Hello. I am a 22-year-old college student who is a moderate Jew and I am wondering - Why do orthodox parents of Down syndrome children require them to wear yarmulkas (kippahs) and hasidic clothes and such, when they are not obligated to observe mitzvas (Editor's Note: Huh? Is that so? You are absolutely wrong!).
The appearance of an orthodox Jewish kid appears comical to some people, and so does the general appearance of a Down syndrome child, so then why stigmatize a DS child by making them dress in a way that is eccentric? To be honest, while I recognize that Down syndrome children are just as human as everyone else is and have special missions from Hashem, to the average person, the appearance of a DS child drooling and bouncing around in his kippah could cause laughter. While Down syndrome children have wonderful souls, due to their monotone voices, robotic speech, slow walk, blinking eyes, and blank facial expressions, they resemble toy robots in appearance.
Why not simply have such children moved to a secular home or secular institution so they don't have to deal with the double challenges of having Down syndrome and observing Orthodox Jewish laws?
Dear Unsigned Coward:
I am usually a very reserved person and very tolerant of others' beliefs, but I must tell you that your letter absolutely repulsed me!
Our children with Down syndrome are just as much members of their families and communities as are our other children, and no, their Jewishness and their religion is not an additional challenge, but it is the flame that ignites their spirituality.
Also, your description of a DS child is so off base that it is appalling! My son has a sharp, intelligent look on his face, he does not drool, his tongue does not protrude, his voice is not in monotone, and he certainly does not resemble a robot in any way! He is a very bright, intelligent individual who is living life to it fullest and he takes great pride in being part of the community and the shul that so adores him. As for our family? He is the most popular family member in both my husband's and my own families.
Please stop with that anti-religious 'crusade' which you are shrouding under a smokescreen of 'doubt' about the Down syndrome population.
This article first appeared in issue #11 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us