Guest Columnist Daniel Feldman: A Yom Kippur Prayer For My Son

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Daniel Feldman lives in Woodmere, New York with his wife Sandy and son Chaim, 19. Daniel is a child of deaf adults, or CODAs, as well as the father of a deaf child. He designs computer training manuals and courses for corporations, schools and individuals. He has written articles about applying ethics to improve people’s methods of learning and encourage better employee relations. Daniel can be reached at dannyfeldman@yahoo.com.

Dear Chaim,

 

You have told me how often over the years you have felt that people have wronged you. Being deaf is difficult and often painful. People sometimes make fun of you. Hearing people leave you out of their conversations.

 

In school, you often missed classes because your therapists had to help you during those sessions. Many of your teachers tried to adjust to your schedule, but could do only so much to help. You were angry that you had to miss class. You often came home crying, unable to understand the work, with no one in your school available to spend the extra time to explain it to you.

 

You were so angry, in fact, as to feel unforgiving. How, you wondered, could people be so insensitive or lazy about helping you when you needed help? You had every right to be angry.

 

I shared your anger, and sometimes expressed it to your teachers and principal. Often, I succeeded in improving the situation, but more often I failed. And I, too, felt unforgiving.

 

With Yom Kippur now behind us this year — we spent much of this past Wednesday in synagogue asking God to forgive us for our sins – let me share a few words about the concept of forgiveness.

 

God may be able to forgive us for sins we committed against Him, but he cannot forgive sins that we have committed against other people. In a sense, we have to be responsible for our own damage control. You’ve probably heard this principle in your yeshiva (religious school).

 

I know how you feel. When I was a teenager, I was angry, too. My parents were deaf. I spent a lot of time helping my mother and father communicate with others. I often found myself in the middle of disagreements within my family. I was placed in a position where I had not only to interpret what people were saying but also to negotiate compromises. So that made me angry. I just wanted to be left alone to enjoy my free time the same as any other young boy.

 

On top of that, some of my classmates made fun of me because my family was “different” – even my friends. That made me angry, too.

 

Most of all, I was sometimes angry at God. He had made me the child of deaf parents. I just wanted to be the same as the other kids in my class.

 

But around Yom Kippur years ago — I was probably all of 20, a year older than you are now – I came to a new understanding. I realized that harboring anger was harming me far more than those causing the anger. I no longer expected apologies from anyone, nor would I demand any. So I did something I had never done. I took a bold step.

 

I forgave everyone I felt had wronged me. To a person – family, friends, classmates. Unconditionally.


Yes, I know this action defied logic. But Yom Kippur, in a sense, also defies logic. God, too, has every right to be angry at us – we’re a stubborn species, we humans; we always think we’re right about everything; we’re blithely unaware of the wrongs we commit – yet we ask God to forgive us.

 

And He does. God forgives us. Unconditionally.

That’s what happens every Yom Kippur. How, then, if we ask forgiveness from God, can we do anything but extend the same forgiveness toward others?

 

So rid yourself of your anger toward others – your resentment, too. You may soon come to recognize that people are just ignorant. Or are actually trying to help you. Whatever the case, let forgiveness be your solution.

 

After all, it takes courage to forgive. All of humanity desperately needs such courage. But if you learn to forgive others, you will be rewarded. I promise you that, my son. So pray. Pray for God to grant you this bravery. The choice is yours.

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Guest Columnist Daniel Feldman: The Sounds Even The Deaf Can Hear

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Daniel Feldman lives in Woodmere, New York with his wife Sandy and son Chaim, 19 (photo above). Daniel is a child of deaf adults, or a CODA, as well as the father of a deaf child. He designs computer training manuals and courses for corporations, schools and individuals. He has written articles about applying ethics to improve people’s methods of learning and encourage better employee relations. Daniel can be reached at dannyfeldman@yahoo.com.

Dear Chaim,

 

As you know, like you, both of my parents, Henri and Ruth, were deaf. So now, with Rosh Hashanah here, let me tell you a Rosh Hashanah story about my father.

      

As a child, I spent many Rosh Hashanah services sitting next to my father in synagogue and acting as his “middle ear.” That’s a term I made up, because those who play the role of “middle ear” serve as translators, the “ears” that bridge the deaf and hearing worlds.

 

My father often asked me what the shofar sounded like. He saw that the machzor (Rosh Hashanah prayer book) had “names” for the sounds of the shofar. I tried to describe the sounds to him. Tekiah, I explained, was a single long sound; Shevarim was three short sounds; Teru’ah was several quick, short sounds.

 

My father looked as I pointed to each word in the machzor that represented the sound, and then watched the rabbi blow each sound on the shofar. Anywhere from 10 to 30 sounds are performed at one time, and these groups of sounds are performed several times throughout the Rosh Hashanah service. At the end of each round of sounds, my father would comment.

 

“That was wonderful!” he would say.

 

Or: “That sounded nice!”

 

Of course I knew he was unable to hear the sounds of the shofar, but he could feel some of the vibrations. And because of my description I believe he could imagine what the sounds were like.

 

Luckily, you have cochlear implants. You hear all the shofar sounds clearly. I wonder what my father would have thought if he had enjoyed the same advantage, with cochlear implants enabling him, too, to hear the sounds of the shofar.

 

So much of our prayer experience, and so much of the proper performance of the Jewish commandments, is based on hearing. The chazzan (cantor) in the synagogue I grew up in had a phenomenal voice, singing melodies nobody I have heard since have matched. My father was unable to hear the chazzan’s voice, but he nevertheless gained pleasure from his singing. That’s because he observed everyone else as they listened to him sing. He saw people’s lips moves as they sang along. He picked up a sense of the rhythm of each tune. He could see everyone smile.

 

So here’s my question: Does it matter if you can actually hear the sound of the Shofar? Or, for that matter, the beautiful voice of the chazzan?

 

No, I say. Deaf people have an innate understanding and appreciation of such sounds no matter what. I believe the heart intrinsically “hears.”

 

My father was a true “people” person – he tried to make himself available to help others however he could. You have inherited this wonderful trait from your grandfather. You share a certain sensitivity of the heart.

 

I think all of us can learn a lot from how the deaf behave during Rosh Hashanah. As with all of life, It’s less about what you hear than it is about what your heart thinks and knows.

 

You once said as much yourself. “Just because I can’t hear people talk,” you told me, “it doesn’t mean that I can’t listen to what they say.”

Daniel_feldman

Guest Columnist Jackie Carpenter: My Son, Acquitted Of Murder At Last! (Part 5)

 

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Jackie Carpenter of Ellaville, Georgia, is the mother of two sons, Jim, 35, a pastor, and Jason, 32. She is the author of “The Bridge: Between Cell Block A and a Miracle Is Psalm 91” and its sequel: “Georgia Justice (Journey To Faith).” Both books chronicle a 10-month ordeal entailing her son Jason’s murder trial and her gradual rediscovery of her deep faith in God. The two books are being turned into a movie, “A Cry For Justice,” due for release this Fall. The Carpenters also have four grandchildren: Hannah, Anna Grace, Patience and JJ. For more details, please see www.bridgetoamiracle.com 

Dear Jason,

Ten months after the shooting came your murder trial. You stood charged with felony murder, three counts of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a firearm. Four of the five charges would send you to prison for as long as 30 years.

The last advice you gave me from the attorneys before we went to court was this: “Tell your mom when she comes to court on Monday to leave that Bible of hers at home, because if there is a non-believer on the Jury and they see her Bible,that alone can send you to prison for 30 years.”

Back into my prayer closet I went.  “What do you want me to do God?” I asked. 

“Jackie,” He said, “you have told everyone you are going to get a miracle through Psalm 91. So the question is this: Do you want Me to show up with 100% and free Jason on all five charges, or only on two or three?” 

I said,” Oh, God I need you to show up with 100%.”

He said, “Then you had better show up with 100%, too.”

On day four of the murder trial, the jury reached a verdict and delivered it to the judge. Larry was squeezing my hand tightly as I was squeezing my Bible and Psalm 91. I felt as though I was about to hyperventilate.  You stood there between your two attorneys with the rest of your life dangling over a cliff – a sight I will never forget. Oh, how I wished I could swap places with you.

At 3:40 p.m. on April 16th 2010, in that third-floor courtroom, the jury read the verdict. God walked down the aisle and granted us our miracle. Not guilty on all five counts.

 

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Guest columnist Jackie Carpenter: My Son, Acquitted Of Murder At Last! (Part 4)

 

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Jackie Carpenter of Ellaville, Georgia, is the mother of two sons, Jim, 35, a pastor, and Jason, 32. She is the author of “The Bridge: Between Cell Block A and a Miracle Is Psalm 91” and its sequel: “Georgia Justice (Journey To Faith).” Both books chronicle a 10-month ordeal entailing her son Jason’s murder trial and her gradual rediscovery of her deep faith in God. The two books are being turned into a movie, “A Cry For Justice,” due for release this Fall. The Carpenters also have four grandchildren: Hannah, Anna Grace, Patience and JJ. For more details, please see www.bridgetoamiracle.com

Dear Jason,

Four months after the shooting, I was admitted to a hospital dying from exhaustion and a broken heart. I was studying Georgia law 24 hours a day and could find no answers. Everyone in our family was suffering. My entire family was dying all around me.

This hospital bed was the place that God had to get me still so that I would listen to Him. What He told me was this: “You are searching the wrong books.”

I received a blood transfusion and was released from the hospital. I went to CVS to get my medication. There on a book stand was “Psalm 91: God’s Shield of Protection,” a book about miracles. At home I received a phone call from my Sunday School teacher’s husband. “Jackie,” he said, “you have got to start living your life in a different way in order to survive. You have to move your life into the Book of Psalms.”

I did just that. God was telling me everything I needed and wanted to hear. He says in Psalms, “Jackie, I can take the crooked way and make it straight.” He said, “False Witnesses will rise up, but put not your trust in man for I am your Defense.” I started claiming a miracle through Psalm 91.                                       

Am I dying? That’s what I asked myself six months after the shooting. I feel as if I am suffocating and choking on my own tears, in my own bed. I must be having a nightmare. But how can that be if I’m still awake? 

As I tried to sit up, I was short of breath, my palms sweating, my fingers and toes numb. I did not want to wake up Larry. This feeling had come over me for six months now. This has become normal for me.

I tried to climb out of the bed without making any noise.I was able to get down to the floor and back onto my knees down beside my bed. This was the place I had to get to in order to make the nightmare go away, and to be able to breathe normally again. For, you see, this is where I knelt before the Lord and prayed for strength. I  prayed for the strength to crawl from the bed into my prayer closet. If I could just make it that far without dying, then I would know I would be safe from Satan.

I crept from the bedroom through the darkness until I saw the little night light that would guide me into the prayer closet and toward my life support, Psalm 91. Once in there, I said, “Here I am again, Lord.” He would gently lead me through His Word until I found peace, my breathing slowed down, I refocused my thinking, and I was again able to return to bed.

P.S. – Please see part 5 tomorrow.

Guest columnist Jackie Carpenter: My Son, Acquitted Of Murder At Last! (Part 3)

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Jackie Carpenter of Ellaville, Georgia, is the mother of two sons, Jim, 35, a pastor, and Jason, 32. She is the author of “The Bridge: Between Cell Block A and a Miracle Is Psalm 91” and its sequel: “Georgia Justice (Journey To Faith).” Both books chronicle a 10-month ordeal entailing her son Jason’s murder trial and her gradual rediscovery of her deep faith in God. The two books are being turned into a movie, “A Cry For Justice,” due for release this Fall. The Carpenters also have four grandchildren: Hannah, Anna Grace, Patience and JJ. For more details, please see www.bridgetoamiracle.com

Dear Jason,

After four days in Cell Block A, a preliminary hearing was held. You looked like my old Jason sitting at the front table beside your attorney in the courtroom. You had on your regular clothes rather than the prison uniform. When you saw us come into the courtroom, you turned around and smiled at us. 

The lead investigator was on the witness stand reading the deputy’s report. “I never told him to hide in those woods and guard his house,” the report said. “He was in a rage and just wanted to kill someone.” I knew the deputy was lying, but had no idea why.

The judge ruled that the charge of felony murder would stand. You would not be going home with us that day. I walked out of the courtroom in a trance. Stephanie fainted in the hall and I just stepped over her and kept walking. I could have walked into a brick wall without ever seeing it.                                                                          

Friday was the Fourth of July and Larry went ahead and had the family down for the annual BBQ.  After everyone went home, your brother Jim called me. He said he knew the police had confiscated your cell phone, but he called it and left you a message anyway. “I told Jason that today we had all of his favorite dishes, but because I knew what he was eating in jail I was unable to eat a single bite.” Then, Jim said, he went and cried. And so did I.

You spent 9 days in Cell Block A before we could get you released on bond. Praise God you were now home with Stephanie and little J.J. But for how long?

P.S. – Please see part 4 tomorrow.

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Guest columnist Jackie Carpenter: My Son, Acquitted Of Murder At Last! (Part 2)

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Jackie Carpenter of Ellaville, Georgia, is the mother of two sons, Jim, 35, a pastor, and Jason, 32. She is the author of “The Bridge: Between Cell Block A and a Miracle Is Psalm 91” and its sequel: “Georgia Justice (Journey To Faith).” Both books chronicle a 10-month ordeal entailing her son Jason’s murder trial and her gradual rediscovery of her deep faith in God. The two books are being turned into a movie, “A Cry For Justice,” due for release this Fall. The Carpenters also have four grandchildren: Hannah, Anna Grace, Patience and JJ. For more details, please see www.bridgetoamiracle.com

Dear Jason,                            

That afternoon, we found out that while you hid in those woods, a white van had pulled into the driveway that night at 12:45 am. Its headlights shone directly on you in the woods. You fell off the little bucket that you were sitting on and called 911. Then you called Stephanie’s dad, Billy, who also knew you were out there in those woods. 

“Billy, they’re back,” you whispered. Billy asked you if you wanted him to come over there and you told him you were scared to death. Billy said he would get dressed and would get over there. Little did you know the deputy had never alerted law enforcement that you were out there. The local police were on the other side of town getting gas when they received the 911 call. Then they got lost trying to find the house. 

As you saw a vehicle pull in behind the white van, you were relieved  the police had arrived. But then you saw a man approach the driver’s side of the van.  It was Billy, unarmed, holding a flashlight. You came out of the woods with that old double-barrel shotgun that granddaddy gave you years ago and that you had never fired.  You fired a warning shot into the air so nobody would hurt Billy, and then you and Billy ordered the men out of the van.

Now you were about to make a citizen’s arrest, just as the deputy had advised you. You were legally allowed to do so.

The two men in the front seat were totally cooperative, but you could still see shadows in the back of the van.  This other man was very rebellious and refused to come out. You told the men you were acting under police orders, that you did not want to hurt them, and the police were on their way.  All you wanted to do was bind their hands and feet and let the police take it from there. The third, very rebellious man then finally came out of the back of the van.

Now all three men lay on the ground. It was pitch black except for the headlights on Billy’s truck and the flashlight Billy held in front of the rebellious man. As you tried to bind the hands and feet of the first man, you saw the rebellious man getting up. You had no idea whether he was going to go for a knife or a gun. All you knew was that he was going after Billy. You grabbed your shotgun and ran over and pushed him down with it. The gun misfired, shooting the rebellious man, who later died. 

The deputy who had originally advised you went to the judge in the early morning to say he never told you to take these actions and he wanted you charged with murder. While we visited you in Cell Block A, the same deputy took the other two alleged copper thieves back down to the construction site along with a TV camera crew to tell the world you had executed their cousin. The court of public opinion had found you guilty. We were under a gag order, prevented from saying a word to defend your innocence.

Larry, Stephanie and I were all three together allowed to see you for a total of 15 minutes. The police had placed you in Pod A, which I refer to as Cell Block A, representing the worst of the worst. As I looked into your eyes, I trembled inside and what I saw would be burned into my mind for the rest of my life.

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.

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Guest columnist Jackie Carpenter: My Son, Acquitted Of Murder At Last!

 

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Jackie Carpenter of Ellaville, Georgia, is the mother of two sons, Jim, 35, a pastor, and Jason, 32. She is the author of “The Bridge: Between Cell Block A and a Miracle Is Psalm 91” and its sequel: “Georgia Justice [Journey To Faith].” Both books chronicle a 10-month ordeal entailing her son Jason’s murder trial and her gradual rediscovery of her deep faith in God. The two books are being turned into a movie, “A Cry For Justice,” due for release this Fall. The Carpenters also have four grandchildren: Hannah, Anna Grace, Patience and JJ. For more details, please see www.bridgetoamiracle.com

Dear Jason,

Our phone rang on June 28, 2008, at 2:00 a.m. You know, Jason, when the phone rings at that time of the night, you automatically jump and start thinking “tragedy.”It was granddaddy calling to tell me that while you were guarding the house under construction with the exposed copper, the copper thieves had come back. One was accidentally shot and had gone to the hospital, but you were fine. It was such a relief to know that the copper thefts had finally ended.

Earlier in the evening, you had told me how the young deputy met you at the construction site earlier in the day and told you unless you caught the thieves yourself, they would never be caught. He advised you to hide in the woods and watch the house. If they showed up, all you would have to do is call 911 and he would alert law enforcement that you were out there and they could be there in five minutes patrolling the area. He also advised that in the state of Georgia, you are allowed to make a citizen’s arrest. You could hold the thieves at gunpoint and bind their hands and feet and wait for the police to arrive and take over.

Who ever thought it would come to that? No one ever thought the thieves would come back four times in one week.  Over the weekend you had already taken the precaution of hiring a security guard to come that Monday.

At 7:00 a.m., five hours later, our phone rang again. I had drifted back off to sleep in the assurance that the copper thefts had come to an end.  It had to be someone calling to let us know everything was under control.  It was Stephanie, your wife, screaming and crying into the phone.  “Jackie,” she said, “the man died. Jason has been arrested, taken to jail and charged with murder.”  All I could say was, “Oh Lord!”

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

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Dispatches: How We Give Advice To Our Kids

We parents have lived long enough by now, and gone through enough ups and downs, not to mention more than a few movements sideways, to have accumulated the odd nugget of advice. Now, in the spirit of redistributing the wealth, we’ve decided it’s time to share.

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Georgie Bright Kunkel, a 90-year-old former school teacher in Seattle, wrote a letter to her adult children about her shifting role as a mother. “No longer is my hand on the helm,” so to speak,” she writes. “It is time for you to set your own course.” Still, she lays out some common sense pointers. Example: “If we sometimes disagree, we can do so with dignity.” She also makes her case for her children staying connected to her. “By staying close as a family,” she ventures, “we can go beyond ourselves and become something we might not otherwise have been.” http://www.westseattleherald.com/2012/03/05/opinion/letter-adult-children

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Professor Jonathan Jansen of the University of the Free State in South Africa has written about life lessons in letters to his two children on Twitter. Inspired by poet Maya Angelou’s “Letter To My Daughter,” he compiled his twittering in a book, “Letters To My Children: Tweets To Make You Think.” “Never under any circumstances become a politician,” he urges. “Choose public service instead.” http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Children-Tweets-Think-ebook/dp/B007KYFYAA

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Marian Wright Edelman wrote letters to her three adult sons that she turned into a book called “The Measure Of Our Success: A Letter To My Children And Yours.” A long-time social activist, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization. Edelman counsels, “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences that we can make which, over time, add up to the big differences that we often cannot foresee.” http://www.harpercollins.com/browseinside/index.aspx?isbn13=9780060975463