I would like to tell a little story, one I feel compelled to tell.
Just over 4 years ago my wife Liora, and I were happy with our little world, we had two beautiful children, I was successful, I am qualified accountant working in the financial services industry enjoying all the perks that my education and hard work had delivered.. Life was good we attended our share of Jewish functions, we, like all our peers, joked about the JCA, JNF and UIA’s ability to find you! No matter where you are or how many times you may change address.
In August 2009 our doctor suggested we go and meet a development psychologist given Gidon’s (then 22 months) quirky nature. We didn’t think much of it but like all concerned parents when your GP tells you to do something for your little boy or girl you just do it!
Following the sessions with the psychologist we were informed that our beautiful, loving son had a severe developmental delay. Our sky fell in I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe, the emotional pain and depression was debilitating for both Liora and I.
Whilst Liora and I both come from supportive families I can honestly say I have never felt so isolated, ostracized and alone.
What followed was a couple of extremely difficult years trying to come to terms with what was in front of us today and ahead of us in the years to come.
Whilst we were informed about the support available to us, we weren’t ready to accept it. Pride gets in the way, the “I am not a charity case” psyche kicks in.
As time goes by you learn not to be resistant to the help of Jewish Care, you stop avoiding the phone calls from the Friendship Circle, and you accept the warm invitation from Rabbi Lewin to come to Lindfield shul on Friday night and not be embarrassed if Giddy runs around like a maniac.
Then by fluke at JCA fund raiser somebody stands up to promote Camp Sababa. I couldn’t believe it members of the community donate their time to give my beautiful little boy a school camp experience! The people range from cooks, photographers, speech therapists, occupational therapist, doctors, nurses and recently graduated HSC students all saying “I want to do this. You take 4 days respite, relax, your children are not a burden it will be our pleasure to make sure that they have the best possible time!” You just don’t hear that. Over 100 people including 50 18 year olds volunteering to help… It blows my mind, at 18 I can honestly say I wasn’t that community minded. People like to complain about ‘the next generation’ from where I sit we should be pretty bloody proud of the quality of person our community’s schools are producing.
Gidon was paired with two wonderful girls, Jo and D… When they came to meet him before the camp they genuinely made me feel like they were lucky to have him to themselves for 4 days. No burden just joy, the nacchus they gave us and the confidence it delivered to us that he was about to have the most wonderful time was indescribable…
When we got to Camp to drop Giddy off we saw the other volunteers and knew Jo and D were just a couple of a long list of volunteers wanting to ensure our son and other children with special needs had a really special time. It brought a tear to my eye….I got in the car and started to think about all the wonderful people in our community, the people who work in Jewish Care, the young adults volunteering their time at Friendship Circle to give us some respite on the weekend and all those people involved in Camp Sababa volunteering all the hours that goes into organizing a stay away camp for 25 Special Needs children. It made me proud to be a Jew in Sydney and whilst we like to argue and voice our opinions on polarising issues as broad as education, kashrut, aged care and asylum seekers we do have a vibrant and supportive community that we should be proud of.
As I say to people today I never expected to be a net recipient of the benevolence of our community I always thought I would be the donor but as Jewish Care states in their logo ‘life is a lottery’ how lucky families like mine are to be born Jewish and members of this prosperous and supportive community…Thank you for your support
As a footnote I think it is also really important to thank the SONY foundation who help fund stay away camps for Disabled and Special Needs kids.