There is a point in life where we break down physically and have to take it easy. As Father Time takes his toll on our bodies, we forget that it is connected completely with our emotional state of being. Today is week five of a broken foot. When I show up at my podiatrist’s office (he’s actually quite kind and good to me), he is tending to my foot. Yes, he listens to me and tries to provide me with the best quality care he can, but this battle is not just with the aches and pains of my body — the challenge this has placed upon me seems immense. Everyday tasks, like a shower, become grueling as I fall backward on a bench placed sideways in my shower (the only way it would fit) and dangle my inoperable leg in a plastic bag. Dishes, laundry, the stairs to get into my house — these are no longer small tasks. So of course, the one dependable thing I can turn to is my dog, yet she can’t stay in my second-story condo without being walked. Sadly, I had to hand her to my parents. Chores and basics like going to and from the mailbox have become energy consumers of an immeasurable size. Grocery shopping is impossible alone. I make lists and have friends and family deliver what I need. The men at the local Indian restaurant now know my order by heart and know to just drop it off at the door because it takes me too long to get there myself. I have become physically disabled. It’s only for a little over a month. However, it has made me rethink what it means to be independent. I am lucky. This for me is a tiny glimpse of what many others in the community have to battle for the rest of their lives. This small infraction on my being has really made me wonder how we as a Jewish community organize events and provide community that is accessible to those with physical and emotional limitations. I know many organizations do outreach for the elderly, but how do we as a community provide access for younger disabled Jews? After further nvestigation, I found that local and national groups have identified a Jewish community with diverse needs and does provide for them. Happily, I also discovered that all of these opportunities welcome ages 21 to 45, but are not necessarily specific to the GenY demographic. Our very own Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County’s JYA has recently launched a joint effort with JCC Cares, the Merage JCC’s social action team, to involve the J’s Young Adults in giving back to the community. Temple Bat Yahm (TBY) has a group called “The Jeremiah Society.” They provide community members with a three-hour program that is held on the third Sunday of every month. In addition to TBY, Chabad has created a group called “Friendship Circle” that promotes Jewish community for those with physical and mental disabilities. Their community has an online presence as well as brick and mortar, allowing Jewish traditions and education to be tangible for all Jews. Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS) offers a residential solution to encompass the Jewish residents of OC, the Mandel House. According to JFFS, this “home offers adults [18 years of age or older] with disabilities an independent, community-based, group living environment that meets their unique needs and helps them remain active in Jewish life. Special attention is paid to assisting residents with activities of daily living, socialization, and good nutrition.” In addition, JFFS provides other services to those in need of physical and emotional assistance. It is a great pleasure to see that OC does not marginalize community, but embraces all of its Jewish residents — placing value not just on life, but on the quality of a Jewish life in Orange County.
Rachel Schiff is an English teacher who graduated from Cal State Fullerton. She was president of Hillel, a representative of the World Union of Jewish Students and a YLD intern. Currently, she is a Master’s degree student in American Studies with emphasis on Jews in America.