Monday, June 05, 2023

As we agonized over the decision as to whether or not we should leave our lives behind us in Montreal and start afresh here in the Bergenfield-Teaneck community, we painfully grappled with the obvious decision that we would have to leave our handicapped daughter Naama Bracha behind in Montreal. The group home that Naama lives in, Maison Shalom has yet to be replicated anywhere we go. The warmth and love which is showered upon her and the great life she lives each day convinced us that it would be selfish of us to bring her here to a new environment. We therefore resolved to visit her every three weeks and she Skypes with all of us frequently. Along with this difficult decision was the knowledge that her siblings and nieces and nephews would see her in person much less frequently. Naama is extremely extroverted and any visitors that she had were always warmly greeted by a big smile and probably a big scream. When her family came she was even more rambunctious and excited.

Not everyone over the years appreciated Naama’s outgoing and anxious greetings. We frequently found that people were afraid to come over to speak with her. Parents held the hands of their children and whisked them quickly away from her—as one mother proclaimed— “Don’t get too close, it might be catching,” and some chose to cross the street before getting too close to us. Every member of our family was aware of and hurt in some fashion by the ignorance of people who displayed such behavior. At the same time there are those who over the years have become so much more sensitive to the “special needs community” due to their exposure to Naama.

Fast forward to our now being in New Jersey and trying to figure out a way to bring Naama here for a few days. It is not a small feat as many arrangements need to be made in order to make the visit as smooth as possible. A lift needs to be rented, a ramp needs to be found, a special van with a lift needs to be rented in order to drive her here in her wheelchair, a home health care aide needs to be hired, etc., etc., etc.

Without telling us, our children Chavie and Chaim Hagler began working on making the possibility of bringing Naama a reality. There was no detail omitted from their plan to bring her here for Simchat Torah. They were determined, and it happened.

However, the purpose of this is not to laud our children but to laud the entire community.

Everywhere that we went with Naama over the three-day chag we met people who came over to greet her. They brought their children over to meet her—little ones and bigger ones, they spoke with her and listened attentively as we explained that she “talks” to us by pointing to Bliss symbols and does understand what they are saying to her. They looked at her directly—everywhere—in shul, in the park, on the street. As well, old HASC friends and Montreal friends all made the effort to drop by. We were overwhelmed by all of you. Perhaps the most touching moment of all (for her parents) was during the dancing at Beth Abraham; Naama was in a corner at the end of the mechitzah watching the men dance when suddenly Rabbi Neuberger and Rabbi Cohen directed a line of men to dance towards Naama as if she was the kallah and they were dancing in front of her. How can we ever describe our gratitude and kavod properly?

The attitudinal changes are so apparent and dramatic to us and we are sure that we have HASC and YACHAD to thank for this phenomenon. This community has grown up with both of these organizations being a natural part of their lives. Special needs children became recognized as “normal” to those who worked with them and spent time with them. The stigma has eased so intensely. We wish that we could personally hug each and every member of this special community who so kindly welcomed Naama and in a sense learned a bit more about who we are. We heartfully thank you; every second of this Simchat Torah was magical for Naama. We are very grateful to be your new neighbors.

About the Glicks - Rabbi Mordechai Glick enjoyed a long career in the rabbinate and academia – serving as the rabbi of a number of shuls in the Montreal area and teaching psychology full-time at Champlain College. Nina Glick led Yachad in Montreal for over 10 years and was closely involved in the Special Needs Community.  The Glicks have three children in the NYC area daughters and sons-in law  living in the Teaneck, Bergenfield area together with nine grandchildren.  They have participated frequently in the OU Marriage Retreat

By Mordechai and Nina Glick

Sign up now!