You're Invited: "Our Stories–Our Abilities" at the Sabes JCC

CaringConnLet’s talk about Moses for a second. Were he still alive, he would likely find his way this Sunday through the wilderness that is St. Louis Park (at least that’s how it seems to those of us from across the river) – and would head to the Sabes JCC Fiterman Theatre, to take part in a program from 2:30-4 pm, celebrating Jewish Disability Awareness Month.
Why Moses, you ask? The prevailing theory is that Moses not only experienced stuttering, but prevailed in spite of it. According to Gerald M. Siegel, professor emeritus of speech pathology at the U of M, “[i]n the Torah [Exodus 4:10], Moses initially resists being God’s messenger because of his speech, saying: ‘Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words…. I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.’ ”
There are actually an array of scholarly interpretations of the Hebrew words that Moses used to describe himself – k’vad peh, “heavy of mouth,” and k’vad lashon, “heavy of tongue”.  Some midrash attributes his impediment to having burned his tongue on hot coals as an infant. Were this the case, however, many scholars (and scientists) would conclude that Moses would have likely spoke with a lisp, rather than stuttered.
All that remains clear, is that whatever disability Moses may have had, it did not affect his many other skills, or impede his role in our history.
This Sunday, the group Caring Connections will present “Our Stories–Our Abilities” – a community-wide celebration of the accomplished musical and artistic talents of local community members with disabilities. It is an intimate look into a world of which too few of us are aware, presented by the people who live there.  The program will be directed by Bob Kusnetz, together with Stacey Dinner-Levin, whose works have included the play Autistic License. Whether it is music, spoken word, dance, or visual arts — each performer has a story to tell, including Rebecca Fogel (pictured) as a vocalist and one of many performers.
I will be taking part as well on stage, together with my friend Rico. We were first connected over 30 years ago as part of a program through the Minneapolis ARC that connected volunteers with ARC clients. The program asked that volunteers agree to commit to a year, in which we would agree to essentially just “pal around” with the ARC client. I was matched up with Rico, and our one year commitment has grown into over 30, and shows no signs of slowing down. In his own way, Rico’s skills are as great as those of Moses, if we also take the time to listen.
The local Jewish community is fortunate to have Caring Connections, which provides opportunities for Jewish adults with developmental disabilities to connect with their faith community and take part in Jewish life and learn about holidays and traditions. Monthly programs may feature a storyteller, an art project, or link to larger community events to create a sense of celebration and enjoyment. Caring Connections is a joint effort of JFCS, Jewish Family Service of St. Paul, the St. Paul JCC, and the Sabes JCC.
In addition to the program Sunday, these groups have put together an array of events and opportunities to celebrate achievements and abilities of those with disabilities during this month of February.  See their brochure at
But finally, back to Professor Siegel, who suggests that “Moses’ stuttering is even said to have cost the Jews dearly. When offered by God the choice of any country in the world, a modern midrash goes, he meant to request vast, rich Canada but was given tiny, resourceless Canaan when all he could manage to utter was “C-C-Cana-C-C-Cana….” It’s equally likely, though, that he asked for the Land of Ithrael and got exactly what he wanted.”