When I was ten years old, our family saw Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. This was a big deal. My grandparents, who NEVER went to the theater, came. As immigrants from Eastern Europe, Fiddler felt like their story.
The first act climaxes with a wedding, punctuated by a pogrom, bringing the wedding joy to a crashing halt. The townspeople invade and trash the wedding, and the roughed-up celebrants flee in fear.
The sold-out crowd is stunned; you can hear a pin drop.
Until my grandmother, resident of the Bronx, by way of Przemyśl, Poland, pierces the silence: “This they call a pogrom?” she remarks, unimpressed.
Rami's been coming to our INCLUDE Special Needs Family Camp for years. Rami has autism and he's non-verbal. So everyone was pleasantly surprised to see that he had learned to use a keyboard to communicate. Typing one letter at a time with a stick, Rami let us know what he wanted:
"I want Torah study this year that is challenging," he wrote. "Having some respect for our intelligence is critical for us to live good lives."
At our Family Camp, Rami did participate in Torah study. He used his keyboard to tell us that it was "a good discussion of the parasha (Torah portion)."
In ten days we celebrate Shavuot, and the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. In Jewish tradition, we experience Shavuot as if we were there at Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah ourselves. The sense of solidarity and peoplehood - surrounded by Jews, all of us bound together by this shared experience - can be profound. "We were all there together," we say, and "we are all here together."
But, who is "we?"