Israel’s only deaf rabbi is translating the entire Torah into sign language, the Times of Israel reports.
Speaking through a sign language interpreter, Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff said it was a big responsibility to try to make Judaism accessible for the 15,000 Israelis who are deaf or hard of hearing and who communicate in sign language. He “wishes he had competition,” he joked.
Working with a team of scholars and actors, U.S.-born Rabbi Soudakoff has started the task of translating the 24 books that make up the Tanakh (which is comprised of the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings) into visual format.
His task is particularly important, he says, for the 40,000-50,000 Jews who use sign language worldwide, because the Torah is meant to be read aloud, in synagogue, three times a week, to the congregation.
“It is done together, as a community, and that’s how it is meant to be read. It is a shared human experience. That’s really important for deaf people because so many times deaf people are disconnected,” Soudakoff says.