The Hands Behind The Signs
Are you Jewish? Deaf or hard of hearing? An American Sign Language interpreter? An ally of the DHH community? Then the Colorado ASL Jew Crew is the group for you. The Colorado ASL Jew Crew was co-founded in October of 2018 by Rachel Gayle Berman and Rachel Braver. The main goal of the group is to create a new space for signing Jews of Colorado to gather, meet, and connect with one another!
Rachel Gayle Berman is an American Sign Language Instructor at the University of Colorado Boulder, an ASL Coach at local theaters and provides independent ASL instruction at Amazon. Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, Berman enjoys the Colorado lifestyle and in her free time can be found hiking, stand-up paddling, doing yoga, cooking, baking and eating pizza around town with her boyfriend, Ryan.
Inspired by her close relationship with her hard of hearing elderly grandmother, of blessed memory, Rachel Braver took the role of Director of Public Relations with the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD). During her time in Los Angeles, Rachel also had the honor of working with Deaf West Theatre as Director of Marketing and Educational Outreach providing exposure and access to professional theatre, filling a void for deaf artists and audiences.
“The Rachels” met at a community workshop in October 2018 and instantly connected. After discussing the lack of accessible Jewish programs for the deaf and hard of hearing community throughout the Denver-metro area, they took action. Within a couple of days they set up a Facebook group, created a logo, filled out the application for funding from MazelTogether at the group’s first event.
On December 9th, 2018 with generous support from MazelTogether, the Colorado ASL Jew Crew hosted a “Schmooze with Signing Jews” mix and mingle at Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen at the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora. It was the perfect way to celebrate a lovely Hanukkah day as Jews of all backgrounds and upbringings gathered together with one common language… American Sign Language. While noshing on bagels with schmear, we went around the table with introductions and shared our hopes for future events and activities.
The Passover Terms “Sign of the Day” project was the first of many collaborations with the Colorado ASL Jew Crew this year and years to come. In addition to the “Sign of the Day” project, MazelTogether worked with David Tesler and Tofer Breuer to create the Ma Nishtana Project.
Tofer Breuer is a bridge between the hearing and the Deaf communities. Profoundly Deaf and a skilled Deaf Interpreter (DI), he is able to bring a strong cultural fluency to ASL interpretation in real time. This is a skill set that makes him truly unique. Tofer is well known in the performance interpreting arena and is starting an innovative ASL interpreting business called “The Kilted Interpreter”. Tofer is a Jewish scholar with ancestry from his mother’s side, but never claimed it. He is self taught and getting more involved with the Jewish community through interpreting at B’nai Havurah. Tofer adores his Jewish partner and has an awesome German Shepherd/Corgi who he loves as well.
David Tesler is a Denver native, Modern Orthodox Jew. Born and raised here in Colorado, being one of the few Deaf Jews growing up was not easy for him. He has seen a very small population of Deaf Jews grow from a total of 5 to up to 30 in approximately 30 years. Growing up, David was a member of Our Way National Council of Synagogue Youth and is still very much a part of it. Our Way for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing was established in 1969 and addresses the social, religious, and education needs of Jewish deaf youth and adults in North America. Our Way is dedicated to including deaf children, teenagers, college students, singles, families, and the deaf blind in the full spectrum of Jewish life. It is at Our Way, a deaf orthodox organization, where he met his lovely bride, a Deaf New Yorker. David is a computer consultant, loves to read, spoil his only son and play politics online as his hobby.
Our group recently attended the 11th Annual Queer Seder coordinated by ally, Rafi Daugherty, on Wednesday, April 24th. We joined lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex Jews along with family and friends in celebration of Passover. The Queer Seder was 100% accessible as American Sign Language interpretation was provided by Betsey Kessler and Jenn Sweeney.
Together with “The Rachel’s,” MazelTogether hopes that this becomes a starting point to create more accessible opportunities for future gatherings and events throughout our community!
To become a fan of the Colorado ASL Jew Crew visit their Facebook group page.
Do you have an idea for a group or gathering? Reach out to MazelTogether and let us help you get started!