Short film series explores the intersection of disability and prayer in the Jewish community
Los Angeles, April 9, 2021 – Joshua Steinberg, the Program Associate for RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership who lives with learning disabilities, including Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome and mild Bipolar Disorder, stars in his 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.
Joshua Steinberg is a member of the National Disability Speakers Bureau at RespectAbility and the Program Associate for RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. As the Program Associate, Steinberg reports to the Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership. Lending his help to RespectAbility’s Jewish inclusion programs and Los Angeles workforce projects, he uses his unique views and creativity to advance the programs’ goals. Steinberg also provides support on the front lines in many other areas of RespectAbility’s work, including disability inclusion in philanthropy and nonprofits, Jewish outreach and impact, leadership and other Los Angeles-based initiatives.
Steinberg has hands-on experience in learning how to use diverse types of disabilities to achieve success both for himself and for others, as well as first-hand experience working with the intellectually, developmentally and physically disabled community. As a person with learning disabilities, including Attention Deficit Disorder, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome and mild Bipolar Disorder, Steinberg has a unique understanding of the disability community and what it takes for a person with disabilities to achieve success. Having worked in a group home and prepared individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for independent living, Steinberg gained significant training and knowledge in regard to working with people who have a wide range of disabilities, including best practices for providing a person-first atmosphere and mental health counseling.
Having gained a certification through the CompTIA A+ program in Information Technology, Steinberg also is using his knowledge of technology, marketing, social media and communications to help with the expansion and success of RespectAbility’s Los Angeles initiatives. A graduate of Hofstra University’s Political Science program with acceptance into the National Political Science Honors Society, Steinberg is using his experience with the disability community to advance RespectAbility’s mission of fighting stigmas and promoting inclusion and accessibility for organizations, advocates, and individuals with disabilities.
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.
Hi, this is Joshua Steinberg, Program Associate for RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership, and I want to thank you for letting me interview you today.
Joshua Steinberg: My pleasure, I’m happy to be here. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
Rosloff: Do you pray?
Steinberg: I do. I don’t think I have traditional prayers, as others might, but I do pray in my own way.
Rosloff: Do you recite prayers that you have learned or memorized, or do you have personal prayers?
Steinberg: If I am in a synagogue or “shul,” and I’m following along with the serman or the service, then yes I recite prayers that I’ve memorized or that I’ve learned, but in a personal setting, usually I have my own prayers.
Rosloff: Is your disability something you refer to in your prayers?
Steinberg: Sometimes, for example, I have ADHD, and so sometimes it can be hard to focus, and to get motivated, so I will pray for a good day where I can focus, I can stay motivated, and stay productive.
Rosloff: What do you think the difference is between a wish and a prayer?
Steinberg: I think that prayer is usually referred to as a religious experience, whereas a wish is just something that you ask for, that you hope for.
Rosloff: Do you think people with disabilities prayers are different than prayers of non-disabled people?
Steinberg: I refer to my ADHD in my prayers sometimes, and I wish for a good day, but I think that other people do the same, they just don’t have the disability that they refer to.
Rosloff: What do you pray for?
Steinberg: I pray for the health and safety of my family and friends, I pray to have good days, I pray to be happy, productive, and to continue to grow as a person, but mostly I pray for patience and understanding. I pray that people will be patient with me, while trying to get to know me and work with me, and people will be understanding of who I am, and my disability, because when it comes down to it, my disabilities are a part of me.
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 [email protected].
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