Dear Mr. and Mrs. Sander,
At first I would like to congratulate you on the publication of your inspirational work of art in the Hamodia magazine (a year ago, Shavuous edition).
As you have shared many memories of Moishey over the years with your readers (myself included), I felt the need to write you of my personal experiences with Moishey, especially after reading the last edition of “Down Syndrome Amongst Us”.
Needless to say, being the father of one of the authors (page 28 in Issue #15) was a source of great pride and honor for me.
After the famous Brashov shul opened in my neighborhood 15 years ago, I became one of its mispalellim within 3 months. Aside from the beauty of the shul and its ruchniyas, I was struck by the presence of a little sweet boy named Moishey Sander.
The love that he gave and evoked from everybody in shul was an experience that’s difficult to describe. At no point in my life had I seen such bonding between people, held together by the love and affection for this child.
It's obvious that having such a wonderful child was the conduit to getting involved in the DSAU movement.
The thousands of people who have a similar situation have been inspired by the wonderful work by you and your husband and are grateful for the great chizuk you have provided them.
Though I know many are not aware of the wonderful work you have done, such as the Magazine and Yeshiva you founded, just knowing Moishey was a source of joy and inspiration to them all.
Out of all the people in shul, I believe there was a special bond between Moishey and myself that went beyond an ordinary friendship. I still derive a sense of pride when I think of all the times Moishey would honor me with being the only recipient of his fish by shalosh seudos.
One Rosh Hashanah night after davening Moishey stopped at my table and wished me Lashono Tova so loudly, it attracted a crowed of well wishers anxiously waiting to wish him the same, in order to get the famous wish in return. After a few minutes he announced, “Two more and then I have to go home because I can't let my Mom wait.”
One Motzei Shabbos during a lively conversation regarding the differences of ADD vs. ADHD, Moishey was standing close by holding onto his father’s hand, waiting to take him home. He was approached by a wise guy who asked him, “What do you think I have?” Without missing a beat Moishey responded, “You have GM.” GM? What's that? So Moishey responded, “Gut Meshuga”.
Ten years later we were blessed with a baby boy. As I was wishing my wife ‘Mazel Tov’, the doctor walked in and informed us that the baby has Down syndrome, and would order tests for verification. After the initial shock and fear that one would have from such news, it dawned on me that we would have a child like Moishey. Almost instantaneously, the fear and doubts disappeared as my wife and I talked about Moishey and the joy he brings to his family and friends.
So instead of fear and sorrow, we came to appreciate the wonderful gift that we had the Zechus to receive. It was obvious to us that raising a child with Down syndrome would require a lot of work, but the reward was well worth it.
After the tests came back positive a few weeks later, we sat down with all our other children and started to explain to them what Down syndrome is all about and how it may affect our home.
We had prepared DSAU magazines for the kids to read so they would be able to broaden their knowledge on the subject of Down syndrome and get an idea of what to look forward to.
After reading all the magazines and discussing all the “Up Syndrome” bits they were actually looking forward to having a brother with Down syndrome.
Our families were very supportive, and everyone offered whatever they could to make it easier for us, but we couldn’t understand why we were the recipients of all this attention and family support; after all, Burech was born 100% healthy Boruch Hashem.
A few months later someone asked me (I'm sure he meant well), “Are you sure you know what you're doing?” He knew of people (or so he claimed) who regretted taking home their disabled child. I looked at him like someone who was suffering from ‘GM’. I just couldn’t understand what he was talking about, but then again, he didn’t know Moishey as I did.
A few years ago, while vacationing in beautiful New Hampshire with my family we went hiking on The Flume Gorge. As we were walking on the trails and looking at the magnificent panorama I made a comment, that ‘years ago someone had a vision and endured the hard work of developing and paving these trails so that years later, I, along with so many others can enjoy these beautiful sceneries’.
I got to thinking, “it's because of people like you” and the hardships that you endured that paved the way to today’s mentality and eliminated the stigma that used to be attached to having a disabled child, to the point where people were actually hiding their children from public view.
We always heard other parents say that since children with DS typically develop at a slower rate than other children, that makes every tiny bit of development so much more rewarding and exciting. I thought that these parents have nothing else to be excited about so they try hard to get excited about every minor achievement. Now I know how wrong I was, because of the joy we actually get from each and every step our Burech takes even though (and especially since) it doesn’t come as easily as for our other children.
We now understand that people who are not in this position would never appreciate the joy of hearing Burech tell his father “Tatty, put phone pocket and tell Burech George book” (referring to his beloved Curious George book).
Mr. and Mrs. Sander, in recognition of all the trials and tribulations you endured with Moishey, DSAU and Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom, I have to sincerely thank you on behalf of myself and all the people who have children with Down syndrome or other disabilities, for paving the way so that we can enjoy these children with a feeling of joy and pride rather than one of shame and disgrace. I know you think of yourselves as ordinary people, but I think the following Pusek describes you well. ??? ?? ??? ??? ?????, ??? ???? ????? ???.
Even if you are small in your eyes, you're the head of the tribe of Israel.
This article first appeared in issue #16 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us