Meeting life’s challenges: Deborah's journey to Israel and Judaism

The challenges of raising two special-needs children from foster care and conflicting parenting styles proved too stressful for her husband. Devorah, however, was determined to proceed with adoption.

Meeting life’s challenges (photo credit: Courtesy)
Meeting life’s challenges
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Although her family was originally from the Bronx, Deborah (Devorah Chava) Leder Vidal grew up Flushing, Queens, with her older brother and sister. Their early years were marred by their father’s heroin addiction and subsequent death from an overdose when Devorah was only seven. Her older sister, Sharon Leder, published a novel in 2017 describing the dark shadow cast over the household.
After high school, Devorah began many years of “odd and unusual jobs,” which included working at a dog kennel in the Pocono Mountains, driving long-distance on the Grey Rabbit, a “hippie” bus company, and assisting “a cantankerous elderly disabled veteran.” By her late 20s, Devorah “was pursuing all kinds of esoteric paths to God,” none of which really inspired her. 
However, her career path was consistent and upwardly mobile. “I was always interested in helping people,” she affirms. In her 30s, she became a substance abuse counselor, and “finally earned my BS in community and human services in 1992 after attending college on and off for 20 years.”
Prior to making aliyah in 2017, Devorah was the administrative assistant to the principal of a large Orthodox girls’ school in Baltimore for over seven years. She was also administrator of a prominent Conservative synagogue in Teaneck, NJ for eight years, and a mental health and substance abuse screener for public assistance recipients in New York City. In addition, she was a human rights specialist for the NY State Division of Human Rights, and a juvenile probation officer.
After a 10-year marriage, she divorced in 1995, and in 2000 reconnected with a man who was starting to become religious.
“He let me know that I would have to agree to be observant if our relationship were to become really serious,” she recalls.
Devorah complied, thinking, “I could easily trade my yoga path for my Jewish path. I believed both to be authentic paths.”
To fulfil the mitzvah of having Jewish children, the couple registered for foster care in 2005 and was approved.
“Miraculously, two Jewish brothers, ages seven and nine from a religious background, became available for a permanent home and adoption. The older boy was diagnosed with ASD – Asperger’s Syndrome. The younger boy had ADHD and a visual processing disorder that was discovered later,” Devorah explains.
The challenges of raising two special-needs children from foster care and conflicting parenting styles proved too stressful for her husband. Devorah, however, was determined to proceed with adoption, and kept the boys after their 2007 divorce. What happened next led to her eventual aliyah.
“In 2010, I met another man who wanted to adopt my boys with me. We married and together adopted them both. After some time passed, unfortunately, my older son and his adopted father were not getting along. He then decided to attend a wonderful Israeli program in Alon Shvut called Yeshivat Darkaynu for boys with a variety of challenges.”
During his second year there, he opted to make aliyah, as he had always wanted to live in Israel. Devorah was then prompted “to support him in making this transition by making aliyah, too.”
“The move received the blessing of his younger brother, a senior in high school, who said, ‘My brother needs you more than I do, so go.’ He insisted that he would be fine living with his dad, with whom he feels he has a good relationship.” Now in his second year of community college in America, he plans to become a nurse, then a naval officer and perhaps, make aliyah later.
Devorah’s older son, now 23, is presently attending the mechina (preparatory) program at Hebrew University and aims to complete a degree in computer studies. She has received help and support for them both from a variety of organizations and now lives in Jerusalem. She summarizes their experiences here by saying, “This has been the most challenging and interesting journey for us both, especially for me since I do not yet speak Hebrew.”
 Though the part-time jobs she found here were fascinating, they were only temporary.  Unable to find a permanent position in Israel due to her lack of Hebrew, she decided to take early retirement from the USA. As she is now officially semi-retired, she can only work 45 hours per month.
Nowadays, besides helping her sons, she has two main goals. First, “to raise awareness about high-functioning individuals who have a variety of either developmental or cognitive delays,” and for whom “appropriate services are really not yet available in this country. Israel offers so much for the more severely disabled, however, for the higher functioning people, there is still a ways to go.”
Her second goal is to counsel new immigrants in similar situations.
“I want to make myself available to help others who are navigating the system in their efforts to help their loved ones with ‘special circumstances.’ I would like to be of service to parents, especially those considering aliyah with a child, adult child or loved one with a delay.”
Building a life for herself is another priority.
“It appears that my niche is to help others, which I am happily doing. I have developed valuable and meaningful connections with many people – which I treasure – since I moved to Israel. I also especially value my quiet time during meditation where I connect with the God of my understanding that has been guiding me all along the way.
“My advice to anyone making aliyah is to hang in there. Ask for help when you need it, accept it graciously and do not give up.”