RCS Pioneers Closed-Captioned Media for Hearing-Impaired Students


“No Jewish woman will be left behind,” is the ambitious mandate adopted by the Rosh Chodesh Society, the monthly women’s learning program initiated in 2010 in memory of Rivkah Holtzberg, Hy”d.

This goal was put to the test last winter during the series of classes titled Portrait of a Woman. Students Tracey Rattner and Su Robbins attended the course accompanied by a sign-language interpreter. The two women have some ability to hear, thanks to cochlear implants, but they rely on visual clues, like lip-reading and signing, to help with comprehension.

“They couldn’t watch the video and the interpreter at the same time, and the video is very much both visual and aural,” said Rosh Chodesh Society teacher Chana Kaplan, who brought the program to Potomac, Maryland, last year.

“Going back and forth between the images on the screen and the interpreter’s signing was a dizzying experience that left them feeling they were missing too much.” It was also a challenge for the interpreter.

They asked, “Could closed-captioning be added to the video?”

Mrs. Kaplan immediately sent off an e-mail to Shaindy Jacobson, director of the Rosh Chodesh Society, which is a division of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), asking if closed-captioning was an option.

Impressed that the women had been coming out to the class in freezing February weather, Mrs. Jacobson wrote back that she would contact JLI’s multimedia department to ask if they could do it.

“I was amazed and genuinely touched by these women’s deep interest in exploring the message of the Torah classes, even though they had to rely on an interpreter,” she said.

Within hours, JLI’s tech staff reported that a closed-captioned video would be available for the next class.

Hearing-impaired students of the Rosh Chodesh Society will continue to benefit from the closed-captioned technology. “In the future we will have an option for closed-captioning on all our videos,” Mrs. Jacobson said. “We are serious about providing every Jewish woman with the gift of a meaningful connection to her birthright and the tools to access her inner essence, spirit, and unique talents.

For Tracey Rattner it made the difference between having total access to her learning experience and struggling to catch what was going on. “Thank you for making this video closed-captioned!” she wrote to Mrs. Kaplan in an e-mail. “I really appreciate this and I want both of my girls to take this class!”

The Rosh Chodesh Society’s upcoming course will focus on aspects of a woman’s life as they relate to the spiritual energies of each month. The text-based course, It’s About Time: Kabbalistic Insights for Taking Charge of Your Life, will be taught at Chabad centers in close to 100 locations internationally, beginning the week of Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5773 (mid-November 2012).

For more information about the Rosh Chodesh Society please contact Mrs. Shaindy Jacobson at Shaindy@myjli.com or call 718-221-6900 x117

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