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A Message from EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon on National Disability Employment Awareness Month October 2020

Itzhak Perlman’s parents were among many Polish Jews who fled the country in the 1930s. They made Aliyah – a Jewish pilgrimage to what would become modern Israel after the war. 

Itzhak’s grandparents and other family members, sadly, were among many more who stayed behind, hoping like so many others that the war would pass, and they would be able to stay at home in peace. 

In 1945, Itzhak Perlman was born in the Holy Land.  He may have escaped the holocaust, but he couldn’t escape an attack of polio at age four which left him dependent on leg braces, crutches and later scooters to get around.

By then, he had already gotten hooked on music, especially the violin, ever since hearing a classical music performance on the radio. At age three, he was denied admis­sion to the Shulamit Conservatory -- for being too small to hold a violin! And so, besides coping with polio, he taught himself how to play using a toy fiddle until he was older and big enough to study at the conservatory and at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv.  There he gave his first recital at age 10. 

He moved to the United States at age 13 to study at New York’s famed Juilliard School.  His fame as a young prodigy landed him on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958.  He made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1963 and won the prestigious Leventritt Competition in 1964. 

He wasn’t finished with The Ed Sullivan Show either. In 1964 he made his second appearance on the “really big shew,” on the same program with a bunch of other young musical sensations called The Rolling Stones.

Itzhak and his talent just kept soaring.  He’s unstoppable and indefatigable. He’s performed, toured, recorded and conducted for decades, all over the world, up to the present. He’s gifted the world with his presentations of classical music, and jazz too, in every conceivable communications medium. He’s played for American presidents and Queen Elizabeth. He’s racked up 15 Grammys, four Emmys, the National Medal of Arts, the Medal of Liberty and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many other awards. 

Besides his musical prowess, Itzhak has been outspoken on civil rights and inclusiveness for all, which brings us to our territory, and gives a little added inspiration during October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month. 

Of course, we at the EEOC know all too well, there are many Itzhak Perlmans out there who are kept out of a job because of disabilities like his and others.

The EEOC is here to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and advance equal opportunity for all in the workplace for people like Itzhak Perlman and countless other people with disabilities. The EEOC will continue to make sure that employers treat people fairly, so they will see and appreciate their talents.