Debbie Weissenberg was a remarkable woman who made a remarkable contribution to women in Tucson. Handicapped by child onset rheumatoid arthritis, she coined the term "differently abled" (instead of "disabled") during a national women's conference out of town. Eager to have Debbie involved in the women's movement, then Executive Director, Alison Hughes, nominated Debbie to be on the Women's Commission board of directors. As a Commissioner, she assumed a leadership role in the differently abled community. She recommended and then chaired a conference on the topic, the first of its kind in the state.
Today, we take for granted that differently abled people are in office jobs and at the University in graduate and doctoral programs, in law school, business school and playing pro-bono leadership roles in the community. But in the 1970s, this was not yet the case. Debbie Weissenberg's advocacy effort drew the attention of citizens and policy makers that differently abled people are able to function effectively in society, just differently.
Debbie taught mathematics for Pima County Adult Basic Education Program for many years during which time she wrote a text book on the subject. She played piano and performed.
Debbie also invented the feminist "seder," a variant on the Jewish holiday of Thanksgiving that takes place just before the Christian Easter. To do that, she had to rewrite the ritual text which of course gave credit to Moses and other male leaders for leading the ancient Israelites out of Egypt and delivering them the Ten Commandments. Another challenge for Debbie related to her interest in Jewish ritual was to blow the shofar (an ancient horn). This she did, we're told, as one of her last independent acts in the hospital before she died.
Since her death, Debbie's mother, Fran Weissenberg, also an active feminist, has carried on the feminist seder, using the same format and text from which her daughter wrote and read.