The Megillah-reading experience is one of the main features of the joyous Purim holiday, which is celebrated on Monday evening, March 9 this year. (A second reading follows the next morning.) People are in good spirits, they enjoy seeing one another’s costume, and children delight in making noise whenever they hear Haman’s name. However, for the deaf and hard of hearing, the Megillah reading can be a frustrating experience, as it is hard for them to follow along with the rest of the congregation.
Not so, however, for as many as 200 OU synagogues across North America.
Our Way, a program for the deaf and hard of hearing of the OU’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities, has addressed this dilemma. Our Way has put the entire Megillah, including the blessings, on a PowerPoint computer disk that projects the text in both Hebrew and English, side by side, onto a screen set up in the center of the synagogue. The verses that are repeated aloud by the congregation are highlighted in a different color to make it easy to follow along. As the villainous Haman’s name appears, humorous images, such as a raging bull or a rabbi stomping his feet, are flashed on the screen.
The project was developed by Our Way coordinator in Montreal Frank Duchoeny. Since its inception five years ago, Our Way has offered synagogues around North America the opportunity to partake in its unique creation of a PowerPoint presentation of the Megillah. Over 100 synagogue and schools from across North America requested the Megillah PowerPoint presentation last year, and according to Batya Jacob, Our Way program director, as many as 200 shuls (and schools) may participate in 2009.
Mrs. Jacob declared, “We find that the shuls love it because it’s really engaging, and adds to the fun of reading the Megillah.” She added that it is not just the deaf and hard of hearing who find it convenient, but also the elderly and visually impaired, who find the large text easy to follow. “The kids love it as well for its interactive nature, and people with ADD or learning disabilities find it really easy to follow,” Mrs. Jacob said.
Given its benefits to the elderly, Mrs. Jacob said, Our Way hopes to bring the program to nursing homes this year as well. Gallaudet University, which caters specifically to the deaf population, once again plans to use the presentation at its Hillel this Purim.
The cost of the presentation is a donation of $100 to Our Way/NJCD. To place an order, contact Batya Jacob at 212-613-8127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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