!Welcome to Chushim Ben Dan

Who are we? We’re a team of highly-motivated and talented individuals who work on a variety of programs and projects for the Jewish Deaf community. Most of us are deaf and hard of hearing ourselves, and we are led by Chabad shluchim Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff, executive director, and his wife Cheftziba. Chushim is the official Chabad Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.

Why did we choose the name “Chushim Ben Dan”? Fantastic that you asked! Chushim, the son of Dan, is the only biblical hero that we know of who was deaf, and he features in a midrashic story about Jacob’s funeral procession and Esau’s protests. Chushim, who did not have access to an interpreter, was baffled at the long delay in burying Jacob, his grandfather, and decided to take matters into his hands. Let’s just say, Jacob was buried very soon afterwards and the problem was solved decisively. We identify very strongly with the image of a deaf hero who decides to stand up and seek what he wants in life, and we see our activities as befitting the empowered, self-confident, and committed image of Chushim. We deserve to understand our Jewish identity, and we are doing something about it.

What do we do? The real question would be: what don’t we do? From summer camps to online classes and bar mitzvah lessons to weddings, we do it all. After all, we are the address for all things Jewish for the tens of thousands of deaf and hard of hearing Jews who live in the land of Israel today.

Can we give examples of what else we do? Certainly! Since our executive director, Yehoshua, is the only deaf rabbi in the entire country, many have reached out to us to request guidance with bris ceremonies, bar and bat mitzvahs, putting up mezuzahs, weddings, funerals, yahrzeits, and anything and everything in between. We know just how vital our services are; as deaf and hard of hearing individuals, we’re grateful that Chushim exists to fill a great need in our community: an accessible, vibrant Jewish experience in sign language.

What’s our biggest project? Our largest project, in terms of funding, is translating the entire Tanach (Jewish Bible) into Israeli Sign Language, by producing high-quality videos of our translation. The process is long and thorough, and includes input from advisory committees, community members, and linguists. We released our first achievement – the translation of the Book of Ruth – in June 2020, and we are on track to translate Genesis and the Book of Esther in the next year. Our long-term goal is to make the entire Tanach, from the very first letter to the very last letter, accessible to every deaf Jew. As the foundational book of Judaism, the Tanach’s contribution to the culture, belief, and values that Israel holds very dearly today is monumental. And guess what? All of our Tanach videos are captioned in English – plus 4 other languages – in addition to Hebrew voice-over and music, and a special version for visually-impaired individuals.

Where are we? We’re located in Rishon Lezion, in the center of the country. Incidentally, our city plays host to a very large population of deaf and hard of hearing individuals – among the largest concentrations in the entire country, in fact! Our programs, however, have the ability to reach every single deaf and hard of hearing Jew in all corners of the country, especially through our online presence here on our website, and on Facebook.

Why do we do what we do? We’ll keep it simple and sweet: We have a deep love for Jewish tradition, and we’re proud to be Jewish and deaf/hard of hearing. We want to share that love and pride with every person we meet. After all, every Jew deserves an opportunity to understand what it means to be Jewish, including us deaf Jews.

What’s our relationship with the Jewish Deaf Foundation? We’re sister organizations; Chushim Ben Dan’s focus is on the Israeli, Hebrew-speaking and Israeli Sign Language signing community. The Jewish Deaf Foundation is U.S. based, with a global outlook and an English/ASL offering. Together, we serve the entire Jewish deaf and hard of hearing community on all continents. We encourage you to visit the JDF’s website, and to learn more about the programs that we offer through there.

How can you help? We’re glad you asked! We’re always looking for volunteers for small and big projects alike, so send us a message and tell us how you think you can help us. As well, sending a donation our way goes a long way in making sure our doors stay open for every person who seeks us out.