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Are You Cool or Quiet? That Depends!

Are You Cool or Quiet? That Depends!

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I am a rabbi with a master of arts degree in special education. People in my community of Beitar Illit, Israel, tell me that I inspire them with my joie de vivre. I am very thankful for that, but it took a lot of hard work and determination. I was born with cerebral palsy.

This is my story.

I look back at my teenage years as the most awkward and embarrassing of my life. Because I have cerebral palsy, I have a lot of involuntary movement of my hands and neck. I also wear hearing aids because I am 80 percent deaf.

I vividly recall standing around awkwardly at parties, looking for someone to talk to.

In my teenage mind, there were only two categories of people: the “cool” ones and the “quiet” ones. I tried so hard to be cool that I ended up being quiet. I decided to approach those I also deemed “quiet” and make conversation with them. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

When it didn’t, it was even more embarrassing and awkward.

But when it succeeded . . . ahhh . . . those people became lifelong friends.

I know what it means to be included, and I know what it means to be excluded. I was always trying to figure out how I could be just like everybody else, when in fact I was not like anyone else.

Now, 40 years later, the definitions of “cool” and “quiet” are not the same as they were when I was 15.

I no longer see myself as a quiet person, because I know that I can also be loud and jovial. I know that people around me accept me. The term “cool” has also changed for me. It now means being myself—being “me” with complete confidence. This realization didn’t come overnight; it took 40 long years. Forty years of hard knocks, 40 years of ups and downs.

In 1976, when I began to study in the Chabad yeshivah in Morristown, N.J., I was already religious and chassidic. But I still had my old “tapes” running in my head. They stopped playing only when I became fully immersed in the chassidic emphasis on learning and character refinement. When I began to think and care about others in a soulful way, my own thinking was transformed. I no longer spent hours feeling self-pity, which led me to become more sensitive and caring.

There is a great custom in the yeshivah for the older students to take the younger ones under their wings. Together, they learn classic chassidic works and/or talk about the challenges of the day. Mentoring a younger student gave me the self-confidence and self-respect that I so badly needed, but didn’t know how to obtain. This is called inclusion!

The Rebbe taught that every neshamah comes down to this world for a specific divine mission. I finally realized that G‑d Almighty, in His infinite wisdom, created me the way I am for one reason and one reason only: because only I am uniquely qualified for the mission that He has entrusted me with.

Whatever that mission is.

I am now a teacher of chassidus, a husband, father and grandfather. I learn and teach in the Beitar Illit Kollel, and am fully active in the community.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Rabbi Yonason Beitz lives in Beitar Illit, Israel, and holds a master’s degree in special education. He is a contributing writer for the Ruderman-Chabad Inclusion Initiative (RCII).
The Ruderman-Chabad Inclusion Initiative (RCII) is dedicated to building on the philosophy and mission of Chabad-Lubavitch by providing Chabad communities around the globe the education and resources they need to advance inclusion of people with disabilities. RCII engages Chabad’s network of human and educational resources to create a Culture of Inclusion so that all Jews feel welcomed, supported and valued throughout their entire lifecycle.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Barak Hullman Jerusalem, Israel January 18, 2016

I've known Yonasan for a long time His secret is that he makes people laugh and is almost always in a good mood. People reflect the energy they receive and so Yonasan makes a perpetual loop of positive energy that goes where he does. I know he works on it. That's the gift that Hashem gave him. The ability to make the people around him happy. Reply

linda Longueuil,quebec January 18, 2016

Nice story!! Reply

Mandi Texas, USA January 14, 2016

Beautiful, thank you for sharing, lots of food for thought!!
Shalom Reply

Avrohom Monsey January 13, 2016

Rabbi Beitz, did you learn in Tiferes or Tomchei when in Morristown? Reply

Zohar Sasson January 13, 2016

Todah Rabbah! Beautiful! Thank you sincerely will pass on to my students and children Reply

Anonymous Mesa, AZ January 12, 2016

Cool or Quiet You were able to accomplish so much because of the loving environmet of Jewish life you live in. I consider you been blessed by having such. I have expressed this feelings with all my heart, and after saying that I most tell you my dear Rabbi, I have not been so blessed. If it wasn't because of HaShem's pressence, blessed is He, I would be dead and in the world of oblivion. I constantly seek His pressence & counsel to be able to continue on this life. I am, maybe, looking for something higher than my surrounds can offer me. I do not know, but no matter what I have tried to be "good &kind" has not worked in my life. I never expected anything back, maybe just a little love, but "love" has a different meaning for each individual, maybe my love sense is not correct. I can only rejoice for your gifts. Blessings, much more to you Rabbi. B"H Reply

Anonymous January 7, 2016

an amazing life Thank you for your insight , a story of an amazing life and your inner strength. Reply