Short film series explores the intersection of disability and prayer in the Jewish community
Los Angeles, April 9, 2021 – Ben Rosloff, a talented filmmaker, storyteller, and actor who lives with autism, stars in his own segment of “What Do You Pray For?” The film series was created by Rosloff, who serves as a Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program.
”What Do You Pray For?” is a series of short interviews of Jews with disabilities who tell viewers in their own words what they pray for and what prayer means to them. The project features Jews with various disabilities from across the United States, with a myriad of different connections to their Jewish identity.
The series focuses on the universal nature and themes of prayer, as well as the hopes and dreams of people with disabilities. The interviews reveal the need for inclusion and a connection to the community. All interviewees provided valuable insights on their disability experience, understanding it to be an integral part of themselves, presenting challenges and opportunities.
Ben Rosloff initially joined RespectAbility as a Communications Fellow in Summer 2020 and became a Jewish Inclusion Fellow in Winter 2020-2021. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.
Rosloff grew up in Great Neck, NY and earned a BFA in Electronic Media from Long Island University. In 2016 he joined Maslansky + Partners as a production assistant. As a production assistant he set up the studio, filmed readers using a DSLR camera while coordinating a teleprompter, and edited selected footage using Adobe Premiere Pro. He has made films for a variety of organizations, including his documentary short “Can I Call You?!” It was screened in the United States and broadcast in Russia as a result of his internship with Downtown Community Television Center. He has also co-produced, edited and screened multiple films for the United Nations. These include a film for World Autism Awareness Day, where Ben interviewed then-Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, and “#Envision 2030” for Disability Awareness Day.
He continues to develop his skills in hand-drawn animation, camera and lighting techniques. He also spends time rehearsing and auditioning for plays, films and TV shows as a member of a neuro-inclusive theater group, Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA. He was cast in an Off-Broadway production in the role of Jeff Goldblum, an individual with an intellectual disability.
His interest in creating films about autism and other disabilities goes beyond just spreading awareness; it is a personal passion of his as a person with autism. He is excited to have the opportunity to learn more about reducing stigmas in society, and how they impact people with disabilities.
After the Fellowship, Rosloff hopes to take his improved networking and communication skills and use them towards developing and creating original shows for a studio or a network.
A transcript of the film is below:
Benjamin Rosloff: My name is Benjamin Rosloff, and I am a filmmaker, editor, and storyteller. And I am living with autism. There are different types of prayers; prayers that praise God, prayers that thank God, prayers that ask for forgiveness, and prayers that ask God for something. There are prayers that are memorized that we recite or sing to familiar melodies. Asking questions is how we learn about people’s hopes and dreams and what kind of world they want to live in.
Joshua Steinberg: Hello everybody, my name is Joshua Steinberg. I am a white male with a brown beard, and hair, and glasses, I’m wearing a buttoned-up shirt with a RespectAbility logo, my pronouns are he/him/his. This is Benjamin Rosloff, he is a filmmaker, and editor, he is currently the Jewish Inclusion Fellow for RespectAbility. This project is his idea, and I am fortunate enough to be able to interview him. So Ben, thank you for letting me interview you today.
Rosloff: You’re very welcome. It’s great to be here.
Steinberg: Do you pray?
Rosloff: I do pray. I pray for the health and safety for my family and friends, I pray for the peace in the world, and for everything to return to normal.
Steinberg: Do you recite prayers that you have learned or memorized, or do you have personal prayers?
Rosloff: When I recite prayers that I learned and memorized in the synagogue with others, it makes me feel included. And when I give out personal prayers, it helps me focus on all the things that I hope for and what I dream of.
Steinberg: Is your disability something you refer to in your prayers?
Rosloff: I can be frustrated most of the time, so I pray to be with others and try to fit in. And I also pray to try to be on a relationship with someone who would accept me and understand the way I live with autism.
Steinberg: How does praying make you feel?
Rosloff: Praying makes me feel hopeful, and accepted by God, and a prayer makes me feel connected to the community and what my own dreams are.
Steinberg: Do you think that people with disabilities prayers are different than those of people without disabilities?
Rosloff: Everyone has challenges at times and try to be better, and I know that people with disabilities want to be understood and try to live their lives without barriers, but mostly people with disabilities want to be accepted and included and want what others have for themselves.
Steinberg: What do you pray for?
Rosloff: As a person with autism, I mean, I do want people to know that I have talent actually and that I’ve been becoming Independent in my life. I pray to be healthy and happy, even successful and appreciated. I pray that I can be a better person, and I can realize my career, my love, marriage, and family. I pray to have a longer life so that I could accomplish my goals, I pray that people could share my own dreams, and that people could help me with my goals into becoming an excellent filmmaker, storyteller, and an actor. But I also pray that people will accept my autism, and I hope my work would inspire others to learn, listen, and do good to others.
Judaism encourages questions. It is how we learn, how we grow, and how we gain an understanding of ourselves, and our relationship to God.
The individuals featured in the “What Do You Pray For” series include:
- Erika Abbott: Writer / Award-Winning Poet
- Justin Borses: Former College Student and employee at Moorpark College
- Lee Chernotsky: Founder and CEO, ROSIES Foundation
- Samantha Elisofon: Award-Winning Actress (“Keep the Change”) and member of EPIC Players, A Neuro-inclusive Theater Company in Brooklyn
- Alex Howard: Entertainment Media and Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Matan Koch: Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership
- Amy Rosenfeld-Kass: Teacher from The Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the JCC
- Ben Rosloff: Communications and Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Rachel Rothstein: 4th year Rabbinical Student at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion
- Barry Shore: Ambassador of Joy and Successful Serial Entrepreneur
- Ari Sloan: Member of EPIC Players who is living with Autism
- Joshua Steinberg: Program Associate for RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership
- Brendan Stern: Assistant Professor of American politics and the Executive Director of the Center for Democracy in Deaf America at Gallaudet University
- Rabbi Lauren Tuchman: Rabbi, Public Speaker, Spiritual Leader and Educator
- Blair Webb: System Change Youth Advocate at MEET THE BIZ and former Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program
- Aaron Wolf: Co-founder of Howling Wolf Productions and Award-winning Actor, Director, Speaker, and Activist
Rosloff, a filmmaker who is active in Jewish life and has been to Israel, grew up in Great Neck, NY and earned a BFA in Electronic Media from Long Island University. He has produced films for a variety of organizations, including his documentary short “Can I Call You?!” screened in the United States and Russia during an internship with Downtown Community Television Center. Rosloff also has co-produced, edited and screened multiple films for the United Nations. These include a film for World Autism Awareness Day, where Rosloff interviewed then-Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, as well as “#Envision 2030” for Disability Awareness Day. Rosloff currently is looking for a job in video production and/or editing. His LinkedIn is https://www.linkedin.com/in/benjamin-rosloff-95324011a. You can reach him via Benjamin.Rosloff@gmail.com.
About RespectAbility: RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Founded by members of the Jewish Funders Network, it is the world’s largest nonprofit one-stop-shop on Jewish disability inclusion. RespectAbility knows that people with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. www.respectability.org, www.respectability.org/resources/faith-inclusion