Short film series explores the intersection of disability and prayer in the Jewish community
Los Angeles, April 9, 2021 – Lee Chernotsky, a talented CEO who lives with ADHD and has created innovative opportunities in Los Angeles and beyond for people with disabilities and their families, 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.
Lee Chernotsky is a member of the National Disability Speakers Bureau at RespectAbility and the founder & CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of ROSIES foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that generates opportunities for people with diverse abilities to engage and work. He holds an MBA in nonprofit management and has been a leader in disability advocacy and education for more than 20 years. Chernotsky currently serves on the Advisory board of RespectAbility Los Angeles and the board of the Culver City Arts Business Improvement District. He is a sought-after speaker on accessibility, creativity, mental health, and social enterprise across industries.
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 Lee Chernotsky of Rosies Foundation, and I want to thank him for letting me interview him today.
Lee Chernotsky: My pleasure, thanks for having me Ben.
Rosloff: You’re very welcome. Do you pray?
Chernotsky: I do pray, not as often as I used to, but I still pray.
Rosloff: Do you recite prayers that you have learned or memorized, or do you have personal prayers?
Chernotsky: A combination of both. I’m grateful to have been given a really amazing foundation and understanding a prayer from some incredible teachers, and family who set examples, but they also encourage me to think for myself, and find my own connections to those prayers.
Rosloff: Is your disability something you refer to in your prayers?
Chernotsky: It is. When I’m looking for guidance on how to overcome an obstacle that I’m living through, because of my disability, but also the same time to say thank you and how grateful I am for the perspective that I get living my life.
Rosloff: How does praying make you feel?
Chernotsky: Sometimes really overwhelmed where I might be moved to cry, because I have a really big feel about something, whether it’s a tear of joy, or maybe because I’m really sad, I can also feel very underwhelmed, and have a hard time connecting, but I’d say most of the time, it kind of makes me feel somewhere in between.
Rosloff: Do you think people with disabilities prayers are different than prayers of non-disabled people?
Chernotsky: No, I think everybody’s prayers need to be heard, and should be heard, and if they’re not, someone’s gonna figure out a way to make it more accessible.
Rosloff: What do you pray for?
Chernotsky: I pray for the ability to be present, in the moments that matter. Last night, when I was sitting around a campfire with my family, playing a ukulele that my eight-year-old son taught me how to play, and I glanced over, and saw two of our kids with three grateful and three healthy children, and saw two of our children holding hands with their eyes closed rocking out and just like singing a song and like really feeling it, that’s what I pray for.
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