Short film series explores the intersection of disability and prayer in the Jewish community
Los Angeles, April 9, 2021 – Blair Webb, a former Jewish Inclusion Fellow at RespectAbility who lives with Cerebral Palsy, stars in her own segment of “What Do You Pray For?” The film was made by Ben Rosloff, a talented emerging filmmaker on the Autism spectrum 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.
Blair Webb was a Jewish Inclusion Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Summer and Fall of 2020. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.
Webb graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. As a person with Cerebral Palsy, she started on her path of disability advocacy in 2009. After finishing high school, she was selected to be a delegate at the California Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities. There, she learned about disability etiquette and the history of the Disability Rights Movement. While attending the forum, Webb was given the incredible opportunity to listen to Richard Pimentel, one of the pioneering advocates for the Americans with Disabilities Act, speak. This ignited a spark of inspiration to also become a leader in her disability community. Upon returning, Webb became a co-chair of the Disability History Week campaign and helped implement curriculum into her local schools.
Webb has always dreamed of forming her own creative arts program for children with disabilities. After her college graduation, she began interning for Sins Invalid. Sins Invalid is a disability justice performance project for people of color with disabilities and people with disabilities who identify as LGBTQ+. As part of her involvement in Sins Invalid, she read their Disability Justice Primer. While perusing this invaluable book, Webb gained a deep understanding of Patricia Berne’s 10 principles of disability justice. Immediately she knew that she wanted to incorporate this intersectional framework into her program’s curriculum one day.
Webb currently enjoys participating in the Virtual Crip Camp Experience. She also has a passion for writing about disability issues on her personal blog which you can read at https://berkeleylifeonwheels.blogspot.com/.
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.
Hello, this is Blair Webb. She is a former fellow for the Jewish Inclusion at RespectAbility. And I want to thank you for letting me interview you today. Do you pray?
Blair Webb: Sometimes. But not to God, more to mother nature.
Rosloff: How does praying make you feel?
Webb: Sometimes more stressed out, because you never know when, if the prayer will come true.
Rosloff: How did your family practice your religion at home, and did they promote your religious education?
Webb: Yes, my mom raised my sister and I Jewish.
Rosloff: Do you think people with disabilities prayers are different than prayers of non-disabled people?
Webb: I think that’s a hard question, because everyone’s life experiences are different.
Rosloff: What do you pray for?
Webb: I have prayed for people’s health, social justice, racial justice, and more love in the world.
Rosloff: 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