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Deaf Group at Crossroads



Jewish Exponent
JANUARY 6, 2015
By: Eric Berger

Richard Balsam stands at the head of a table directing fellow members of the Hebrew Association for the Deaf as they play a game, stacking chips and holding up cards after a Thanks­giving meal at their building in Northeast Philadelphia.

The room is filled with about 40 people, mostly middle age and senior adults who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some of them have been involved with the group for decades.

But the younger generation hasn’t followed suit. Over the last 20 years, more deaf people have undergone surgery to put in cochlear implants, small electronic hearing devices that are particularly effective when introduced at a young age. The implants, along with video-calling technologies such as Skype and FaceTime, which allow people who use sign language or read lips to remotely communicate with one another, have removed some of the challenges that in effect helped create a distinct deaf culture.

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