- Ms S.B. Barak, A Ph.D. candidate in Critical Disability Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada
“They Go Through the Special Door:” The Stigma of Madness in the Jewish Community
This video presentation of a research essay documents my attempt, through a literature review of over 90 sources, to identify the position of mad people in the contemporary Orthodox Jewish community and interpret the manifest evidence of stigma through a critical historical lens that focuses on several seemingly timeless themes that redound despite shifting over multiple locations. In choosing this topic I seek to uncover and unpack the perception and treatment of mad people in the Orthodox community, a group at once discrete yet diverse, sharing to an extent a common history with the broader Jewish community in general, yet adhering to different specific cultural, religious, and behavioural norms that may vary significantly for insiders from group to group, even though living in relative proximity geographically. This juxtaposition of similarities and differences mirrors transcendent themes dominating the discourse on being human and being different (Foucault, 2006; Gilman, 2003; Goffman, 1963); accessing a group that has served historically and perpetually as the archetypal Other serves to highlight ironically rather that underlying the “special” label is a person, as unique and as common as any other. I will review and summarize key findings of this examination and analysis in the framework of the social model of disability, to capture the heart of the core issues and ramifications locally and globally, and provide indications for further research, thought, and action towards realizing human rights and social justice.