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Dynamic, deaf rabbi bringing message of inclusivity

By Rebecca Rosen Lum, J. Correspondent
summarized by Katie Lutzker, staff writer

“I want passionately for everybody to understand what’s going on”, says Rabbi Darby Leigh, a forty-year-old deaf rabbi at the Bnai Keshet synagogue in New Jersey. Leigh is the first deaf rabbi ordained by the Reconstructionist movement in 2008 and has been with Bnai Keshet since. Leigh was born deaf and since his childhood has excelled in both reading lips and signing. His prayers are noted for the beauty that is induced from his own creative signing—the prayers reveal “a visual poetry”.

Leigh has a bountiful personality as a rabbi, father and husband who, growing up, enjoyed mimicking people’s actions, performing magic, juggling fire, and listening to Phish. He even had the opportunity to perform in sign language with Jane’s Addiction and Twisted Sister onstage. Leigh only knows five other deaf rabbis, but has gained much praise for his style and his signing. He happily identifies himself as a deaf person wanting to bring a message of inclusiveness through his prayers. His actions remind us of the ability to tell a rich story that affects a people in a unique way, without the use and necessity of words.

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