, including community centers, libraries, theaters, city halls, conference centers, and classrooms, can benefit too.”

Does your synagogue have a hearing loop system? If yes, publicize it in all communication. If not, consider installing the technology. Depending on the size of the sanctuary, cost averages $5,000 to $35,000. The technology enables hearing-limited congregants to enjoy the spectacular comfort that faith gives them.

With 48 million Americans (20 percent) having some degree of hearing loss, promoting hearing loop systems in private and public venues is just one of the many goals of Hearing Loss Association of America. The national organization, with chapters throughout the United States, offers hearing loss individuals a welcoming place to learn and socialize with those who share similar hearing loss challenges.

Simply put, “HLAA seeks to enable people with hearing loss challenges to live life fully and without compromise.”
The HLAA City of Orange chapter meets on the first Saturday morning of every month; it is seeking a permanent site. If you or someone you know would like more information on HLAA, please email hlaa.cityoforange@gmail.com.

So where does this leave me? If I can find a local synagogue with a hearing loop system and a rabbi who shares my conservative political beliefs, I might attend. It would be wonderful to hear the rabbi’s riveting sermon and cantor’s magical songs. And of course enjoy the Oneg Shabbat!

ROBIN ITZLER is a contributing writer to jlife magazine.




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