Thursday, July 25, 2013


am so excited!  Yesterday in the mail we received our advanced copy of the book "Stand Up - 75 Young Activist Who Rock the World and How You Can, Too!" Edited and Introduced by John Schlimm.  The book will officially be released on September 17, 2013.  Josh's story (told by Josh himself) and the story of The Joshua Project are featured on page 42 along with a great photo of the boy wonder!  We could not be more honored to have been chosen out of the hundreds of stories which were submitted for the book.  This book is such an important way to educate, inspire, empower and engage the young people in this world.  

At any time of the day we can be barraged by images and stories of death, destruction and injustice.  I don't know about you but I was so tired of feeling helpless, sad and scared and I certainly didn't want my children growing up feeling powerless.  Personally I believe that we all need to focus our energy finding the good things that are happening ( no, I don't mean watching cute puppy or baby videos on YouTube, although that can be entertaining).

The thing I try to teach my children is to never say "can't" and if you don't like something in the world, figure out a small way that you can make it better and then DO IT!  Don't let anyone tell you that your idea is silly or useless!  If I had listened to those people who said to me "don't bother Christie, you will never get a grocery store to put in braille!"  Or what if we had given up after the first store took the braille down?  When you find the thing that you truly believe in, GO FOR IT!
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.  ~Anne Frank

Monday, July 15, 2013


Who Opens the Eyes
of the Blind
Adapted From an article published in New York Jewish Week.
I looked down at the podium in front of me. I had led services from this surface myriad times, but it had never before looked like this. Instead of three siddurim (mine, the Bat Mitzvah celebrant's, and the cantor's), there were two siddurim and a large document. On the document were little dots that were illegible to me, but to the girl to my right, these raised circles contained the holiest words known to Jews. Though I couldn't understand, her fingers moved over the Braille words and she was able to read, "Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad." It was my first Bat Mitzvah led entirely by the student in Braille.
Over a year ago, we began to plan this very special day. Brooke and her family met with Rabbi Deanna Pasternak (our Educational Director) and me to think through her Bat Mitzvah. Brooke has been blind for many years, though she was not blind at birth. Though Brooke can no longer see, she is gifted with many other talents, including an angelic singing voice. We knew that music would be a special way for her to personalize her Bat Mitzvah celebration. With the help of Emily Altman, one of our tutors, and Cantor Steven Sher, we looked for unique opportunities for her to add to the musical portions of the service. In addition to leading the majority of the prayers, she learned a beautiful Debbie Friedman melody for the "Yotzer Or" prayer, and she delivered it a capella during the worship service.
An integral part of our preparation process with Brooke involved working with the Jewish Braille Institute of America (JBI), an organization that provides Braille resources for many Jewish texts. In 1931, what was then the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods founded JBI. In 1963, as a tribute to 50 years of NFTS, Mrs. Harry J. Finke, the President of JBI, wrote the following as she reflected upon this Golden Anniversary: "Dedicated volunteers, and the support of NFTS, have enabled both Jews and non-Jews to find the gold of cultural and spiritual enrichment through the thousands of Braille volumes and Talking Books of our Library...Each and every book is a treasure of gold and a testament of gold to all the women who built this Institute and its Library." Incredibly, fifty years later, JBI continues to have an enormous impact upon the lives of Jews all over the country, and none of it would be possible without the support of Women of Reform Judaism.
As I have gotten to know Brooke over the past few years, I have been delighted by her – she is full of curiosity, humor, and a general joie de vive. Whenever she and her family attend Shabbat services, she always asks what musical instruments we will be playing during the liturgy. "Organ and guitar," are my most common answers. Inevitably, she'll ask for some tambourine or piano to be added to the mix. I giggle at this frequent interchange, but I also understand that there is something deeper going on – for Brooke, the SOUNDS of the service are one of the most important ways that she connects to the prayers.
During our planning meetings, I was amazed at Brooke's Hebrew skills. Here is a girl who has never "seen" a Hebrew letter, but she has nevertheless grown to be a capable reader and service leader thanks to the many Jewish Braille resources available to us through JBI. She knows the service so well that I told her she could easily substitute for me, if necessary. She learned her prayers, Torah, and Haftarah portions with confidence and competence in a way that few students her age are able.
Brooke even wrote a moving D'var Torah (which she typed out on a Braille typewriter) about her portion, Ki Tavo. She grabbed onto the themes of inclusion and welcoming that our text often encourages. She wrote, "This Torah portion serves as a reminder to all people to treat others kindly. It also teaches us that we should be welcoming to other people even if they are different. I always feel happiest when I am included and feel that I am part of a group. This message is a very important one to me. I remember participating in my school talent show. The entire fifth grade was going to be dancing in the finale. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. Everyone was so welcoming. I held onto my friend's arm and I danced my little heart out. Everyone helped me along by whispering the dance steps into my ear. I had a great time!"
As you might imagine, there was not a dry eye in the house. We all sat in awe, feeling that we were a part of something truly miraculous. Brooke's voice floated over and around us all, bringing God closer than we had felt possible. Any fears that we might have about our own learning skills or performance abilities were put to rest – if Brooke could do this exceptionally, how dare we question our own proficiency?
I felt a pang of sadness and injustice when we reached the prayer, "Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who opens the eyes of the blind." I got angry at God – how could God not open Brooke's eyes? But, then, just as quickly, I got my answer: it was my OWN eyes that were opened. I had been blind as to how much a seemingly "disabled" person could do in worship, and I could now see the endless possibilities. We all had the blessed opportunity to witness all that Brooke could do, and we would never be the same.
Rabbi Marci Bellows is the spiritual leader at Temple B'nai Torah in Wantagh, NY. She was proud to serve as a summer rabbinic intern at WRJ while in school at HUC-JIR (where she was ordained in 2004). A graduate of Brandeis University, she also writes the popular biweekly New York Jewish Week column, "Reform, Really."
The WRJ Ten Minutes of Torah series is sponsored by the Blumstein Family Fund and by Sandi and Mike Firsel and Temple Chai Sisterhood.

Thursday, July 11, 2013



Hello everyone!  My name is Christie Goldenberg and I am Josh’s mom.

 I have been given the opportunity to take over The Joshua Project blog at this time, so please forgive me if I get a little wordy for this first one.  Since I am not an experienced blogger, other than my book review blog, please be patient with me as I learn the ropes. 
There are only 21 days left until the Inaugural Fundraiser Event at The Palm Restaurant on Aug 2nd, 2013!  All of us involved in The Joshua Project could not be more excited and anxious and a be tired at this point too.  Planning this event has been like planning a wedding, but in our case, with a very short timeline.  I could not be more grateful and proud of my husband Evan and the other board members who continue to work tirelessly everyday to ensure this events success.  All of us are putting our entire hearts and souls into this because we believe so strongly in what we want to accomplish. 
The responses for donations for our silent and live auction have been overwhelming!  We have a rare laser signed football from the 2011 Dallas Cowboys (Josh’s favorite football team, and mine too), signed boxing gloves from boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard along with jewelry, massages, salon services, limo rides, wine tasting and even a foursome round of golf at Sherwood Country Club and so much more!  There is something for everyone.  And those are just the silent auction items.  For the live auction we have a Dream Car Ride for 2 where the winner and the guest will have the once in a lifetime opportunity to spend the day driving in the world’s 7 most expensive and exotic cars!  If you have an item or service that you would like to donate, please contact me right away!
But by far the one I am looking forward to the most is one that is so personal to me.  Stephen Haddad has been Josh’s Occularist  since he was a baby.  Stephen is the one who fit Josh’s eye sockets with the special pieces to stretch out and prepare them for both of his prosthetic eyes (along with 4 surgeries).  Stephen Haddad is also the artist who, by hand, fits, makes and hand paints these magnificent works of art, that are my sons eyes today.  Stephen has over the years become a special friend to our family and Josh still eagerly looks forward to every visit to his office.  I am honored that Stephen is a part of our Board of Directors.  Generously Stephen will be donating a pair of prosthetic eyes which will then be given to a child or children whose families could not previously afford them.  Each eye is valued at approx. $1500!  When Josh was a baby and we inquired to our insurance company about prosthetic eyes we were told that they were considered cosmetic and therefore were not covered.  Another insurance company considered them “durable medical equipment” in the same class as crutches, and therefore only covered up to $250.  This for me and Evan will be a full circle moment for us and one we have spent years dreaming about.
The “Dining In The Dark” part of the evening seems to be the thing that most people are talking about and excited about doing.  Please be aware that although we are selling over 150 tickets for the event there are only a total of 40 seats for this part of the fundraiser.  Although tickets only went on sale this week, we have almost half of those 40 seats filled already!  The night is going to be filled with tears, laughter and inspiration.  I promise that everyone who attends will walk away feeling like a million bucks (which is how much I hope we raise). 
All of us on the Board of Directors are bursting with ideas to be implemented once we have the funds to do so.   Imagine not only grocery stores with Braille, but also machines or an app for your phone that can recognize products and verbally give you information!  We want desperately to get braillers, Braille printers (embossers) and computer apps for the blind and visually impaired, especially students! As an avid reader, Josh wants there to be a much better selection of Braille books and audiobooks in the libraries.  This is just the tip of the iceberg!  The Joshua Project Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of blind and visually impaired people in any way possible.
I really hope that you can join us for a night of amazing 5 star food, drinks, music and so much more.  If you are unable to attend I hope that you will consider making a donation to the project.  For those who are financial struggling during these difficult times, please help us by telling your friends and family about us, liking us on Facebook and or contacting us to volunteer. 

I am looking forward to sharing information and personal stories on this blog, along with giving hope, laughs and inspiration to all!