Michelle Friedman is a life coach and a sought-after speaker, and has even appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. A mother and grandmother, she is a leader in the Jewish community, and she frequently hosts homemade Shabbat meals. She also has an active athletic life.
So being blind really has not slowed her down very much. In fact, she has just published a children's book, Close Your Eyes, explaining to kids what it is like to not see at all-and still not slow down.
Friedman was partially blind until age 35, at which point she lost the remainder of her sight. Since she has gone completely blind, Friedman has learned to ride horses, sail, and even ski.
Close Your Eyes follows a young blind girl as she shows readers how she can play, read, and do many other things any child can do.
"This book, by demystifying blindness, teaches children tolerance and acceptance of children who are different," Friedman said. "Hopefully, it will initiate dialogue with parents, teachers and other adults about disability, thereby removing the fear and creating an atmosphere of tolerance."
While Friedman has spoken at many places about her disability-and capabilities-she says that the book has reached more children and opened more doors. She regularly speaks at congregations and especially at schools, leading exercises in which children wear blindfolds and navigate their classrooms with canes. To show how she uses her hearing, she asks the students to clap, and throws a ball right to them.
Asked if being Jewish has changed for her since becoming fully blind, Friedman replied, "Well, I have a good excuse if I miss a crumb when searching the house for chametz (leavening)."
In fact, she has been exceedingly active in Jewish life. Over the past 25 years, she has served on the boards of SHALVA and the Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School. She has served as president of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy, and on its board. Currently, she is the president of Camp Moshava.
Through colorful illustrations and a character inspired by her own life, she also hopes her book can act as an inspiration for others who are blind or otherwise disabled, by portraying them in a positive and active light. "We are all the same," she says, "and each of us is a little different. But someone with a disability can be just as capable."