It is several years now since I made it a policy to introduce every new class with a word of explanation about my deafness, as it is inescapably obvious, with my being wired up to a plug in my ear and having an offbeat speech pattern and distinct tonal quality. This is so as to reassure my students-to-be that they should always feel free to ask me to repeat whenever the comprehension is less than total, even as I would have no qualms about asking them to repeat or restate if I miss a word or a phrase here and there. Happily, with very few exceptions the students are wonderfully cooperative. So are the majority of my many colleagues across the campuses. This is not to say that kouphophobia (= prejudice against the deaf and/or a belittling attitude toward the hearing-impaired) does not make life in a hearing world less than enchanted. It strikes me as an act of extraordinary daring — maybe it's really hubris or chutzpah —that back in 1968 the original four schools, two of them identifiably Christian, in the Dayton area engaged a person classified as profoundly deaf, let alone a Jew specializing in Judaic Studies. The trust they placed in me is one I hope over the years to have come to merit. I think I have justified the endless hours of toil on the part of the extraordinary women who first gave me the gift of speech not long after I got my first high-powered hearing aid, my teachers Edith Rosenstein and the late Helen T. Patten (who passed on earlier this year at the age of 99). My mother, Celia Zoken Friedland, never one to be daunted, roundly gave the lie to the stereotype of the helpless single parent on the dole. It was hardly ever easy, but her unfaltering humor and wit somehow put it all in perspective. Her strong and tender words of encouragement spoken long ago are still lovingly recalled. The presence of fond, supporting aunts, uncles and cousins beyond count has had its untold benefits. Some years later, the guiding light of my intellectual-spiritual life in graduate school at Brandeis University was the learned and sainted Nahum N. Glatzer. He set me on the course I gratefully still very much follow.



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