My special-needs daughter’s tallit is her superhero cape – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Posted By on June 23, 2017

(Kveller via JTA)Being the parent of a child with a disability can be lonely. Being the single parent of a child with a rare disability that is estimated to affect a mere 1 percent of the population can feel like being sentenced to solitary confinement.

Beginning in toddlerhood, my daughter Kate embarked on a lifetime of being poked and prodded, assessed and reassessed, and being escorted to multiple therapy appointments to address both a body and mind that were out of sync with everyone else. I felt helpless, like a failure and utterly alone.

Still, my loneliness doesnt compare to Kates. Now almost 21, she still has no friends and remains misunderstood by peers and adults. As a child, she was constantly described as quirky. Rejecting that label, she now just seems to be invisible and I am resentful of systems and schools and professionals who failed us.

When she was 15 months old, a doctor told me I was an overbearing Jewish mother after I expressed concern about Kates development (or lack thereof). At age 7, I watched with shock when her teacher did nothing after a classmate at our Jewish day school announced in front of everybody, Kate, no one would want to be your friend.

I was told No thank you by another teacher at the school when I offered resources and access to my daughters therapists (on my dime) so they could have a better understanding of her specific needs. Add to the list her middle school experience in public school and at an all-girls Catholic high school (unfortunately, no Jewish options exist in our community beyond sixth grade). And on and on and on...

But thank goodness, one area where Kates light has always managed to shine bright is through her Judaism. Ive always said I could put her on a desert island and she would find a way to be Jewish. In preschool, she learned Hebrew words from a native Israeli who did not speak English and therefore also was ignored by the other kids.

At 8, she read Torah for the first time at that same Jewish day school, and at 11 did so in front of her congregation. When she was 15, Kate participated in a pilgrimage trip to Israel, where she described being the shaliach tzibur, the prayer service leader, atop Masada as the highlight of her month long tour. And by 19, she was serving as gabbai rishon, a volunteer who runs the service, of our shul. Even today, Im sure she is the only one at her state university that lights Shabbat candles in her room.

My daughter loves to be Jewish. For years Ive listened to her mumble the prayer before draping her tallit around her shoulders and observed her as she carefully wrapped its fringes around her fingers before holding them to her forehead while reciting the Shema, or leading the congregation during one of the days services. She likes being counted as part of the minyan. Her presence matters.

Theres another thing that Kate loves: superheroes, from the television show Supernatural to the classic franchises. She holds her own while debating the merits of Marvel vs. DC with her uncle (Marvel, for sure) and writing a college term paper about the anthropological and spiritual undertones of television brothers Dean and Sam Winchester. They, along with Captain America, Spiderman, Super Girl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and many others are her friends and her inspiration.

My daughter relates to misfit characters who have overcome their stations in life, whether they are from Krypton or Kansas, because that is what she has done for two decades and countingshes overcome.

These stories show her that she can save herself by persevering and continuing to be the resilient young woman that she is. But some days its hard.

I think some days, she feels as if having fictitious superheroes as role models isnt enough. It is on those days that I remind her that she, too, has a special capeher tallit that patiently waited for her in a drawer from the time she was 7 until she took her rightful place as a bat mitzvah. She doesnt need an occasion to wrap it around herself. She can put it on, sit quietly, and be enveloped in her Judaism and the power of faith. She can realize that she is not invisible but an authentic superhero in her own way.

Elissa Einhorn is a freelance writer and the mother of twin daughters.

Kvelleris a thriving community of women and parents who convene online to share, celebrate and commiserate their experiences of raising kids through a Jewish lens.VisitKveller.com.

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My special-needs daughter's tallit is her superhero cape - Heritage Florida Jewish News

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