On the first day of Pesach, Chava Willig Levy, an internationally renowned lecturer and honorary author who overcame her childhood immobility due to polio, passed away.
Willig Levy, a resident of Woodmere and the sister of Rabbis Mordechai Willig and David Willig of Yeshiva University was paralyzed from the neck down due to contracting polio at the age of three.
She became an ardent supporter of the disabled after personally experiencing discrimination, and she went on to create works on the subject that were read by millions of people in both Jewish and secular media.
One of many books she published to widespread praise was her memoir from 2013, A Life Not With Standing, which detailed how polio affected her life and how she refused to let the illness define her.
As polio resurfaced over the past year, Willig Levy became a vocal supporter of the polio vaccine, citing how she acquired the disease before the vaccine was readily accessible, according to Forward.
She was interviewed for a 13-minute promotional video for the vaccine by the Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association and discussed how an excruciating headache prevented her from attending the Shabbat table.
Willig Levy, placed on an iron lung so that he could breathe for a while, said, “Within three days, I was dangling perilously between life and death.”
Using her experiences with extended hospital stays, challenging surgeries, and the social isolation and stigma she encountered due to her paralysis, Willig Levy has spoken candidly about her difficulties.
She highlighted the value of optimism in her talks and in her Breathtaking podcast, which she established several years ago.
Willig, a mother of two who graduated with honors from Yeshiva University with a degree in French literature and an MBA, refused to let her dependence on a wheelchair prevent her from living life to the fullest.
On Monday, Willig Levy, 71, was laid to rest in Beit Shemesh, Israel. Her LinkedIn profile shows her perseverance and charisma, which describes her as “a writer, editor, and motivational speaker who zips around in a motorized wheelchair.”
Willig Levy posted on LinkedIn, “I have used my words to dispel prejudices about persons with disabilities, enabling my audiences to perceive disability with pride, not discrimination.”
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that, like my life, I don’t just talk about disabilities in my lectures, CDs, and publications.
They also enthusiastically and humorously discuss parenting, marriage, children, general spirituality, specifically Judaism, and the value and meaning of life.