Deafness & Hard of Hearing


Yiddish for the deaf and hard of hearing has a different set of requirements than for the blind and visually impaired. Reading is no longer a problem. Thus the size of the font is not significant and graphics may be used. Also writing Yiddish is more easily learned. The major problems are speaking and being able to hear Jewish and Klezmer music. The number of deaf and hearing-impaired organizations is less. By using a cane/sight dog others know that one is disabled even from a distance. However it is not as obvious when meeting a deaf or hard of hearing individual The U.S. has no accepted standard for deafness as does Israel. In Israel a loss of 45dB is the standard. The U.S. legal definition for visually impaired.

Key Web Sites for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Directory of Jewish Deaf Groups
By Jon Kalish

This ran as a sidebar to the cover story in Jewish Week in May 1995. Directory of Services Sidebar The following organizations help deaf Jews. In some cases you need to use a relay service to "speak" to deaf people who have TDD's (telecommunication devices for the deaf). The relay service operator listens to your conversation and types it out to the person on the other end. The operator then reads the deaf person's response aloud to you. The relay number in NY is (800) 421-1220. A number of software programs let personal computers to communicate with some, but not all TDD's. The AT&T operator for the deaf (800-855-1155) can connect a computer to those older TDD's it is unable to communicate with.

The New York Society for the Deaf
344 E. 14th Street, N.Y., N.Y. 10003 contact: Joel Ziev(212) 777-3900 (voice and TDD) Originally founded as the Society for the Welfare of Jewish Deaf to serve mostly teenagers 83 years ago, NYSD has a variety of services for deaf people of all faiths, including sign language classes and housing projects for the deaf.

The Hebrew Association of the Deaf (HAD)
and Congregation Beth Or of Queens are reached through NYSD. HAD is an unaffiliated congregation that meets at the Emmanuel Y on 1st Ave. and 14th St.. Beth Or is a reform minyan that meets at the Marriot Laguardia Hotel. Both congregations are led by Rabbi David Edelson, the associate director of NYSD. HAD and Beth Or have joint services and holiday celebrations. Edelson conducts a Shabbat service monthly at each shul.

Beth Torah of the Deaf
1712 Ave. T, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11229 contact: Frady Steinhaus (718) 339-8324 (TDD or relay service) A deaf Orthodox group based in the Flatbush home of Frady Steinhaus, a deaf mother and hat maker. It provides interpreters for Jewish lectures, funerals and weddings and has a Melave Malke every Thanksgiving weekend that attracts 200 deaf Jews from all over the U.S. Thanks to Beth Torah, for the last 12 years deaf Orthodox men have learned Sundays at the home of a Boro Park rabbi. Deaf Orthodox women study at the home of an Orthodox woman in Flatbush. The group has 4 rabbis who advise deaf Jews on halakha.

Our Way c/o the National Conference of Synagogue Youth
333 Seventh Ave., N.Y., N.Y. 10001 contact: Rabbi Eliezer Liederfiend (212) 563-4000 x 234 Our Way is the Orthodox Union's outreach effort and works with adults and youths. It coordinates the Association of Jewish Parents of the Deaf and the Deaf Jewish Singles Registry. Never married singles looking for a shidduch can write to the registry at P.O. Box 10-0711, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11210 or call Yitzchok Dach (718) 252-5619 (TDD), Shmuel & Rachelle Landau (908) 352-7395 (TDD) or Rabbi Liederfiend at the Our Way office.

The Brooklyn Hebrew Society of the Deaf (BHSD)
c/o the Hebrew Educational Society 9502 Seaview Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11236 contact: Susan Greenberg 718-843-3959 BHSD meets at the Hebrew Educational Society building in Canarsie once a month. The group holds High Holy Day services at the Canarsie site, which is also the home of its Sunday Hebrew School. There were about 10 students last year but this year there are just two, according to Susan Greenberg, a member of the BHSD cemetery committee.

1747 E. 24th St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11229 contact Moshe Yaraslowitz (718) 339-4139 The Hebrew word haazinu means to hear and this national group helps parents of deaf or hearing-impaired children obtain financial support for hearing aids, FM assistive listening devices and speech therapy. Haazinu believes in mainstreaming Jewish children into yeshivas and is organizing support groups for parents of deaf Jewish children.

The National Congress of Jewish Deaf (NCJD)
1717 Bagley Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90035 contact: Sharon Ann Soudakoff 310-836-2666 (TDD) or fax 310-202-0035. NCJD has a book on Jewish signs, publishes a quarterly newsletter, a biennual conference, a list of deaf synagogues and deaf Jewish groups in major metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Outreach Judaism
P.O. Box 789 Monsey N.Y. 10952 contact: Rabbi Tovia Singer 914-356-1915 Active in kiruv work and battles proselytizing of deaf Jews in cyberspace.

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Copyright©1997 Jon Kalish


JDCC- Jewish Deaf Community Center
Jewish deaf people in Southern California