OPINION: Having a learning disability doesn’t stop me living a full Jewish life

OPINION: Having a learning disability doesn’t stop me living a full Jewish life

Rachelle Adler
Rachelle Adler
Rachelle Adler
Rachelle Adler

By Rachelle Adler, Norwood resident

Rachelle Adler lives in a Norwood residential home in Hendon. She is passionate about disability rights, raises funds for Norwood and has been co-presenting sessions at Limmud (the annual five-day conference with sessions on everything from Torah to contemporary issues; art to yoga sessions) on what it means to have a learning disability and be Jewish.

Here, in the first of our new series of occasional columns by members of the community with learning disabilities, Rachelle describes her professional and religious life, her travels around the word and how she taught children to sing Old MacDonald Had A Farm using sign language…

I’m Rachelle and I’ve been supported by Norwood for 14 years. I live in Barnet. I’m able to do things with staff, such as go on holidays, go on day trips, go shopping and travel on my world tour.

I also work. I have a job working in an office at Home Farm Trust. I love my job there and I’m going to work until I retire!

Norwood supports me to be Jewish. I can tell staff that I want to wear a traditional Jewish outfit and they help me to pick the right shoes with the long skirt and high-necked top. I’m from an Orthodox background so it’s my choice to dress like that.

It’s very important for me to keep kosher in the home. My parents keep kosher. I keep kosher to respect my religion. If I wasn’t in a kosher home, it would be very difficult for me. I wouldn’t be able to go to kosher shops and restaurants.

I like going to Hendon United Synagogue where people are friendly to me, and I sit next to the rabbi’s wife when I go. Going to synagogue is my decision. It’s about praying and believing in Hashem and it’s very spiritual.

Every year I look forward to going to Limmud. I pack my bags and I can’t wait to go. I contribute by being a presenter there. Going to Limmud is important because it helps me to understand the Jewish way of life and all the other aspects of Judaism.

When I go to Limmud, I teach people that people like me, with learning disabilities, are just like everyone else, and should have the same opportunities. I can lead a Jewish life like everyone else – and, like everyone else, I love shopping!

As well as teaching people what it’s like being Jewish and having a learning disability, I also show them how to use sign language. Sign language helps you to communicate.

Last year I taught Makaton, which is a type of sign language, to adults and children. We taught Old MacDonald Had A Farm in sign language, with all the animal signs. All the children enjoyed it and so did I!

One thing I like about being Jewish is the festivals, as they are a big part of my religion. I enjoy celebrating, especially the parties for Purim and Chanukah.

The best Chanukah ever fell on the same day as my cousin’s wedding at the Mayfair Hotel. We danced all night and ate Chanukah food.

This year I didn’t have time to get new clothes for Rosh Hashanah as I was too busy making a film for Norwood. Tzedakah is important for helping the community – not just the Jewish community, but everyone.

All my life I’ve given to charity – not just Jewish charities, but non-Jewish ones as well. I was on the Norwood Mitzvah Day committee in 2012 and I sent out emails to everyone, getting them to help with gardening and collections.

I believe Mitzvah Day is all about helping people less fortunate than yourself. It’s not just about giving money. It’s also about giving time.

I’ve travelled around the world. My grandfather travelled the world too, so I think it must be in my blood. I’ve been to Bruges in Belgium, Holland and all over Israel.

I’ve been to New York as well. When I went there, I had American kosher food and, of course, I ate a lot of bagels!

I think that it’s important for people with learning disabilities to be treated the same as everyone else and to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

I enjoy living a Jewish life and feel part of the Jewish community, which is important to me.

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