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June 09, 1989 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

COMMUNITY

ELIZABETH KAPLAN

Features Editor

K

aren was just a little
girl when her parents
decided they could no
longer care for her. She had
Down's syndrome, the leading
cause of mental retardation.
They turned to their local
Jewish family service.
Workers at the agency
agreed to help. They promis-
ed to find a Jewish home for
the girl.
Meanwhile, Karen stayed in
foster homes and institutions,
hoping for a family. She
waited for 11 years. No one
wanted her.
And then, when Karen was
18, it happened. A couple in
Ohio expressed interest in
adopting her. They already
had their own troubles — the
father suffered poor eyesight;
the mother was blind; their
retarded child had been kill-
ed in an auto accident. And
they weren't Jewish. Yet they
seemed the perfect parents for
Karen.
"We want a child nobody
else does," they said.
Karen is one of hundreds of
Jewish children with Down's
syndrome whom Janet Mar-
chese has placed in adoptive
homes. Marchese, who will be
honored next week with the
Jewish Association for
Retarded Citizens 1989
Humanitarian Award, is
director of the Down Syn-
drome Adoption Exchange.
She's also the agency's
social worker, bookkeeper and
secretary. The exchange is a
one-woman, volunteer
organization.
"She is who she is: too good
to be true," poet and "mitzvah
man" Danny Siegel wrote of
Marchese.
Marchese has arranged for
the adoption of more than
1,300 children throughout
the United States, Israel,
Europe and other nations.
She believes at least 80 per-
cent of the children she has
placed are Jewish.
Marchese, who lives in New
York, said she doesn't know
why Jewish families opt not
to keep their Down's syn-
drome children. But there are
many parents — the majority
of whom are not Jewish —
who want them.
Usually, the interested
couples are individuals who
understand handicaps and
who have had healthy
children of their own. They
are religious, though not
"Bible-bangers," and general-

ly reside on farms or in relax-
ed, quiet areas.
Janet Marchese and her
husband, Louis, became in-
terested in children with
Down's syndrome because of
her son, T.J.
The Marcheses already had
two children of their own
when they decided to adopt
more in 1976. While awaiting
the arrival of two Korean
girls, the Marcheses received
a call from their social
worker: Would they be in-
terested in serving as foster
parents to a newborn with
Down's syndrome?
"Down's syndrome?" Mar-
chese recalled saying.
"What's that?"
Soon after, T.J. (Todd
Jonathan), arrived. Three and
a half weeks later, the Mar-
cheses decided to keep him.
The family's social worker
advised them against adop-
ting T.J. because "I don't
think it would be fair to the
other children to have a
retarded brother."
First, the Marcheses polite-
ly ignored her comments.
Next, they went to the library.
They studied and read and
learned everything they could
about Down's syndrome.
Her research, Janet Mar-
chese said, led her to the con-

The family's social
worker advised
them against
adopting T.J.

clusion that "not only I had
known nothing about Down's
syndrome — neither did most
people.
"So I decided we had to do
some educating, and we had
to do it quickly."
Not long after adopting T.J.,
Janet Marchese came into
contact with a man whose
daughter had Down's syn-
drome. He couldn't take care
of her, he said. He needed to
find her a good home.
Marchese listened carefully.
She had an idea. A couple in
Massachusetts had expressed
interest in adopting T.J.
before he came to her home.
"I always felt kind of bad
about that," she said.
So Marchese went to work.
She called a social service
agency and asked for the
name and phone number of
the Massachusetts family.
"Who are you?" she was
asked.
"Oh, I'm Janet from the
National Down Syndrome
Adoption Agency," she

responded. It was, she admits,
an agency she created that
instant.
It was Marchese's first
match, and it was perfect. The
father of the adoptive family
was so pleased he told Mar-
chese: "I'm going to put your
name in every service
organization and in every doc-
tor's office I can find."
Thus, the National Down
Syndrome Exchange was
founded.
Marchese does much of her
work through agencies that
carefully examine families
wishing to adopt children.
Sometimes, individuals —
both those seeking children
and those wanting to put
them up for adoption — call
Marchese directly.
Marchese said she has yet
tc meet a child for whom she
cannot find a home.
While two foundations pay
for Marchese's phone bill and
birth parents involved in the
adoption usually cover the
cost of the air fare for the
child from one home to
another, Marchese continues
to incur expenses because of
her involvement with the ex-
change. So she works part
time as a waitress and sells
antique dolls, left to her by
her grandmother.
She also spends much time
patiently and carefully
dispelling myths about
children with Down's syn-
drome. They do not all die ear-
ly, she said, and many can
function at a high level. They
learn to do many physical ac-
tivities, such as swimming
and sports, though it will take
them longer than other
children.
Children with Down's syn-
drome also will grow to be
self-sufficient and can live
alone, she said.
But perhaps most impor-
tant is that they bring to
families unusual blessings
that Marchese calls magic.
"They have a great sense
for people's feelings," Mar-
chese said. "And they can
teach you how to slow down
and see things you've never
seen before.
"I remember the other day
we were out in the garden
planting flowers and T.J. call-
ed me over and said, 'Mom,
look at this little bug with the
orange wings!' " And we all
said, 'You know, that's really
interesting. Orange wings.
Have we ever noticed before?'
"My husband describes it
like this: it's as though T.J.
has one hand on us and one
hand touched by God." ❑

Janet Marchese and T.J.

Big Ingredients For
Kosher Food Fair

ALAN HITSKY

Associate Editor

0

rganizers have had to
change the recipe
after last year's
Kosher Food Fair. Or find a
bigger pot.
An event that was expected
to attract 500 in 1988 had an
attendance of 2,000 waiting
to sample kosher foods and
family entertainment as part
of the Neighborhood Project.
This Sunday, Kosher Food
Fair sponsors are expecting
2,000 and have an attractive
program to match. "We have
planned a menu of kosher
samples" from area suppliers
"that is complete from soup to
nuts," said Norma Silver,
director of the Neighborhood
Project. "Someone should be
able to go around the room
and pick up a complete lunch,
if you don't mind small por-
tions."
Food items will inlcude
gefilte fish balls, farfel and
kugels, main course items
and desserts.
The fair, at United Hebrew
Schools' building in
Southfield from 1:30 to 4:30
p.m., is being held in coopera-
tion with The Jewish News
and the Jewish Experiences
For Families program. Addi-
tional parking is available at
Congregation Beth Achim,
and a shuttle bus will connect
the two sites.
In addition to food, caterers
and retail establishments will

be distributing kosher
recipes, discount coupons and
conduct a raffle. J.E.F.F.'s
Sefer Safari, Jewish reading
program for kids, will be in-
itiated and Sinai Hospital
dieticians will discuss how to
keep kosher and healthy.
Six ponies will give rides to
the youngsters and Franco
the balloon man will create
balloon animals.
The Neighborhood Project,
under the auspices of the
Jewish Welfare Federation,
offers financial incentives for
Jewish families buying
homes in Oak Park and
Southfield. The Kosher Food
Fair was suggested by its
residents' groups last year.

Dancers Join
Israel Salute

Detroit's Hora Aviv Israeli
Dance Troupe recently
represented Michigan in the
American Zionist Youth
Foundation's "Salute to
Israel" in New York. The an-
nual festivities included a
parade and performances by
various international dance
groups.
Hora Aviv is composed of
the following members: Bela
Greenbaum, director; Shelly
Jackier, Fay Knoll, Barbara
Herman, Eli Shalom, Michel
Asulin, Janelle Teger, Judy
Apel, Rami Goldstein,
Michael Constan, Orik Dager
and Ofer Levy.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

41

relaimuniim

Matchmaker For 'Magic' Children
Will Receive Honor From JARC

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