If I told you that there was a frum young woman who was a schoolteacher, standup comedian, artist and activist, I’m sure you’d be intrigued. But what if I added that this multitalented person was only four feet tall?
Well, I recently had to get up at 4:30 a.m. so I could talk to her on the phone, thanks to the seven-hour time difference. Speaking from Israel in between her shows, she shared her inspirational life story with AmiLiving readers.
“My name is Pedut, and I am a dwarf. Not only am I very short, but I have a large head and short arms and legs. I was born in France and lived there for the first five years of my life until my family moved to Israel. Needless to say, I was the smallest child in my gan and then later on in school. The move was very hard for me at first. Not only did I miss my friends, but I didn’t know a word of Hebrew to help me make new ones. When the other kids would laugh at me and make fun of my height, I couldn’t even answer them back. So it was very painful, not only because I was new but I was also being mocked. I can still remember when the only thing I wanted in life was to be tall enough to drink from the water fountain in the schoolyard. After running around during recess, all of the children would line up to take a sip. It was very humiliating to try to reach the spigot and not be able to. I would walk back to my classroom with my face all red and feeling totally demoralized.”
“When did you realize that you were different?” I ask her.
“There was no definitive moment. People often ask me how old I was when I learned that I had dwarfism, but the truth is that I was never formally told about it. My parents never made a thing about it. The only thing that made me conscious of being different was not being able to reach the sink, or sitting in a chair and having my feet dangle above the floor. Fortunately, I was blessed with wonderful parents who taught me an extremely important lesson in life. It is so important for people to internalize it, because it has the power to change their lives. My parents explained that whatever a person says about you doesn’t matter We have no control over what people say about us, but we have 100% control over how we react. We can choose to feel hurt, get angry, love or hate. The choice is in our hands. My mother would always quote the Haggadah: ‘Chacham, mah hu omeir—What does the wise person say?’ meaning that whatever comes out of a person’s mouth determines whether that person is smart or not.
“This is really an important point. I always hear people complaining about what others say about them. ‘How could she say that I’m fat? I thought she was my friend!’ But once we understand that what other people say really doesn’t matter, they no longer have the power to determine who you are or how you should feel about yourself. I remember running home with tears in my eyes after some kids had laughed at me in the park. ‘I’m never going back there again,’ I told my mother. ‘That’s it.’ ‘What kind of nonsense is that?’ she replied. ‘Let them stay home. What they say isn’t your problem.’ To my parents, having dwarfism was a non-issue.
“Ever since I was a child I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to prove that it doesn’t matter what kind of circumstances you’re born into, but only what you choose to do with your life. So as soon as I graduated from high school I enrolled in a seminary that gave me the chance to earn a certificate in drama as well as in teaching. I’d always loved performing on stage. It’s the only place that makes me feel a little tall! So I studied and studied and earned a diploma from Israel’s Ministry of Education stating that I was now qualified to teach drama. I sent out my résumé to all the schools I’d ever heard of and asked people to put in a good word for me. I was sure I’d be teaching by the very next morning, but a week went by and I was still unemployed. The same scenario kept happening. A school would invite me down for an interview and then never call me back, or else they’d suddenly discover that they really didn’t need a teacher after all. It was very painful to be repeatedly rejected like that. I started to worry that maybe I’d dreamt too big a dream after all. But I held onto the belief that the day would come when my dream was fulfilled. I refused to give up!” she says with determination.