“Name one person who has inspired and supported you.”
This prompt has always been a difficult one for me to answer. There are so many wonderful people in my life who have helped me get to where I am now and I have so much love for all of them. But, I’d like to take the time to write about one very supportive and inspirational person in particular--my late friend Emet Tauber.
I met Emet right before we started ninth grade back in 2008, and we became close friends shortly after that. I was diagnosed with NVLD later that same year after failing physics and geometry and struggling in almost all of my other classes. To this day, Emet is remembered as the first openly queer student in our Jewish high school and created a path for other members of the LGBTQ community to come out on their own time. High school wasn’t easy for either of us, to say the least. But, Emet stood by me through it all. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree at Manhattanville College and he completed his at SUNY Purchase College, right up the road from Manhattanville. Both of us were actively involved in Hillel on our campuses and spoke on several panels about disabilities and inclusion within the Jewish community.
In 2014, Emet was diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Emet also had Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) which required him to use a wheelchair. He was an advocate for chronically ill and those who have disabilities.
In 2016, Emet decided to pursue rabbinical school in the Philadelphia area. Gradually, complications from EDS made it increasingly difficult to the point where he took a medical leave and then had to leave school entirely. In 2018, Emet’s entire digestive system shut down and he contracted several blood stream infections. Emet made the decision to enter hospice care in December 2018. He was even ordained as a rabbi in hospice. I promised him that I would finish my Master’s degree, that I would keep fighting and advocating for the LD community, and that I would be strong.
Emet passed away on March 25, 2019. He was my best friend, my rock, and my neurodivergent partner in crime. The Hebrew word Emet means ‘truth’ and he could not have had a more perfect name. Emet was one of the fiercest, kindest, bravest, strongest, and most empathic individuals I have ever known. To know him was to love him.
I recently presented my Professional Seminar project on learning disabilities, called “Crossing Bridges” and dedicated it to Emet. Here is a part of it:
“It’s knowing success is across the water, but you have to cross an unsteady, dilapidated bridge to get there...It’s using your experiences to help others, even when it’s through admitting you struggle, too. It’s remembering the growth you’ve undergone and every ounce of strength that runs through you. It’s knowing you can cross that bridge.”
Emet, every bridge I cross, I’ll cross with you.
Michaela most recently graduated with her MSW from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Prior to earning her Master's, she graduated from Manhattanville College with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and from Landmark College with an Associate Degree in Liberal Studies. She also has a Master’s Certificate in Dyslexia Studies and Language-Based Learning Disabilities from Southern New Hampshire University. Currently, Michaela is a new member of NCLD's Young Adult Leadership Council, a Project Social Ambassador for the NVLD Project, and has blogged for Understood.org.
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