June 14, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 14, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Reviewing: “My Special Uncle” by Ahava Ehrenpreis. Mosaica Press. 2022. English. Hardcover. 13 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1957579030.

Remember, as a child when the word “special” made your heart skip a beat, with visions of that ice cream cone with extra sprinkles or a foamy ice cream soda with three flavors. Or that “special” day when you were really going to go to the amusement park with a carousel and all the rides you could go on as many times as you heart desired!

Even when you reach adulthood, doesn’t the word “special’’ give you a moment of anticipation that something out of the ordinary is attached to that possibility; from the trivial, what’s this week’s specials at the supermarket to a special guest performer at the event you are attending. Yes, special is a word with as many definitions’ as there are hopes and desires in every individual’s heart.

Recently the term special especially connected to the term “needs” has developed a connotation with a possible negative undertone. Baruch Hashem, individuals who in the past would not be in shul or at family simchas or community events are now part of our society, a sign of progressive acceptance and inclusion. Many families have a member, not necessarily a sibling, whose appearance or behavior is difficult for children to understand. Perhaps it is someone on the autism spectrum whose behavior is erratic or distant, perhaps having bouts of depression or even aggression. There is greater exposure to individuals whose behaviors, cognitive levels and even emotional responses may be atypical. Children and even some adults have difficulty in understanding how to categorize them in their life. Especially for a young child, these individuals may be frightening or difficult to comprehend.

I reflected on my own grandchildren’s response to their Uncle Saadya a”h, a young man with Down Syndrome. He looked like a grown up, was fun, willing to join them in many activities that most adults have no interest in sharing. He loved to play ball with them, watch videos of their choice, but somehow was different. On one occasion a neighbor called to ask if I knew that Saadya was on the avenue with his 3-year-old niece. No, I certainly did not know! My little granddaughter was very confused because we were upset about this exciting trip to get ice cream. “Yes, your uncle is a grown-up, but not all grown-ups can do all the same things and Hashem gives everyone things that they can do very well and other things that they cannot do as well as others, but that is OK!”

When my son Saadya a”h succumbed to Covid 19, I wanted to do something in his memory, in addition to a book for adult readers (“More Than Special” Artscroll/Shaar Press, 2021), I thought of providing an attractive and very child-friendly book that included possible scenarios children may encounter. In “My Special Uncle,” with the the beautiful illustrations by Mira Simon, and child friendly text, young readers can identify with the narrator as his mom gently explains that his uncle is grown-up but not all adults, and even other children, can do all the things we might expect and their behavior might be hard to understand at times. She reassures him that Hashem makes people in different ways and we happily welcome them into our lives for all the good things they can do.

I am grateful that esteemed rabbanim, such as Rabbi Yaacov Bender, shlita, as well as other professionals have endorsed the importance and value of this book for all children to read.

I hope that this book will be an aliyah for Saadya’s neshama, leaving his imprint on the world and continuing his legacy of making the world more welcoming to everyone.

“My Special Uncle” is available wherever Jewish books are sold, and at Mosaica Press.com and Amazon. Also by the same author “On My Own. But Not Alone” (Artscroll/Shaar Press, 2019) and “More Than Special, Perspectives from the World of Special Needs,’(Artscroll/Shaar Press, 2021)

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles