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Dennis Shulman, a blind rabbi and psychologist, is running for congress against the most right-wing congressman in most of the country, Rep. Scott Garrett. Garrett, supported by far-right forces, helped kick a moderate Republican, Marge Roukema, out of the NJ-05, three terms ago.

Because the district was created to make a Democratic challenge virtually impossible, Garrett has gotten away with murder. He has been so extreme in his rightist agenda that even his fellow Republicans criticize and call him ' a nut."  The latest person to do this was the political director of McCain's campaign.

Up until not too long ago there were few professionals who believed that Shulman had any chance at all.

However, Shulman is no ordinary challenger. Not by any means.

In an amazingly candid story in the NY Times, he gives his life story.

I will let this sweet man speak for himself.

“Look, my story is not a gimmick; it’s my life,” he said. “And my whole life, going blind as a child, growing up poor in Worcester, Mass., going to Brandeis and Harvard, how I do the things I do, has all been about solving problems. It’s the same way with my work as a psychologist and a rabbi. The major critique I have of Garrett is that he’s an ideologue; he’s not a problem solver. I am.”

Whatever happens in the race, Dr. Shulman, 58, has a pretty remarkable tale to tell. A nerve disorder was diagnosed when he was 5. It began costing him his sight until he was totally blind by the age of 15. He worked at a toy factory as a child, then graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Brandeis. He then received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Harvard.

In 2003, he was ordained as a rabbi and published a book, “The Genius of Genesis: A Psychoanalyst and Rabbi Examines the First Book of the Bible.”

In college, he said, long before the law began addressing disabilities, he had to find his own way of taking tests, getting material to professors and navigating the Boston subway system. By comparison, life now offers unimaginable opportunities. John McCain may still be figuring out how to navigate the Web, but Dr. Shulman uses two computers.

The first, he said, is like a personal digital assistant that functions as “a talking Braille input/Braille output computer.” The other is a conventional laptop PC with a speech synthesizer.

“I bless this every time I go on,” he said, moving from one to the other as well as to a Braille printer in the basement office of his house. “I got my first personal computer with a speech synthesizer in 1983, and all of a sudden I went from not being able to read a daily newspaper to reading millions of them. Now, there are rabbis and psychologists out there who e-mail me if they can’t find something on the Web, and I’ll find it for them.”

None of that led him to politics. The past eight years did. He figures you do not need eyes that work to see what a nightmare the Bush years have been. His wife said that instead of wanting to throw his shoes at the television set, he should do something about it. So he decided to take on Mr. Garrett, who has represented the district since being elected in 2002 and has amassed one of the most conservative voting records in Congress. Mr. Garrett earned a rare 100 percent rating through 2007 from the American Conservative Union — with votes against stem cell research, against the reauthorization of the voting rights act and against aid to Katrina victims.

“It’s so out of step with this district,” Dr. Shulman said. “This is not the most conservative district in the United States of America. He speaks from the Republican playbook, and Americans are sick of the party playbook. I don’t have a playbook. Maybe they don’t put it in Braille.”

He spoke with another blind man, New York Gov. David A. Paterson, who helped him reach out to the sighted.

“When I won the primary, he called to support me, and we agreed that blindness is the new gay.”

Please. We are so close to winning this one and kicking Garrett out for ever.

Do the right thing. Give a few dollars, whatever you can spare. If you can volunteer for the GOTV so much better. At the present time Shulman is almost over the top in beating Garrett.

I gave. Will you?

Originally posted to Hao Ren on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 03:49 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sounds like a neat guy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, grada3784

    But, um, he mentioned his wife, and I wonder if he's ever been beaten up for being blind.

    I'm actually kind of shocked that he'd say something like that. There's really no comparison.

    We're all Georgians, and we're all fundamentals, but we're not all Americans?

    by BoiseBlue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 03:53:33 PM PDT

    •  Not sure, but I think the point is that it does (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grada3784, luckylizard, Hao Ren

      not matter to (many) voters to be gay or blind the way it once did.

      •  Could be (0+ / 0-)

        But there is not a lot of context in the article about where that quote came from. Especially given the comment quoted downthread, he seems to understand the struggles that the LGBT community face, so I'm really stumped as to why he'd say something like that.

        Regardless, he really does sound like an awesome guy, and I hope he wins.

        We're all Georgians, and we're all fundamentals, but we're not all Americans?

        by BoiseBlue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:06:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Do you have to be beaten to feel like an (2+ / 0-)


      Give the guy a break. He is super supportive of the GLBT community, a lot more than most Rabbis I know.

      Being blind in a sighted world is a major challenge. These people are discriminated against from all sides. I really feel for them and have incredible respect for Rabbi Shulman.

      How many of us could have done what he did and is now doing.

      Frankly, almost no one really wanted to take on Garrett since it was considered so hopeless.

      Incidentally, for what it is worth, I am an openly gay man and also Jewish. I have been beaten up for both of these things here in the good ole USA.  I also have met many gay men and Jewish people who are total assholes.

      Shulman is an inspiration for me.

      •  Calm down (0+ / 0-)

        I said he sounds awesome, but they are two entirely different things. I have respect for him, too, and I'm glad he has inspired you. I was just wondering why he would equate those two things, especially considering that he does seem to have a firm grasp of what gays were up against.

        It just seems like a non sequiter.

        We're all Georgians, and we're all fundamentals, but we're not all Americans?

        by BoiseBlue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:28:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I took it from the minority angle. (2+ / 0-)

      For years and years, Barney Frank was the only openly gay politician most people had ever heard of.  Little by little, especially in state and local govt, gays have been elected and done good work, to the point where being gay is not an automatic impediment to elected service.  In many areas it's a total non-issue.

      There may have been high-profile blind people in office that I just haven't heard of, but Paterson is certainly a great standard-bearer for the blind in high office.  A blind congressman would break down one more barrier.

      Anyway, that's how I understood it.  I can't imagine he'd mean anything nasty by it.

      -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

      by luckylizard on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 04:25:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  the man understands discrimination (5+ / 0-)

    he's at your back

    I have a vision of an inclusive America that leaves no community out. I am proud that New Jersey has some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the nation, and I want to help bring New Jersey’s fine example to Washington. We should all come together to make sure that none of our family, friends, and neighbors are treated unfairly. Unfortunately, Scott Garrett has an extreme anti-LGBT voting record.


    In Congress, I will champion pro-equality legislation such as the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act and a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), since all Americans deserve equal protection under the law. I will vote to repeal the failed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which has resulted in the expulsion of honorable servicemen and women just when we need them the most.

    As a spiritual leader, I am personally offended by government intrusion into my religious practice. In Congress, I will oppose changing the Constitution with the Federal Marriage Amendment, and I will support equal benefits for federal employees. I support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which has denied people in long-term, committed relationships, who might own property together and raise children together, basic rights such as hospital visitation, fairness in wills and trusts, and employment benefits.

    As a doctor, I support access to affordable health care for everyone, including children, seniors, and people with HIV/AIDS. It is critical that we invest significantly in the fight against AIDS globally and at home. I support full funding of the Ryan White CARE Act to improve treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS, and I believe we need to expand access to treatment for low-income individuals living with HIV.

    Satyagraha ~ there is no force in the world that is so direct or so swift in working.

    by under the bodhi tree on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 03:59:29 PM PDT

  •  Don't tell me they want to get married too... (8+ / 0-)

    Just ain't natural... marriage is in the eyes of the law.

  •  the sentiment is all right (0+ / 0-)

    but the comment is just tacky.

    I wonder what this rabbi's reaction would be to a politician running for office who said "gays are the new jews."

    •  Actually, I think he'd be totally fine with it. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      under the bodhi tree

      I am OK, as a gay and Jewish man, with a politician saying, "Gays are the new Jews."

      I was born in the 1940's. Things have changed considerably for blind people, gays and Jews since then but they weren't so great for a long time and still are far from wonderful. We are all still outsiders and I am reminded of this in many ways when I interact with certain people. I won't bore you with my own history but I chose the quote for the diary header precisely because it really speaks to me.

      Obviously, it doesn't speak to many others:)

      Anyway, the more I learn about Shulman the more I like the guy. Whether he wins or not I plan to follow his life and, hopefully, example.

      As you may have noticed, all of my diaries revolve around his campaign.

  •  the new gay (0+ / 0-)

    If you're gay & blind you're actually old gay & new gay all at once?

  •  Blind Eye for the Sighted Guy (0+ / 0-)

    Now there's a blind-gay convergence concept that has some legs to it.  

    -5.38/-3.74 I've suffered for my country. Now it's your turn! --John McCain with apologies to Monty Python's "Protest Song"

    by Rich in PA on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 05:25:39 PM PDT

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