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Navigating Jewish Religious Life with Spinal Cord Injury

6 July, 2016

How does spina bifida affect the life of an ultra-Orthodox woman who is committed to keeping the laws of Jewish religious life? Beyond the “letter of the law,” will she be accepted by her community and can she expect to marry and have children?

On July 4th, a packed audience of ultra-Orthodox men and women had those questions and many others answered with the announcement and presentation of Ach B’Tzelem Hit’halech, a new book published by ALYN Hospital and written by ALYN's Rabbinic Advisor Rabbi Zvi Porat and ALYN staff.

The book details the halachic approach to spinal cord injury, and is intended to be of assistance to children and their families in managing spina bifida along with other congenital or acquired spinal cord injuries. These conditions bring up unique halachic questions for the religiously-observant population.

With this book, the Jewish laws relating to the child and his or her care are made accessible to parents and caregivers, while at the same time special emphasis is placed on the need for educating and raising children and adolescents to be as independent as possible. The right of the child to realize his or her maximum developmental and functional potential is a guiding concept of ALYN Hospital, and this theme runs throughout the informative and user-friendly book.

In honor of the new book, ALYN Hospital collaborated with Chuliot, the organization of parents of children with spinal cord injury, in organizing a conference aimed for religiously-observant families.

Rabbi Zvi Porat opened with an explanation of the need for a clarification of the Jewish laws affecting people, especially children, with spinal cord injuries. ALYN's Director General Dr. Maurit Beeri, the Head of ALYN's Spinal Cord Injury Clinic Dr. Emanuel Kornitzer, ALYN psychologist Simcha Greenbaum, and ALYN's Deputy Director General Naomi Gefen lectured.

While the audience listened intensely to all of the speakers, they were most engrossed in the presentations of representatives of families who’ve been touched by spinal cord injury.

In particular, the story of Chaya, a young ultra-Orthodox woman who had been treated at ALYN Hospital and is now married with children, offered inspiration and hope to the audience!