A Jewish Approach to the Plastic Straw Debate

A Jewish Approach to the Plastic Straw Debate

Drawing on the wisdom of the Talmud and the nuanced arguments of halakhah, a Rabbi presents a thoughtful analysis of the current debate on the banning of plastic straws and how that would affect people with disabilities.

Coffee Shop Rabbi

Image: A person drinks from a plastic straw. (Anemone123/Pixabay)

Every argument that is for [the sake of] heaven’s name, it is destined to endure. But if it is not for [the sake of] heaven’s name — it is not destined to endure. What is [an example of an argument] for [the sake of] heaven’s name? The argument of Hillel and Shammai. What is [an example of an argument] not for [the sake of] heaven’s name? The argument of Korach and all of his congregation. — Pirkei Avot 5:17

The recent disagreement between some environmental activists and disability activists about efforts to ban plastic straws has been food for thought lately.

In brief, environmental activists are concerned about the impact that plastic straws have on the marine environment, especially on the animals in that environment, and they’d like to see an outright ban on plastic straws. Disability activists have…

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Depression Isn’t Sadness and Suicide Isn’t a Cry For Help… by Steve Safran

Depression and suicide: Not looking for special treatment, but for greater awareness and, more important, better support for mental health and mental illness.

Blooms and Bubbles

Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Two gut-punching suicides that have people asking “Why them? They had it all!” Sure, Bourdain lived a hard life, but Kate Spade, the queen of whimsy? She was wealthy, adored and…


We need better words. One of the biggest disservices to the field of mental health is to call the diagnosis of “depression” by the name “depression.” Everyone “gets depressed.” It’s a commonplace word: “I’m so depressed the meeting I planned fell through.” “The ending of that show was too depressing.” “He’s too depressing to be around.”

None of these examples has anything to do with the psychological definition of Depression.

People who live with depression are wired differently. Our brains perceive life differently than those who do not have depression. Let me put it another way.

Suppose you were born left-handed in this predominantly right-handed world. Suppose that was considered OK from time to…

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And the Winner Is…

The winner of Britain’s Got Talent this year is…
The Lost Voice Guy!

He is very funny, but his message is serious (which makes for brilliant comedy.). As he says, “I was disabled before I was popular.” Furthermore, “People were laughing at me even before I became a comedian.”

One fan on YouTube has compiled this vignette of his journey:

We’ll let him tell of the rest of his journey!

Looking for Lodging? Accessibility Matters


Assistive technology is about accessibility. Recently, this idea was taken a step further. AirBnB announced a set of 24 filters enabling travelers with a physical disability to more easily find lodging accessible for their needs (e.g., if they use a wheelchair to get around). This feature saves these travelers the burden of having to call multiple places to inquire whether they are accessible to their needs, according to an informative blog piece that goes into detail about how to use the many features now available on the AirBnB app.

The user can obtain detailed information on the residence, as well as outdoor and common areas and whether an accessible (“handicapped”) parking spot is nearby. The accessibility filters can be set to one’s own specific disability.

With more and more people with physical disabilities enjoying travel, this new feature will be welcome news, especially to those using the AirBnB platform.

People Who Are Different Are Special… Like You

People Who Are Different Are Special… Like You

children with disabilities

Fred Rogers, Extraordinary Friends, written in 2000.

“You are special.” That’s the comforting message from Mister Rogers. And by “special,” Fred Rogers does not mean empty praise merely to inflate egos. Each of us is unique in his or her special way. With this, it is apt that Mister Rogers would introduce readers to other children who are different from them, in that they have a disability. With his characteristic empathy, understanding, and honesty, he acknowledges that these people who look or act different can make on feel uneasy. Yet, after taking the time to get to know these people, they are also much like them: they have hobbies, favorite foods, and like to be with others. In that way, Mister Rogers neither puts these extraordinary friends on a pedestal (what many in the self-advocacy community refer to as “disability porn”), nor presents them as objects of pity. Before he starts his narrative, Rogers introduces us to six children. Three have disabilities (though he does not reveal what kind), and three do not. With each of the six children, Mister Rogers simply explains what they like to do and their favorite food. Throughout, Mister Rogers gives tips on etiquette, to ensure both parties are comfortable. In acknowledging differences as well as what we share in common, we are simply being real friends.

Although the book’s positive message merits five stars, the writing is better suited to having an adult read the book aloud to the child. The message, however, is very much geared to the child, told in Fred Rogers’s own wonderful way.

It is worth recalling that Fred Rogers’s affinity for children very much extended to those with disabilities. Quite a few of these children were guests on his show. These children never forget the kindness of Mister Rogers! One of the most beautiful moments was a very special reunion when he was inducted into the hall of fame. No more needs to be said about Fred Rogers and the reason so many people continue to adore this special man.

Show Your Mettle Day

A prosthetic leg – “It’s part of whom I am.”

The Elephant In The Room

IMG_3659 My super cool Uncle Ken is also an amputee! He showed me how to embrace the amp life long before I lost my leg.

April is Limb Loss Awareness Month, and today is Show Your Mettle Day! The Amputee Coalition of America has created this day for amputees to show their mettle (strength and resilience) by showing their metal (prosthetics, assistive devices, etc…or simply their missing limbs.)

Most people who read my blog know that I have no problem showing my leg to the world or talking about my amputation.  Not everyone is as comfortable, though.  Some amputees hide their prosthetic devices or try to cover up their missing limbs because they’re afraid of what others might think.

Amputees of the world, you don’t have to hide away.  Be proud of who you are and what you’ve been through.  Whether you were born with a missing limb or had a…

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Autism Is Nothing Like Going to Holland

“Welcome to Holland” is a lovely poem, and so is Holland. While the piece offers comforting thoughts for parents of an autistic child, it is not always a realistic portrayal. A jungle is at times more accurate – wild, untamed, seemingly chaotic… but still beautiful.

Not an Autism Mom

There’s a very famous poem called “Welcome to Holland,” written by Emily Perl Kingsley.  It’s a beautiful poem, if you haven’t read it.

To summarize, Kingsley describes what it feels like to raise a child with special needs. She says that planning for a child is like planning an exciting trip to Italy. But when your child has a disability, your plane winds up in Holland instead.


Holland isn’t as flashy or exciting as Italy. But it’s pretty, slower paced, and has windmills. And even though you really wanted that trip to Italy, you appreciate Holland for all of its beauty and serenity.

I used to love that poem. I would post it on my Facebook page and tag moms I thought would appreciate the gesture. I’ve even been sent that poem from time to time by well-meaning loved ones. And I appreciated the gesture. I still do.

But the…

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