JEWISH DEAF CONGRESS
I would like to tell you a little more about the Interpreter SIG (Special Interest Group) meeting at the JDC (Jewish Deaf Congress) Convention that took place in Washing ton, D.C. last August.. As I mentioned in my last column, this SIG meeting had over 15 interpreters. That is the largest gathering of Judaic interpreters, all in one room, that I can ever remember! It was really good to have a chance to network, discuss ideas, and exchange opinions.
The meeting was fairly open-ended, in that we were allowed to bring up any topic we wanted to discuss with the group. It is interesting to see where the conversation led.
One topic had to do with using Judaic Interpreters for National Jewish Conventions. We discussed a number of recent conventions and how interpreters were contacted and "hired". It was the consensus of the group that most convention committees still have a hard time coordinating interpreters. One of the issues is always money. Usually, there is no budget for interpreting services, even when the interpreters are crucial for the success of the meeting and deaf participation. Another issue was availability. Jewish Interpreters are still pretty well hidden. Convention committees do not always know how to find qualified Jewish Interpreters. Hopefully JDC's newly revised Jewish Interpreter Directory will help with that. [Please look for more information in my next column, on how to order the directory for yourself or your organization].
A second topic related to the book, Signs in Judaism. From our understanding, there has been a motion by JDC for a number of years to update and revise the book, but a committee has not been appointed. The Interpreter SIG group felt that it was important to start this process in motion. We discussed our ideas on how we would envision this new edition. We brainstormed the "types" of people we felt should help out with this project, "sources" for funding this project, as well as the "format" of the publication. Due to changes in technology since the original book, we felt that it might be better to have a video or CD-Rom, rather than a book. We also felt that this new edition should show "Judaism in action" -lectures on a specific Jewish topic, demonstration of full prayers/texts, etc, rather than the single word "vocabulary" approach that was more popular back when the original resource book was printed.
Our third topic was about Education. We were very impressed with the educational content of the workshops at the JDC Convention. We recognized that interpreters cannot do a good job, unless they are very familiar with Jewish topics. Similarly, an interpreter's job is much easier if the deaf person is also knowledgeable in Judaism. Even the best interpreter cannot compensate for lack of background knowledge or "fill in the gaps" of a lecture, if the deaf person is not familiar with the topic. We were hopeful that at future JDC conventions, representatives from other Jewish Educational organizations would be come involved, so that each organization could learn from the others. JDC would stand to gain from the wealth of knowledge of other Jewish organizations and those organizations would gain a greater appreciation of the Jewish Deaf experience by participation in a national Jewish Deaf convention.
Please understand that the opinions expressed above are not necessary those of the author, but rather are a summary of my recollections of a very good SIG meeting this past summer. Your comments, as always are welcome [firstname.lastname@example.org].