2007 National RID convention presentation

David Bar-Tzur

Created 2 August 2007, links updated monthly with the help of LinkAlarm.

Below is the text from the PowerPoint I used for my presentation, Interpreting for religious topics: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. I promised the participants that I would post it on my website so that they would not necessarily have to take notes. It probably won't be very helpful to you if you did not come to the workshop.

To see the specialized signs that were used during the presentation (and additional signs), go to the following web pages:

For a more in-depth analysis, go to Interpreting for Jewish celebrations.

To which settings will this workshop apply?
Religious services
Educational settings
Current events
Philosophy/religion class

Learn how to work with key people to prep for religious topics using role play
Become familiar with written/video resources for four religions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism
Discuss how to develop or research possible signs, esp. indigenous signs

Working with key people
1. Signer with content knowledge (Deaf or hearing) - my role
2. Deaf consumer
3a. Religious leader or representative (for a worship service)
3b. Teacher or audio-visual resource (for a class)

Resources: My web site
Links to all the resources we will discuss can be found at my web site.
The URL is https://TheInterpretersFriend.com
My Technical & specialized vocabulary resource dictionary contains 1,169 Jewish entries and a total of about 15,000 entries.

Jewish pages on my website
Jewish signs an educated interpreter should know
Interpreting for Jewish celebrations
Resources for religious/spiritual interpreting: Judaism
Indigenous signs for cities: Israel
Deaf cultures and Sign Languages of the world: Israel
Interpreting for Hebrew class

The top basic resources for Jewish settings
Best book - Telushkin, J. (1991). New York: William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-08506-7.
Best videotape (series) - Jewish heritage and holidays in ASL
Best website - Jewish Deaf Community Center

Developing/negotiating a sign
Deaf people have different levels of understanding of their religion.
Deaf children are often excluded from what happens in their family.
Jews don't believe that their children must follow their religion or go to hell, so they worry less about teaching them everything.
Different levels of understanding
Some consumers use signs that are "too" Christian to fit "Bible" - JESUS~BOOK
Different levels of understanding
Some prefer a sign other than you are used to. "Jewish" - PEOPLE TORAH.

Different levels of understanding
Some need more contextualizing than others.
During the High Holidays: "We will do Tashlich on Monday afternoon." - MONDAY AFTERNOON #DO-DO. GO RIVER EMPTY-POCKET. WHY? SYMBOL OUR SIN THROW-AWAY.
Different levels of understanding
Some want to see the Hebrew spelling, rather than the English spelling. Y-A-A-K-O-V vs. J-A-C-O-B.

Developing/negotiating a Jewish sign
1. Use a sign developed by the Jewish Deaf community.
This shows respect for Deaf autonomy.
This shows an understanding of Jewish Deaf culture.
Developing/negotiating a Jewish sign
2. If you can find no Jewish sign, look up the meaning of the word in a Jewish on-line glossary and use expansion. (Mention K-12 project.)
I suggest: http://www.lamed.org/Glossary_Jewish.htm or http://www.jewfaq.org/glossary.htm

Why Deaf Jews develop their own signs?
A. Some Jewish concepts, although carried over into Christianity, have changed too much from their origins
"Bible" - JESUS~BOOK should be GOD~BOOK, B-LAW, BOOK-FROM-GOD, or some other sign choice.
B. Some Jewish concepts are not focused on by mainstream (Christian) Deaf people, and so there is no (Christian) sign.
"kosher" - K-CLEAN.
C. To identify with their people, especially in Israel.
"Jerusalem" - YERUSHALAYIM instead of J CITY.

3. But you can use a conceptually accurate ASL sign, even though its origins may be Christian. There are a number of websites that demonstrate these. Christian sign websites
ASLPro.com Over 1200 interdenominational signs. This does include a number of strictly Jewish signs.
DeafJesus.org - Vocabulary. Includes liturgical translation of things like the Aaronic blessing, Apostle's Creed, and Lord's Prayer.

4. Find a sign phrase that will convey the meaning, rather than one sign.

5. Use an expansion and later condense or negotiate a sign.
"Kohanim (Jewish temple priests)" - GOD PICK PEOPLE WORK TEMPLE OFFER-UP, ME SIGN KOHEN.
Later, just sign KOHEN.

6. Fingerspell the item.
"Judah" - J-U-D-A-H

7. Contextualize (expand on) the concept.

8. Use and enhance your knowledge of classifiers.
Find a picture or video of what the object or concept looks like or how it behaves, and use classifiers. I suggest an AltaVista image search
For example, the Tabernacle (portable temple in the desert) is being described in the Torah reading.

9. Use and enhance your knowledge of story-telling.
For example, the story is told of how God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai.

10. Use and enhance your knowledge of non-manual grammar.
This allows you to sign "smart", rather than to sign fast to keep up.

Caveats (Warnings)
11. Remain flexible.

12. As we mentioned before, some signs may be "too" Christian
One of the Catholic signs for Moses. This is related to the karnayim (translated "horns" but better "light rays") but this mistranslation (not the sign) led to the belief that Jews have horns.

13. One English/Hebrew word may require different signs, depending on context.
"aliyah (being called up to say a blessing on the Torah)" - SUMMON PERSON COME BLESS TORAH READ.
"aliyah (moving to Israel with the intention of becoming a citizen)" - PERSON DECIDE MOVE-AWAY ISRAEL, SETTLE.

14. The sign should not conflict with ASL linguistic rules. "birkat hamazon (blessing after a meal)" - B,H-BLESSING violates the rule that
if both hands move, they must have the same handshape.

15. Be aware of how signs show spatial or other visual information and don't conflict with this.

Jewish subgroups
Ashkenazic tradition - European Jews
Orthodox (placement, most Hebrew, conservative dress, don't write or discuss/carry money)
Reform (less Hebrish, other issues above don't apply)
Conservative (somewhere between Orthodox and Reform)
Sephardic tradition - Arab World & Spanish Jews

Shabbat (The Sabbath)
Going back to Genesis, God created the World in six days and on the seventh He "rested."
The Jewish people must refrain from "creative work" on this day.
The point of the day is to give ownership of time back to God.

Shabbat & Bar/Bat Mitzvah
One of the most likely times that an interpreter will be called is for a
Shabbat service, and especially for a bar-mitzvah or bat-mitzvah.
Let's start with the physical environment:

Picture of a synagogue with arrows to the objects named below.

Picture of a soldier in tefillin and a reader for the Torah.

Picture with arrows to the objects named below.

Structure of the morning service
Blessings & Psalms (whispered)
Call to worship (the official beginning, some arrive only now)
What to do with the Hebrew?
Sit alongside & show page
Have a Deaf interpreter
Use the English translation (see image)
Repeat if both languages are used?
Shema (dramatic moment)
Amidah (standing silent prayer, will repeat out loud)
Torah reading (translate or read-through)
Reading from the Prophets (translate or read-through)
Sermon (get copy if possible)
Additional Amidah (second standing prayer)
Bat Mitzvah speech (copy!)
Kiddush (social time for everyone)

Best book
Denny, F. M. (2005, February 23). Introduction to Islam.

Islamic/Arab world pages on my website
Resources for religious/spiritual interpreting: Islam
Signs for Islam
Indigenous signs for countries: Arab world - Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, The Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Indigenous signs for cities: Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia
Deaf cultures and Sign Languages of the world: Arab world
Deaf cultures and Sign Languages of the world - Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, The Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Interpreting for Arabic as a second language

Negotiating "Islamic" signs
Judaism can look to one country for signs: Israel.
Islam has many countries whose major religion is Islam: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, The Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Some of the signs I will show are ASL expansions.
Some of the signs are from Jordan.

Origins of Islam
The Qur'an as we have it today was written down in approximately 650 C.E. (Common Era), and is accepted by all Muslim denominations.
However, there were many matters of belief and daily life that were not directly prescribed in the Qur'an, but simply the practice of the community. Origins of Islam
Later generations sought out oral traditions regarding the early history of Islam, and the practice of Muhammad and his first followers, and wrote them down so that they might be preserved.
These recorded oral traditions are called hadith. (MUHAMMAD STORY.)

5 Pillars of Islam
(1) Iman: Faith or belief in the Oneness of God (Allah) and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad - ONE* THINK~TRUST;
(2) Salah: Establishment of the 5 daily prayers - MUSLIM-PRAY FIVE TIME;
(3) Zakah: Concern for and almsgiving to the needy - ONE-FORTIETH;
(4) Sawm: Self-purification through fasting - F-ZIP-MOUTH;
(5) Hajj: The pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) for those who are able - VISIT MAKKAH WORSHIP.

(1) Iman (Faith)
"There is none worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God." - ONLY ALLAH WORTH WORSHIP. HIS-Allah's MESSENGER WHO? MUHAMMAD.
This declaration of faith is called the Shahadah (BELIEF ANNOUNCE), a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce.

(2) Salah (Prayer)
A direct link between the worshipper and God: no hierarchical, no priests.
Prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur'an and is chosen by the congregation.
5x: Dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Contain verses from the Qur'an, and are said in Arabic. Personal supplications can be�offered in one's own language and at any time.
Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may� pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities.
If you have visited a country that has a significant Muslim population, you may have hear the Adhan (SUMMON MUSLIM-PRAY) or Call to Prayer.

(3) Zakah (Alms)
The word zakah (ONE-FORTIETH) means� both "purification" and "growth." Our possessions are purified and this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
An individual may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqah,� and does so preferably in secret.
The Prophet said, "Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is an act of charity."

(4) Sawm (Fasting)
Every year in the month of Ramadan (FAST MONTH), all Muslims fast from dawn until sundown--abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations with their spouses.
The sick, elderly, or those on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and�make up an equal number of days later in the year if they are healthy and able.
Children begin to fast (and to observe prayers) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint. By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of the presence of God.

(5) Hajj (Pilgrimage)
The hajj is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to do so. But over two million people go to Makkah each year.
It begins in Ramadan, the 12th month of the Islamic (lunar) year, sometimes summer, sometimes winter.
Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments that strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
(1) Circumnavigation (7x) of the Ka'bah (same as MAKKAH or STONE MAKKAH) as did Abraham who dedicated it with Ishmael.
(2) Shuttling between the hills of Safa and Marwa, as did Hagar (Hajir, Abraham's wife) during her search for water.
(3) Standing on the wide plains of 'Arafat (a large expanse of desert outside Makkah) and joining in prayer for God's� forgiveness.
(4) The 'Id al Adha ([O^] circles head) commemorates the sacrifice of Ismail (not Ishaq), with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere and the 'Id al Fitr (SHAKE-HANDS), a festive day celebrating the end of Ramadan, are the two holidays of the Islamic calendar.

Sunni (90%)
Shi'a (9%), but significant minorities in Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, the Gulf States, Pakistan and India. They represent the largest religious group in Iraq, and the overwhelming majority (88%) in Iran where Shi'a Islam has been the state religion since the 16th century CE. Other (1%)

Shi'a versus Sunni
The split started with who was the legitimate leader after the death of Muhammad.
According to Sunni thought, Muhammad died without appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community.
After an initial period of confusion, a gathering of Muslims at Saqifah accepted Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law, as the first Caliph.
The second major sect, the Shia, believe that the Prophet had appointed his son-in-law �Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor.
Shi'a regard the election of Abu Bakr as illegitimate and accuse those involved of ulterior motives ranging from enmity towards �Ali to outright hypocrisy


Hindu pages on my website
Resources for religious/spiritual interpreting: Hinduism
Signs for Hinduism
Indigenous signs for cities: India
Deaf cultures and Sign Languages of the world: India

Hinduism, a religious tradition originating in the area around the river Sindhu, or Indus.
Hindus prefer the Sanskrit term sanatana dharma for their religious tradition.
Sanatana dharma means "eternal duty" or "eternal right action".

Seek truth where you may find it
The Hindu tradition encourages Hindus to seek spiritual and moral truth wherever it might be found.
In other religions this ultimate reality is known as God. Hindus refer to it by many names, but the most common name is Brahman (SUPREME TRUTH).

Sanatana dharma
Buddhist, Jaina, and Sikh traditions also seek to define dharma or right action.
To distinguish their dharma as being older and having no author, Hindus call theirs sanatana (eternally recurring).

Brahman: The Ultimate Reality
The highest aim of existence is to realize the individual's innermost self (atman CENTER-OF-BEING) = the ultimate reality (brahman).
Whether Brahman is ultimately without distinguishing attributes (nirguna SUPREME DESCRIBE CAN'T or SUPREME BEYOND PARALLEL) or with personal attributes (saguna) has been a subject of extensive debate among Hindu scholars.
To be ultimate, Brahman must transcend (exist above and beyond) all limiting attributes, such as name, gender, form, and features.
But how can the human mind, with its limitations, conceive of this transcendent reality? Human comprehension requires a more personal reality, with attributes. Thus the need for saguna (personification of the ultimate).

Ishvara, forgive me
Saguna Brahman is also called Ishvara (LORD), a name best translated as "Lord." A quotation attributed to Shankara illustrates the subtlety of these ideas:
"Ishvara, forgive these three sins of mine: that although you are everywhere I have gone on a pilgrimage, although you are beyond the mind I have tried to think of you; and although you are ineffable [indescribable] I offer this hymn in praise of you."

Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva: The Trimurti
Brahma (SUPREME CREATOR) corresponds to the creative spirit from which the universe arises.
Vishnu (SUPREME SUPPORTER) corresponds to the force of order that sustains the universe.
Shiva (SUPREME DESTROYER) corresponds to the force that brings a cycle to an end�destruction acting as a prelude to transformation, leaving pure consciousness from which the universe is reborn after destruction.

Personal deities
The majority of Hindus choose a personal deity, a saguna form of Brahman with whom they can feel a direct personal connection.
Devotion to this deity can take a number of forms, including prayer, ceremonial worship, chanting (SAY SAME-OLD-THING) of the deity's name, and pilgrimage (VISIT HOLY PLACE WORSHIP) to sites sacred to the deity.

Brahmanda: The Universe
All of creation arises from Brahman, according to Hindu teaching. Brahman is both the efficient cause of the universe (creator) as well as the material cause (substance of which the universe is created). For this reason, all of creation is divine and deserving of our respect. Time in the Hindu universe moves in endlessly recurring cycles, much like the motion of a wheel.

Atman: The Innermost Self
Our bodies are in constant flux, but inside us lies the atman, our innermost self, as opposed to the material self (our body, thoughts, and feelings) that is part of the universe.
We lose sight of this because of our passionate involvement with our material self and its search for happiness in this universe.
The universe can never provide perfect and permanent happiness, because it, like our material self, is in a state of constant flux.
We attain true happiness only through an awareness of our atman and the discovery of its true relationship with Brahman.
By achieving awareness of our atman and its unity with Brahman, we attain not only happiness, but also moksha (LIFE CYCLE++ RELEASE), or liberation. But liberation from what?
At one level, the liberation is from unhappiness, but the answer provided by Vedanta Hinduism goes deeper: Moksha is liberation from a chain of lives.

Samsara (LIFE CYCLE++, SUFFER) is caused by a lack of knowledge of our true self and our resultant desire for fulfillment outside ourselves.
We continue to embody ourselves, or be reborn as a result of these unfulfilled desires.
The chain of births lets us resume the pursuit.
The law that governs samsara is called karma (LIFE CYCLE"sta" LAW). Each birth and death we undergo is determined by the balance sheet of our karma�that is, in accordance with the actions performed and the dispos-itions acquired in the past.

Brahman through the yogas
hatha yoga = physical discipline
This is what most people visualize when they hear or see the word "yoga" karma yoga = the discipline of action
A life of selfless deeds and actions appropriate to the person's station in life
bhakti yoga = the discipline of devotion; unconditional love for a personal divinity
jnana yoga = the discipline of knowledge; spiritual and physical discipline intended to bring direct insight into ultimate reality

Ashrama (LIFE BY-STAGES): Stages of Life
(1) Celibate student, preparation and training for leading a proper life.
(2) Householder, marrying, working, and raising a family as an active member of society.
(3) Around age 50, when the children are grown, the individual gradually begins to give up acquisitions and worldly ties and to take up spiritual contemplation in preparation for the next stage.
(4) Renunciation of the world to seek liberation in sublime isolation.
Some Hindus choose to devote their entire lives to the quest for moksha (union with the divine). They become renunciants (sannyasis: PLEASURE DETACH) and are free from the obligations of varna (the caste system) and ashrama (life stages).
A sannyasi who joins a monastic order takes the title swami (PLEASURE DETACH, JOIN COMMUNITY).

Spiritual authority in Hinduism flows from enlightened sages called gurus (GOD MAN). The guru is someone who has attained realization and acts as a guide for other human beings.
He or she guides the individual seeker of truth and self-realization to the appropriate deity, practice, or yoga within Hinduism.
The disciple's goal is to transcend the need for a guru.

The Vedas are the Hindu scriptures, but they have no author.
The Vedas appear along with creation at the beginning of each cycle of time.
Then Brahma, who presides over the remanifestation of the universe, recites the Vedas and sages hear them anew.
These divinely heard scriptures are then transmitted orally from master to disciple.


Buddhist pages on my website
Resources for religious/spiritual interpreting: Buddhism
Signs for Buddhism
Indigenous signs for countries: Asia
Indigenous signs for cities: Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore
Deaf cultures and Sign Languages of the world - Asia.
Deaf cultures and Sign Languages of the world: Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore

Buddhism - Origins
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, born in Lumbini, Nepal, son of the ruler of a petty kingdom in about 563 BCE.
Raised in sheltered luxury, until at 29 he realized how empty his life had been.
Renouncing earthly attachments, he embarked on a quest for peace and enlightenment, seeking release from the cycle of rebirths.

Buddhism - Origins
For the next few years he practiced Yoga and adopted a life of radical asceticism (SELF DISCIPLINE).
Eventually he adopted a middle path between the life of indulgence (PLEASURE, HEAVY-INTO) and that of self-denial (PLEASURE, COMFORT, SET-ASIDE).
Sitting under a bo tree, he meditated, rising through a series of higher states of consciousness until he attained the enlightenment for which he had been searching.
The Buddha began to preach, wandering from place to place, gathering a body of disciples, and organizing them into a monastic ([O^] changes to [5] while throwing the end of a monk's robe over the shoulder + PLACE) community known as the sangha ([O^] changes to [5] while throwing the end of a monk's robe over the shoulder + COMMUNITY).
In this way he spent the rest of his life.

Buddhism - Beliefs
Started as monastic movement within the dominant Brahman tradition of the day.
The Buddha (1) rejected significant aspects of Hindu philosophy, (2) challenged the authority of the priesthood (INDIA P-R-I-E-S-T, REJECT), (3) denied the validity of the Vedic scriptures, and (4) rejected the sacrificial cult based on them.
The Buddha opened his movement to members of all castes (SOCIETY HIERARCHY), denying that a person's spiritual worth is a matter of birth.
Today there are two major branches
Theravada (OLD WISE THEIRS+), the Way of the Elders
Mahayana (MAJORITY BUDDHISM), the Great Vehicle, who derogate Theravada as Hinayana, the Lesser Vehicle.

The Four Noble Truths
(1) Life is suffering (dukkha - SUFFER).
(2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment (ADDICTED HAVE THINGS), and grasping that result from such ignorance.
(3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment.
(4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

Noble Eightfold Path
(1) Right views (OPINION PROPER) knowledge
(2) Right intention (INTEND PROPER) commitment
(3) Right speech (COMMUNICATE PROPER) non-injury & economy
(4) Right action (ACT PROPER) compassion
(5) Right livelihood (WORK PROPER) not killing or selling intoxicants
(6) Right effort (TRY PROPER) pure mental states
(7) Right-mindedness (THINK PROPER) awareness of body, feeling, state of mind, and phenomena
(8) right concentration (MEDITATE PROPER) attention and meditation

Workshop summary
Learn how to work with key people to prep for religious topics using role play
Become familiar with written/video resources for four religions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism
Discuss how to develop or research possible signs, esp. indigenous signs