Congregation Neve Shalom Celebrating Imaginative Judaism
1240 Dautel Lane, Creve Coeur, Missouri 63146
In the Rainbow Village • (314)863-4366

St. Louis Council for Jews with Special Needs

More Information


Report from the Public Forum November 2002

During the July 4 weekend, 2002, the Jewish Light printed an article describing the dilemma of a young man with special needs as a member of the Jewish Community, as described by his mother. The article touched many people, and the writer, Betty Berger, received a number of phone calls from other parents.

In August, a group of parents of children and young adults with disabilities met and devised an action plan. They formed the new St. Louis Council for Jews with Special Needs. The Council’s mission statement is broad but purposeful: “An organization to benefit Jewish individuals with special needs and their families.” They are creating an agenda out of the needs and good ideas of those who have been attending their meetings.

For more information, contact Betty Berger at or phone (314)863-4366.

The St. Louis Council for Jews with Special Needs meets at Congregation Neve Shalom, in the Rainbow Village, 1240 Dautel. Take Olive to Dautel (Dautel is one mile west of Lindbergh off of Olive). Turn north at Dautel, go 1/2 mile to the Rainbow Village. Turn right at Dautel Circle, we are in the building in back. (Click here for driving directions.) Phone: (314)863-4366.

No Them

By Rabbi James Stone Goodman

We are taught to be sensitive to the stranger, we all came from strangers (Genesis 15:13). We are taught not to oppress the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:20). But I came to understand that there is no stranger. There is no them, there is only us.

My teacher taught me that every single thing in creation is a vessel. It contains. It contains a life force, it contains an inner point of wholeness; there is an aspect of a human being that is inner and it is never partial, it is never diminished, it is never broken because it is life itself and all life is Godly.

That's not to say you can't push the hand of creation, or the hand of God for that matter. My teacher used to say that God hovers over every living thing and makes only one demand: grow. Sometimes the growth needs a little stimulation, a little nudge, and that is what we do. We give it a nudge, we remind people that God is always present; we may impose more expectations on ourselves but God has only one expectation of us: grow.

It's a gentle demand because the way it is expressed in the Jewish literature, it is no demand at all. The story literally reads, each herb and tree has an angel in heaven who strikes it and says to it, "grow!" (Me'am Lo'ez). Or there is a version in the midrash: there isn't a blade of grass that grows that doesn't have a star in heaven that strikes it and says: grow (Bereshit Rabbah 10:6).

God hovers over the grass and demands: grow. That's the short hand way of saying, the grass grows by nature. The angels, messengers of God, hover over the grass and demand: be your nature. It is not even a demand because it is asking only that the grass be grass, grow. Grass grows, it's nature, this is how it works.

So there is no demand really. There is only nature. So, there is no stranger, there is no them, there is no brokenness, there is only God, expressions of the ultimate and the holy through the particular, there is no partial, this is an iconoclastic set of ideas.

There is no stranger.

Our synagogue, Congregation Neve Shalom, meets these days on the grounds of what is called the Rainbow Village, cluster housing for the developmentally disabled, what used to be called the St. Louis Association for Retarded Citizens.

The first day we were there, one of our little boys, he was eleven years old, came up to me. "Thank you for bringing us here," he said (not everyone wanted to move onto that campus), "I used to afraid of them. Now I am not afraid."

"That's beautiful," I said, then I took him aside and I said, "there is no them. You know that, don't you? They are us, do you understand what I'm saying?"

Eleven years old, smart boy, he looked up at me, thought for a second, and said, "yes, I do. I do understand."



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