As Megillat Esther is read this Purim, Jews around the world will stamp their feet, hiss, and wave their groggers when they hear the name of Haman.
Many Jews who suffer from hearing loss, however, will never hear that wicked name – or the noise around them when it’s uttered. For these members of the community, Our Way, part of the Orthodox Union’s Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities, has created a PowerPoint presentation of the Purim shpiel, complete with animations of you-know-who being stamped out.
“When you have a community that has trouble hearing, it’s very difficult for them to follow most of the programs that go on in synagogues and temples on a regular basis,” said Batya Jacob, director of Our Way. “We look for ways to include our membership and people in the Jewish community.”
Yachad declared February as North American Inclusion Month and more than 200 synagogues and schools in North America signed up to host Shabbatons and other activities. Our Way’s PowerPoint is one of several outreach projects the OU is promoting throughout the month and into March.
|Our Way, a program of the Orthodox Union’s Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities, has created a presentation of Megillat Esther for the hearing-impaired.|
The presentation is projected on a screen and includes Hebrew and English translations of the Megillah. Haman’s name appears in red, prompting the user to click. One of 15 graphics then pops up, showing Haman in a pool of sharks, a boiling vat of water, and swallowed up by mosquitos, among other animated fates.
“Every time you get to Haman you can click on Haman on the English or Hebrew side and there’s a visual stamping out,” Jacob said.
This will be the sixth year the presentation has been distributed. It began as a pilot in five communities and last year it went out to 150 synagogues around the world. At least that many are expected this year, Jacob said.
“We keep growing, thank God, every year,” she said.
In addition to aiding the hearing-impaired, the presentation is also beneficial for the elderly, children with learning disabilities, or the visually handicapped who cannot see the small text of prayerbooks. Children, particularly, like the presentation because of the graphics, Jacob said.
“It’s a really useful tool,” she said.
The presentation is available through e-mail to any synagogue that requests it. It has been used in Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist synagogues, as well as yeshivas in Israel. Synagogues that don’t have hearing-impaired congregants should still be interested, Jacob said, to draw more people in from the community for the holiday.
Some synagogues request a copy of the presentation that they can edit, Jacob said. They then insert pictures of members into the graphics.
“So it’s their own people popping up, stamping out Haman,” Jacob said.
Cong. Ahavas Achim B’nai Jacob and David in West Orange, which held an inclusion Shabbat two weeks ago, has been using the PowerPoint for years. The congregation holds its traditional Megillah reading in one room and the PowerPoint presentation in another.
“People look at it with a sense of pride that we have such a thing,” said Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler. “We certainly have [hearing-impaired] people coming from the outside. Just having such a program gives them the sense that they’re welcome in our shul and that’s something we take great pride in.”
The Pinebrook Jewish Center in Montville, which also screens the PowerPoint, doesn’t have any hearing-impaired congregants, according to Rabbi Mark Finkel. The presentation just “makes the text more accessible to everybody in the room,” he said.
“It’s added a whole dimension to the reading of the Megillah,” Finkel said.
For more information or to request a copy of the presentation, e-mail Jacob at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 613-8127. For more information on NAIM events, call (212) 612-8172 or e-mail Michelle Orgel at email@example.com.