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Orthodox Conundrum

Jun 12, 2023

When Rivka Herzfeld was younger, she had a feeling that her muscles were not working the way that they should. During her year in Israel after high school, things got serious enough that her research intensified - and she soon discovered that she has an extremely rare degenerative condition that has seriously impacted her ability to use her muscles effectively. Doctors don’t know what to call it, so they use the inexact term “childhood-onset ALS” - and this condition has affected her life in many ways, from needing a motorized scooter in place of walking, to challenges in dating, to her inability to be hired as a teacher - a job for which she is eminently qualified.

Yet Rivka maintains her self-confidence, poise, humor, and faith in G-d; she refuses to let her disability define her, even though it sometimes seems that others want to do exactly that. 

In this conversation, Rivka relates her personal story, and articulates some of the challenges that she faces. She and Scott talk about the ways in which the Orthodox world can develop greater sensitivity and provide increased accessibility, as well as some of the positive and negative experiences that she has had in synagogues, schools, and other institutions. And crucially, they discuss practical steps that we can take to ensure that we treat individuals with the respect they deserve, and find ways to bring all people into our communities rather than perhaps unintentionally walling them off outside. 

Please listen to and share this podcast, and let us know what you think on the Orthodox Conundrum Discussion Group on Facebook (

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Music: "Happy Rock" by