Jewish, Deaf and Proud at Historic Chanukah Events

At the first ever Chanukah event for the deaf community in New York, the excitement was silent but palpable.

“Wow, overwhelming crowds! Feeling wonderful!” posted Robert Ross, during the event on his Facebook page. “Deaf Jewish proud! Fantastic Chanukah celebrations.”

The event at The Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan, New York, with a children’s program, entertainment for the deaf, and lots of traditional Chanukah edibles—all a the foot of a 9-foot tall menorah, was one of three such events on the East Coast.

“This Chanukah meant so much to us, it told us there is hope,” Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff, executive director of the Jewish Deaf Foundation, said via text message. “The event made huge waves in the community, because it was basically the biggest event the Jewish deaf community has had in a long time.”

For the deaf community, having programs geared directly to them, and not just events with someone translating to sign language is extremely important.

“It is very special because we are able to use sign language exclusively, that our deaf people could understand,” says Steve Brenner, founder and president emeritus of Washington Society of Jewish Deaf, who encourages the community to join the Chabad rabbi’s events. “[Soudakoff] knows how to attract the entire community including young children.”

The other events took place at Gallaudet University, a college geared to the deaf community, attended by 100 people, and another 50 participated at the Rochester Deaf Chanukah Celebration.

Soudakoff, credited for raising awareness and introducing Jewish programming that meets their needs is not kicking his feet up.

“We still have so much to accomplish, and we will,” he promises.

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