Rabbi Eliezer Lederfeind is the founder of Our Way, an outreach program
established in 1969 for the Jewish Deaf. Our Way provides both religious
and social activities for Deaf youth and adults.
Rabbi Lederfeind was born in a family
with Deaf parents and three older hearing sisters and they all learned ASL.
A native of Brooklyn, NY, Lederfeind felt fortunate to attend the
Yeshiva Gedolah of Pittsburgh. Neighbor to Western Pennsylvania School for
the Deaf, Lederfeind developed a strong need for Jewish Deaf involvement.
With encouragement from the Dean of his school, Rabbi Lederfeind took over
the Jewish Studies Program at the Western Pennsylvania School. At the
time, there were only six Jewish Deaf students enrolled in the program,
giving Rabbi Lederfeind six reasons to go.
With plans to leave Pittsburgh, Lederfeind became a volunteer with the
National Conference of Synagogue Youth program of the Orthodox Union (NCSY).
NCSY was a bit wary at first of his ideas as they did not know what to
years later, his program, Our Way, which has become a project under NCSY
sponsored by the National Jewish Council for the Disabled (NJCD) has ten
chapters across the United States, Canada and Israel. Programs include
Shabbat retreats, parent support groups, Jewish Deaf Singles Registry and
Big Brother/Sister events. Our Way has also published illustrated sign
charts of Jewish vocabulary and periodicals with information on Jewish
laws and customs.
They welcome people from all branches of Judaism. The New York chapter has
ten staff members, both Deaf and hearing, who meet with local Jewish Deaf
people regarding their concerns and needs. Rabbi Lederfeind explains
that the majority of Deaf clubs caters to senior citizens. "The
Jewish Deaf community is radically changing due to intermarriage and lack
of Jewish education." Rabbi Lederfeind and Our Way is trying to
prevent these changes through their projects.
Jewish Deaf Singles Registry, under Samuel Landau, is a program Rabbi
Lederfeind is extremely proud of. The group helps Deaf and hard of hearing
singles with the opportunity to socialize and meet the right people for
marriage. It currently has close to 100 people from all around the world
participating. Jewish Deaf including Reform, Conservative and Orthodox,
have the chance to meet with people who share the same interests and he
reports that successful matches have been made. This is when Rabbi
Lederfeind feels it is good to lose members ...to marriage!
Life And Jewish Education
Rabbi Lederfeind and his wife Annie have six
children, four hearing boys and two Deaf girls. Their daughters are
enrolled in an oral, mainstream program at the Yeshiva and all of their
children are growing up knowing their Jewish heritage. The battle between
oral vs. sign is constant, but the concentration needs to be put on Jewish
education as a whole, no matter what mode of communication.
"The Jewish Deaf population needs to be
more committed to Judaism as a whole. There are too many dropping out of
the community due to intermarriage and non-participation." Rabbi
Lederfeind hopes that his programs and services reach Jewish Deaf
everywhere. "There are many choices available, people just have to be
willing to take advantage of them."
find out more information on the various programs and services offered by
Our Way contact:
Eliezer Lederfeind at Our Way
New York, NY 10004