Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Complex Ethical Decisions - Which program?

A few days ago I considered the question of "How to decide how to allocate charity money?" on the level of adoption vs. in-country help.   Today I am struggling with a related question.  Having agreed with my husband to begin the process of a special-needs adoption (Yay!) we must decide how to proceed.

  Pros: Many available children; Our home-study agency has a program there; Lots of available info; Travel is in shorter chunks; Russian is spoken in our community
  Cons: VERY expensive; Unstable program due to tensions between Russia and USA; Did I mention EXPENSIVE?

  Pros: Easier travel than Russia in terms of distances; Great need!; Somewhat cheaper than Russia; Faster process; Russian is spoken in our community
  Cons: Can't officially pre-select a child based on photolisting; Travel takes 1-2 months!

  Pros: Easier travel than Russia in terms of distances; Need varies -- some orphanages are decent, others are abysmal; Cheaper than Russia; Easier travel in terms of number of trips, and only 1 parent has to travel
  Cons: Process is sometimes very long to referral?

  Pros: Much cheaper!; Much smaller country -- easier travel; Quicker referral
  Cons: Very little info before the referral; Very few children; Travel takes 3 weeks in-country for both parents

Right now we are planning to look into Serbia first.  If we can get a good match, then that would probably be the easiest to manage.  If that seems to dead-end, we would probably bite the bullet financially and go with Russia, so our agency can help us.  We were told that we can change the country once on the USCIS forms.

On the one hand, the Serbian orphans need families just as much as the Russian ones, so a cheaper, faster process would make it easier to bring one home and fulfill that need.  On the other hand, the Russian orphans are not at fault that government regulations on both sides of the pond make it so BLIPping hard to save them.  If we have the resources to help them, then why discriminate?

How do you choose which needy child(ren) to help?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Separateness and Holiness

The Shabbat version of the Amidah prayer highlights the notion of  Holiness as Separateness.  The weekday version of the Kedusha (Holiness) blessing also addresses this theme, but includes people in it as well:

You are Holy, and Your name is Holy, and the Holy ones will praise You, Selah!
Who are the Holy ones? Who are the people who we separate from? The people who are...different?  Where does holiness come in there?  Are these the Holy ones who will praise G*d?

In ancient times, some Jewish people would take on Nazirite vows, separating themselves from society in order to experience holiness.  Monks and nuns in various religions do the same thing.  What if the separation is imposed from without?  Is holiness to be found in that separation as well?

Most people are uncomfortable around those who are different, especially when the difference is visible, as in the case of racial differences or culturally distinct attire.  People with obvious disabilities are often shunned, without having the social capital of other "different" groups to bridge the gaps.  In this country, we have made tremendous progress in improving the social capital of people with disabilities, as we have done for other minorities.  In many other countries, however, the separateness is legitimized and institutionalized (pun intended). 

Reclaiming these children is a bold statement to the worldview that rejected them:  To the extent they are separated, so shall they be sanctified!  The more they are pushed away, the more G*d draws them near.


If separation indeed sanctifies, then this boy is nearly a saint:

He has been isolated in his crib for over 15 years. By this time next year, if not adopted, he will be isolated forever in a mental institution like these boys:

....for the rest of his life.

Here he is, fitting in a caretaker's lap:

My 2-year-old is probably bigger than he is.

Will he be pushed away one final time, or will he be reclaimed, loved, and sanctified?

Kedoshim be-khol yom yehalelukha, Selah!

Amidah - Part 3 - Holiness

I was fascinated when I heard this at my Catholic best friend's daughter's First Communion:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts!  The world is filled with His glory!

Yet this is in fact part of the Shabbat version the third blessing of the Amidah.

What does it mean to be "holy"?  The Hebrew word is "Kadosh".   Several words which are related to it are:

Kiddush: Sanctification of ceremonial wine
Kiddushin: Sacrament of marriage
Kaddish: Blessing said for mourning (as well as on other occasions)
Beit ha-Mikdash: The Holy Temple

Interestingly, another word from the same word is the Biblical word for "cult prostitute": "Keddesha".  This was, of course, in reference to Canaanite pagan practices, not to the worship of G*d as prescribed in the Torah.  However, it does highlight that "holiness" is not necessarily identical with "goodness".  In fact, etymologically, the rood means "separate".  By making something "holy" we set it apart, make it distinct.  There is nothing intrinsically different about the wine -- until we say a blessing about it!  Your intended bride/groom are no different than any other member of the appropriate sex -- until you exchange those vows!  The Kaddish is used primarily for separating sections of the daily service, and its use in mourning is derivative of the mourner's need to pray in the community.  In this sense, it is clear that the "Keddesha" was also "set apart" for a particular purpose.....

Let's reread the blessing with this in mind:

Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh Adonai Tzeva'ot  (Separate, separate, separate is the Lord of Hosts)
Melo kol ha-aretz kevodo! (The world is filled with His glory)

We insist three times that G*d is apart -- and yet He fills the whole world.  This is another contradiction embraced by the liturgy.  We at once declare G*d's holiness/separateness, as well as His ubiquity. He is everywhere, even in the most mundane (worldly) places and events.

I am reminded of a story of a rabbi who kept a card in his pocket at all times.  On one side, it said:

I am made of the dust of the earth.

and on the other,

For me the whole universe was created.

In the same way, we can at once see G*d as "above" everything, as well as "within" everything.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Adoption vs. In-country Help - Case in Point

I just read a sad post.  A mildly handicapped older child who was warmly advocated for, who had asked for a family, has decided firmly against being adopted.  A family which had sprung into action, turning their lives around to go halfway around the world, spending and raising thousands of dollars to rescue him from a potentially miserable future, is going home alone.

Just after I have posted about the question of adoption vs. helping orphans where they are, this story brings that very question into sharp relief.  After considering his options, this 15-year-old boy feels he would rather go to a trade school and struggle through life in his own culture than start from scratch in an adoptive family in the U.S.  The parents reflect,

He will go to trade school (he says -- but I don't think he's thought about how to pay for that...) and become a cook.

 Well, how would he pay for it?  Good question!  If the people who have been handling this situation from the beginning thought out of the box about the best interest of the boy, instead of relying on a "one size fits all" solution, perhaps the money that was raised and spent in the cause of this adoption could have been used for a scholarship fund for teenaged orphans.  There is more than one way to "care for orphans in their distress".  There are times that adoption is the best, or even the only way.  There are other times when it is not.

I feel very sad for the family.  I don't think anyone did anything "wrong".  This just highlights the stakes involved in the question I asked:

How do you decide how to spend your charity money (and time and effort)?

Complex Ethical Descisions 3 - Adoption Corruption

There are children who need homes.

There are parents with loving hearts who spring into action to adopt them.

There are honest agencies and facilitators who help bring them together.

And then there are those who get in the way.  The parents who abuse their child, or "send the child back" by himself on a plane.  The agencies who list children who are not available in order to collect fees while stringing along parents who could be adopting an available child.  The child traffickers who steal children who are loved by their biological families in order to collect fees from well-intentioned parents, and cause terrible loss for all parties involved.

Several bloggers are pleading on behalf of an adoptive family in Ghana, who seem to have run afoul of the authorities.   I am certain that the parents are innocent victims.  I pray for their full success in getting home with all their children.  However, we do not know all the facts in the case.  It is possible that the 4 siblings they are adopting actually are victims of child trafficking.  It is possible that someone along the way was corrupt, and stole these children from their family, allowing these adoptive parents to think they were available.  The fact is that adoption is full of such risks, whether domestic or international.  One must go into it with open eyes, and be wary of potential corruption.  So many predators out there are trying to take advantage of starry-eyed adoptive parents!

This is not a reason no to adopt, of course!  Just as the risks of pregnancy are not a reason to not have a baby!  The risks must be assessed and accounted for, and not ignored or dismissed.

How do you pick a course of action with incomplete information?

How do you know whom to trust?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Amidah - part 2 - Gevurot

The second section of the Amidah is called Gevurot - "Powers".  Here we consider the great and unique powers of G*d:

You are mighty forever, my L-rd; You resurrect the dead; You are powerful to save.
     ( In summer say: He causes the dew to descend.  
     In winter say: He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.)
He sustains the living with loving kindness, resurrects the dead with great mercy, supports the falling, heals the sick, releases the bound, and fulfills His trust to those who sleep in the dust. Who is like You, mighty One! And who can be compared to You, King, who brings death and restores life, and causes deliverance to spring forth!
You are trustworthy to revive the dead. Blessed are You L-rd, who revives the dead.

 What powers are listed?
1. He sustains the living
2. He resurrects the dead
3. He is great in salvation
4. He controls the forces of nature
5. He supports the falling
6. He heals the sick
7. He releases the bound (matir asurim!)
8. He fulfills His trust to those who sleep in the dust
9. He brings death and restores life
10. He causes deliverance to spring forth
11. He is trustworthy to revive the dead
12. He is blessed in reviving the dead

Nearly half of these are related to death!  Either acknowledging G*d's role in causing death, or in affirming G*d's power to reverse death.  If those are left out, we are left with:
1. Sustaining the living
3. Bringing salvation
4. Controlling nature
5. Supporting the falling
6. Healing the sick
7. Releasing the bound
10. Causing deliverance to spring forth.

Except for controlling nature, these are things that we can do!  These a human functions through which we channel G*d's image within us.  And it is by exercising these functions that we overcome death itself, either literally or figuratively.  By doing these things we can potentially save others from succumbing to illness or other harm, and we also gain an immortality as our good deeds outlive us.  And quite possibly, our rewards in the afterlife are alluded to here as well.  How to gain brownie points in the World to Come?  By G*dly behavior during our lives.

Yes, we are destined to die (part of nature and all).  Yes, G*d is there with us in that death.  When it happens, it is all too easy to protest, "Why is this happening to me?  Why did G*d do this to me?" We must remember that death is part of life, and like all other parts, it is up to us to make it a meaningful and G*dly experience.  Easy? No!  That's why the reviving of the dead is mentioned 5 times in this blessing -- we must remind ourselves over and over, that the things that are "bad" in this life can be transformed.  Death can be turned into life, by creating a life worth having lived.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Complex Ethical Decisions 2 - Adoption vs. In-country Help

Renee is one of my favorite bloggers.  I am totally awestruck by the impact she has been able to make in just a few months for the children of Orphanage 39.  So many older children with special needs who now have families coming for them!

At the same time, I recently started thinking out of the box on this issue.  A few of these teenagers were ready to qualify for government scholarships to university studies in Ukraine, but were unable to pursue this because no Ukrainian universities are wheelchair accessible.  Hmmm.  How much does it cost to build ramps and elevators?

International adoption is expensive.  Whether you pay for it out-of-pocket or spread the cost around by fundraising, it takes alot of money to complete the process.  Multiplied by the number of kids at Orphanage 39 and elsewhere who could benefit from improving accessibility in their own country, and it really adds up!

I think that it is wonderful that these boys and girls will have new homes where they will have many opportunities opened to them in the United States.  But it will be stressful for them to learn a new language, culture, and even religion.  To break with all that is familiar to them and connect with new family and friends. In many ways, it would have been easier for them to go to a Ukrainian university if accessibility was improved.  Furthermore, installing handicapped access would benefit not only them, but many others for whom this is a major obstacle to higher education, both today and in the future.  Instead of rescuing just a few children, the money raised could be used to improve the lives of many, many more.

Another benefit to in-country help is that by enabling handicapped children to participate in their own society more fully, other people learn that the disability does not define the person.  A person can be in a wheelchair and participate in all activities with their peers.   A person with a disability can have a normal life.  What would be the impact of this on new parents of a child with special needs?  What would be the impact on the doctors who advise these new parents?

How do you decide how to spend your charity money?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Complex Ethical Decisions 1 - Proselytization

Wow, first day after I decide to do this thread and I have at least three topics.... I'll start with this.

As I said, people who think they found "the Truth" frequently decide that all other points of view are "Wrong".  Aggressive proselytization is a common manifestation of this attitude.  If you are "Right" and others are "Wrong", then you are doing them a huge favor by bringing them around to your point of view....

I saw some other bloggers linking to the Joshua Project.  This organization functions on an extremely offensive premise, namely that populations which are not Christian (by a very narrow definition, at that!) are "unreached".   If you don't think this is offensive, read this very well-written post on the subject.  The FAQ on their page addresses the question of "disagreement with the ministry" by arguing for the superiority of Christianity (by that same narrow definition).  No, all religions are not the same.  But people should be free to make their own decisions.  And if they decide not to become Christian, that does not make them unreached.

If you are a believing Christian who wants to promote your religion, can you try putting yourself in the other people's shoes?  Accept that G*d can have different relationships with different people, just like we have different relationships with each of our children.   We love all our children equally, but the relationship with the firstborn is different from the relationship with the baby.  The relationship with the child who looks like us is different than the relationship with the kid who takes after the other parent.  It's OK to be different!  We can share our perspectives without forcing them on each other.

The Jewish view on this is that "the righteous of all nations have a place in the World to Come."  You do not need to be Jewish to be good -- all people are made in the image of G*d.  The concept of Chosenness -- so often misunderstood! -- just means that Jews have a special mission in this world.  Other people may have other missions, and as long as they follow the 7 Noahide Laws, they are considered "righteous".   Going above and beyond that is great, and many gentiles do!  Righteous gentiles are very highly regarded by Jews.

How do you treat people who are good who do not worship your god?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Complex Ethical Decisions

There is a common human behavior where we become convinced of the correctness of our point of view about something. At that point it is very easy to jump from "I'm right" to "Everyone else is wrong". We see it in politics, religion, and among family members.

Adoption can be a very good thing. It can complete families, save children, and bring joy and love to many who are touched by it.

There are some who have had bad experiences in adopting. Corrupt agencies, poor preparation for the challenges involved etc. can lead to minor and major problems.

Others have had bad experiences as adoptees. Disruption, abuse, and loss of identity are prominent.

None of these is more "correct" than another. They just are. Obviousy, people will reach very different conclusions based on which group they fall into or are exposed to. I will spend a few posts exploring various positions and try to see as many sides of the issues as I can. I welcome contributions to the debate if I leave anything out (which I'm sure I will!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Amidah - part 1 - Avot

The first blessing of the Amidah recognizes our ancestors.  It is titled "Avot", which means "Fathers".  This is the version I use, which includes the Matriarchs as well as the Patriarchs:

 Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d and G‑d of our fathers, G‑d of Abraham, G‑d of Isaac and G‑d of Jacob, G‑d Sarah, G‑d of Rebekah, G‑d of Rachel and G‑d of Leah, the great, mighty and awesome G‑d, exalted G‑d, who bestows bountiful kindness, who creates (possesses) all things, who remembers the piety of the Patriarchs, and who, in love, brings redemption to their children's children, for the sake of His Name.

O King, (You are) a helper, a savior and a shield. Blessed are You Lord, Shield of Abraham and helper of Sarah.

I usually use this blessing to focus on a few things:
1.  How are the lives and struggles of the Patriarchs/Matriarchs reflected in whatever I am dealing with today?  How can I draw on their strength?
2. Acknowledging my own parents, their love to me and their contribution to the person I am today.
3. Acknowledging that the bounty of Creation is in evidence in spite of my temporary struggles, and that perseverance will be rewarded
4. That the man needs a "shield" while the woman needs a "helper" seems like role reversal, but actually rings true to me.  Men are reluctant to ask for protection, while women are reluctant to ask for help.  G*d is there to give us what we need, or at least to remind us to ask for it....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Amidah - part 0

The Amidah is the central prayer in Jewish worship.  It was originally 18 blessings, recited 3 times a day by religious Jews.  At some point one of the blessings was split in 2, so it's now 19 blessings.  Before beginning this prayer, we stand facing Jerusalem, and prepare ourselves by
1. Taking 3 steps backwards "Lord, open my lips..."
2. Then taking 3 steps forwards "...and my mouth shall speak Your praise!"

Even praising G*d we cannot do unless He opens our lips for us.  But we CAN ask Him to do so!  We can ask G*d to give us the power to do that which we ought.  If He can give us the power, and if furthermore we NEED him to give us the power before we can act, whence do we get the power to ask?  It is the tension of free will vs. determinism right there! If we have the free will to ASK, why do we have to ask?  Why cant we just DO?  In this short sequence, we accept and embrace the tension, and use it to energize the prayer which follows.


Last week I blogged about what happens when hydrocephalus goes untreated. And today, a sweet 4-year-old girl from Pleven with hydrocephalus was listed.

This is Marsha:

The children I blogged about last week were 5 and 6 years old. Quick intervention could mean the difference of life and death for Marsha.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Next steps

1. My husband and I are taking concrete steps towards a special needs adoption!  We are discussing different options, and starting to put together documents (birth certificates etc) that we will need.  We have picked an agency for our homestudy, and will be submitting the application this week.

2. I am also moving forward with my community project to educate and advocate for special needs orphans in my faith community.  I have been brainstorming ideas to present to the appropriate committee, talking with decision-makers in the congregation, etc.

3. Since Father's Day has come and gone, I am moving on to other topics in Judaism.  My best friend reminded me in her comment to this post that I still haven't blogged about the Amidah prayer.  So tomorrow I will start!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 20

Happy Father's Day!!!!

This morning my darling husband and I were reflecting on the miracle of life, and he was quoting somebody or other describing conception as taking the throwaway nocturnal emissions and the contents of menstruation and combining them to produce a perfect creature in the image of G*d. (I'm paraphrasing, but then again, so was he).

This gave me the perfect intro to today's teaching, from the beginning of Chapter 3:

Akavia the son of Mahalalel would say: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of transgression. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting. From where you came--from a putrid drop; where you are going--to a place of dust, maggots and worms; and before whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting--before the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Yes, we are nothing, we come from nothing, and we have infinite possibility before us.

 I hope you enjoyed this series!!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 19

The liturgical song "Al Shlosha Dvarim" is drawn from Chapter 1:

The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.

This is the model of Jewish practice:  Study is very important, hence our reputation as "people of the Book".  We also place a great emphasis on prayer, ritual, and practice.  In some cases this leg of the tripod is misunderstood, or taken out of context -- even by the practitioners themselves!  The view of Jews as preoccupied with "excessive laws" comes from this.  But "deeds of kindness" are just as important.  Jews are disproportionately represented in charitable organizations of all sorts.

 I am right now embarking on a project to motivate my faith community to become more involved in the orphan crisis, as part of my participation in the Landmark Education program.   My goal is to create a supportive environment within the congregation which will educate about and advocate for orphans in need, as well as support families who are taking on a special needs adoption.  I hope that this would become a space where families that are able to do so would be motivated to move forward instead of being overwhelmed and alone.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 18

More on my political inclinations from Chapter 1:

Shmaayah would say: Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy with the government.

I like that we are advised to both "loath mastery over others" and  "avoid intimacy with the government" -- these are 2 sides of the same coin!  Government IS "mastery over others".  We should avoid setting ourselves up to be ensnared in the love of power, even when it appears to be "legitimate".

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 17

We are in an election year, so a bit of my political inclination is in Chapter 2:

Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 16

I'm tired.  Here is something short and sweet from Chapter 1:

One who does not increase, diminishes.

Is this why I'm pushing, pushing, pushing myself?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 15

In Chapter 3, we read,

One whose deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom endures. But one whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, his wisdom does not endure.

Is it "wise" to take on a special needs adoption? NO!  It is risky on so many levels.  But if we let the deed exceed our wisdom, our wisdom will in fact endure.

We are looking into starting a homestudy....

Ethics of the Fathers Day 14

In Chapter 5, we read,

There are four types of contributors to charity. One who wants to give but does not want others to give--is begrudging of others. One who wants that others should give but does not want to give--begrudges himself. One who wants that he as well as others should give, is a chassid. One who want neither himself nor others to give, is wicked.

I find this an interesting commentary on fundraising for special needs adoption.  Fundraising gives others an opportunity to participate in the mitzvah of rescuing an orphan, without demanding that they take the same leap of faith as the adopting parents.  Trying to do it all yourself is not only making your life harder -- but it is begrudging of others, by depriving them of the opportunity to be a part of the miracle.   Likewise, avoiding participation on the grounds of "I'm not called to it" is not necessarily evil, but it is begrudging oneself.  Avoiding a mitzvah is missing an opportunity!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Untreated hydrocephalus

Looking through usynovite.ru, I found something I did not expect.  Children with untreated hydrocephalus.  I thought shunts were standard procedure for decades already, but it seems that these kids are sentenced to die a slow, painful, and totally preventable death, as their heads get too heavy for them to hold up and their brains fail under the pressure of cerebro-spinal fluid.

These are 5 year olds:

http://www.usynovite.ru - Марат Р.


http://www.usynovite.ru - Степан П.

http://www.usynovite.ru - Иван В.

http://www.usynovite.ru - Александр С.
http://www.usynovite.ru - Даниил Ч.

http://www.usynovite.ru - Анна Г.

http://www.usynovite.ru - Евгения Р.


http://www.usynovite.ru - Анна Г.

 6 year olds:

http://www.usynovite.ru - Роман Ш.

http://www.usynovite.ru - Владимир Р.

http://www.usynovite.ru - Анастасия Ш.

I don't think I found any older than that.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 13

So on a happier note, we have the last line of Chapter 6:

Everything that G-d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory.

My husband is right now attending the Landmark Forum, an intensive 3.5-day seminar where you examine your life and create new possibilities for yourself.  A chance to see everything in G*d's world as it was created - for His glory.  (It is not a religious seminar.  I know devout Christians, orthodox Jews and commited atheists who have attended and found it very useful.  If you are religious, it will resonate with your religious texts, but if you are not, it can stand on its own.)

Ethics of the Fathers Day 12

Oops, I missed yesterday, so I will need to do 2 of these today.

First, to continue with the theme of Friday's post, also from Chapter 1:

Shammai would say: Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance.

In other words, if there is real wrongdoing -- which I am not disputing!  I have no firsthand knowledge one way or the other here -- then taking positive action is better than just talking about it in the blogosphere, and the talking that we do should aim to be civil, and aimed towards said positive action.

For example, in the comments yesterday, I suggested to my anonymous interlocutor that,

  • ... if you have an actionable paper trail, you can sue, which would be more effective than just mudslinging back.
  • You can also coordinate with other families who had bad experiences and make a class action suit, which would be even more effective.
  • Or you can start from the premise that Andrea Roberts is NOT evil, that she is actually trying to do her best and that she sees these circumstances as unfortunate exceptions to a system that works pretty well most of the time.
  • From that perspective, you could once again network with other families with bad experiences but instead of counterattacking, approach RR with constructive suggestions on how to improve the process.
  • You could even start your own advocacy website, and organize it "the right way". You would probably find that it is a lot harder to create something than it is to criticize someone else's efforts. You might find yourself making difficult ethical decisions. You might find that no matter how you decide them, there will be those who will criticize you for it. 

I am not taking sides here, since I don't know the whole story.   I would just like to assume that everybody involved actually wants to do the right thing, and is sure that any venom that they put out is just "retaliation" for some actual wrongs that have been committed. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 11

In Chapter 1, we read,

Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit.

I am observing a controversy right now about the practices of Reece's Rainbow.  I find myself actually understanding where both sides are coming from.

There are some (post has since been removed) who have had bad experiences with RR.  Children who turned out not to be available for adoption, agencies which turned out to be corrupt and unhelpful.   They are understandably eager to blame RR for its contribution to these disappointments.  And in fact, RR does have certain practices which appear to walk a fine ethical line.  In those cases where people are hurt by these practices, RR should take steps to fix the situation.  Unfortunately, some individuals have threatened and intimidated these people.  This does not help!

At the same time, I can see RR's defense, that while their practices (photolisting children against the laws of the countries where they are listed) are illegal in those jurisdictions, that they serve a greater good of bringing those children home.  This seems to me a form of civil disobedience.   Were some African Americans concerned that Rosa Parks' act of defiance might inspire lynchings? I am certain that they were!  And that concern was probably well-placed.  Nonetheless, civil disobedience did lead to the revolutionary changes in civil rights for all Americans.

So, is Reece's Rainbow engaged in civil disobedience, or just in......disobedience?  Arrogance?   Playing G*d?  Can the objectors' concerns be acknowledged without negativity and harrassment?

I certainly prefer to "judge both sides to the side of merit."  All who are involved in this dialogue ultimately want the best for these children.  We all want as many children as possible to be placed in loving homes where they can grow and thrive.  We do disagree on how to best achieve this aim.  As we enter an election season, let us all remember that rational people CAN disagree, and let us judge every man to the side of merit.

Thank you.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 10

A short line from Chapter 4 that speaks for itself:

איזהו גבור? הכובש את יצרו.

Who is a hero? One who overpowers his inclinations.

The year is....

...1941.  Your neighbor's cousin in New York just met a refugee from Europe.

He is telling you a garbled story.

Some parts seem too horrific to believe.


What do you do?  Do you believe the story?  Do you tell others?  Do you act?

With no internet, few pictures or first hand accounts are available.  And yet today we blame our ancestors for not taking greater action against this great evil that was being perpetrated.


 The year is 2012.

The story is told, over and over.

Some of the images are disturbing.

...but we HAVE the images, the stories, the videos.  We KNOW.  Also, much of this is not the intentional evil that was the Holocaust.  Some of it is the remnant of Nazi philosophy, to be sure.  The idea of discarding "imperfect" humans as unworthy certainly has its roots in the era of Nazi domination.  But mostly, this is due to ignorance.  In several countries, progress is being made towards more humane treatment of children with disabilities. 

When people in positions of power have the knowledge of what is possible, they can take positive action.

So can we.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ethics of the Fathers Day 9

In chapter 4, we learn:

Rabbi Levitas of Yavneh would say: Be very, very humble, for the hope of mortal man is worms.

This is what happens when we fail to rescue the children.

They die.

Please say Kaddish with me.

Count Ruben's Kindergarten class - girls

So in addition to the 33 boys with Down syndrome in Count Ruben's Reece's Rainbow Kindergarten class, there are also the following 14 girls:

As well as the following 6 HIV+ and 25 other special needs boys:

and 23 HIV+/other special needs girls:

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