Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I thought I could speak... but only in Hebrew!

Jay Krieger recounts his youth experience when he spoke... but only in Hebrew! Jay believes he has no speech ability, whatsover.


Amy said...

Smiles... your Bar Mitzvah story is very common among deaf Jews, which they had no idea what the Hebrew saying goes... and the significance of it. Most of them remembered the big party, money comes with it and mingling with relatives. The spiritual part of Bar Mitzvah is missing. Breaks my heart.

I only can wish that Jewish synagogues start offering sign language interpreters for religious holidays CONSISTENTLY. I'm tired of 'asking' them to provide one, compared to Christian-based churches who are readily provide one.

Hebrew is a predominantly sound-based language - and most of the songs sung at synagogues are spoken in Hebrew. It frustrates me. Because I have no idea what it is talking about! Most interpreters would sign, "Hebrew" repetitively with their shoulders shrugging.

It is very hard to find an interpreter who is fluent in Hebrew and ASL too. I only know of maybe two or three. David Bar-Tzur is one of them.


Amy Cohen Efron

Anonymous said...

That is so funny; I too am a jewish Deaf person. I joined "sherut La am"; a peace corps in Isreal. I worked with deaf, jewish people in Beer sheva. funny, I couldnt speak Hebrew but within the year, I was able to SIGN and communicate pretty well with the deaf people in Isreal.
Thanks for sharing

drmzz said...

Interesting exp. LOL about the last part of speaking "Coke" in restaurant situations, we do the same too.

Barb DiGi said...

Interesting that you mentioned how you managed to speak Hebrew in front of the audience. Looks like it was easier for you to speak than English? It goes the same for deaf foreigners speaking their tongues. I don't blame you for not using your voice again feeling that you were sympathized.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for good laugh... wondering how much did you actally get in that basket?? haha
Jay Levine

Jay said...

Amy: Fortunately I grew up in New York, where theres strong Jewish Deaf community. My mom, Betty Oshman, was among those who were very active in our Temple Beth Or. Our Rabbis tend to sign for themselves, and my mom often led prayers etc in ASL. I am fortunate to have lived in that environment instead of the one you just described, which may be common elsewhere. I do not know if Temple Beth Or is still going strong out there though.

drmzz: Why is that we still say "Coke" and get Pepsi, and say "Pepsi", and get Coke, heh?

barb digi: I thought I spoke, but I really did not speak. I can not speak, pretty much. I am sure my speech sounds Arabic or maybe it was some Hellfire Latin if I inspired (or maybe scared them to death).

Anonymous 8:21p: That money was well invested -- into my Harley.

Rev. Jay L. Croft said...

You gave this Episcopal priest a good laugh!

When I was in seminary, we were all required to learn the written Hebrew alphabet (but not the characters.) We all studied hard, we all passed, and within 24 hours we had forgotten everything!

This class was taught by Dr. Samuel Terrien, an eminent scholar (the rabbis from the Jewish Theological Seminary across the street would talk with him). One morning Dr. Terrien strode in and began lecturing. I noticed that the other students were restless and uneasy.

Those were the days before interpreters, but I did have a note-taker. I wrote on a paper, "What's going on?" She replied, "He's speaking in French!"

Indeed Dr. Terrien had gotten up that morning, forgotten which country he was in, and rattled away! Some brave student (not me) got his attention.

He apologized, everyone had a laugh, and he started over. But, it was "all Greek" to me!

--The Rev. Jay L. Croft

Rev. Jay L. Croft said...

Another good NYC story--

I see that you're from NYC. In my days there (1964-1974) I had many Jewish friends.

One day I attended a funeral of a Jewish friend. The Deaf people there were glad to see me, "So nice of you to come!." The hearing people looked at me oddly.

After all, I was wearing a clerical collar and, respecting the Jewish custom, I put on a yarmulke when I entered the funeral chapel!

SherLisaRoss said...

Hi Jay. Let me introduce myself.. Sherri Ross -.. I am sure you don't know me.. but my mom knows your parents in PA.. I am jewish myself. I wish I can read hebrew and learn hebrew language.. My mom was stunned to learn that you have 3 girls already.

Anonymous said...

That's hilarious about your story. I am not sure how you managed to talk (even unintelligibly) while signing ASL.

The Jewish Deaf community in NYC is awesome and there's so much pride among ourselves in being Jewish even if religion is not a big part of some of our lives. In addition, there is a high incidence of 3 or more generations of Deaf Jewish families. I suspect it has to do with connexin 26 gene along with deaf gene.

I remember bumping into one of your Krieger relatives years ago on a city bus in Brooklyn when I was in early my early 20's. They knew my late deaf grandparents. My late grandparents lived in the same neighborhood as the Plavsky and the Kessler family.

Out of curiosity, is there a particular area in Indiana where it is predominantly Jewish? For example, Illinois has Skokie.


Anonymous said...

Wow, its very hard to learn Hebrew. I did not grow up learning Hebrew, my husband did for his bar mitzvah studies. I have met with deaf Israelis, they seem to be able to converse in oral Hebrew very well. I found it very fascinating.
I would much rather have a signing or Deaf rabbi over an interpreter. Here we have lots of signed services but it does not feel comfortable to me. I wish there was more deaf Rabbis out there but its not easy.

Jay said...

Anonymous 10:16p,

Yeah, it was among the best years I had living there -- large Deaf community, having 3 Deaf generations of my own family and all the connections living there. Jones Beach and Brighton Beach were champs.

Regarding Judiasm in Indiana, there isnt much, that I am aware of, but I do know of one large temple in northern Indianapolis -- on Meridian Street, I believe. Its very "religion-based-on-the-cross" dominant around here.

Since my Bar Mitzvah, I have not really practiced much rituals nor customs since then. I have both Hanukkah and Christmas in my house.

Anonymous said...

Like you, I'm from a multi-deaf generational family, the 4th to be exact. Yes, Brighton Beach & Jones Beach were champs. We were lucky to born and bred in NY. Nothing like NY..NY made us :)

I see we share some things in common..living in a predominantly Christian community and we have both Hanukkah & Christmas in our house also though we don't practice Christianity. We just enjoy the decorations that have marveled me since my younger days in NY where practically the entire neighborhood is lit up with X=mas decorations. Feeling nostalgic now.


Dianrez said...

Loved the story! A classic! I want to show this to my Jewish friends but they will need a written translation of this priceless story...just know they will get a kick out of it! Please, huh?

Anonymous said...


I felt very nostaglic because I used to live in Brooklyn where I attended a number of Bar Mitzvahs.
The gaiety of Jewish people attending the ceremonies is indescribly much higher than that in Washington. I have missed Brooklyn's unique Yiddish idioms.

Jean Boutcher

anat said...

Hi there- shalom from Israel.
My name is Anat, my parents are deaf. I use Israeli sign language, and know only few ASL sign (wnat to learn it as well).
Your story is great, from what I could understant :).
Will be happy to read a transcript of it if u can.
It was nice to read a bit about the deaf Jewish communities at the USA.