Overcoming Adversity: Glee Actress to Speak at Temple Israel, Sept. 10

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The hit TV show Glee features a character with Down syndrome, which, even as characters in shows and movies become more and more diverse, is still somewhat rare. Lauren Potter, 22, the actress who plays developmentally disabled cheerleader Becky Jackson, will speak at Temple Israel on Monday, Sept. 10.

The event, which is free but requires reservations, is a collaboration between JARC, a Jewish nonprofit organization that works with adults with developmental disabilities, and Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.

“We are excited to have an ongoing relationship between JARC and Temple Israel,” Rabbi Joshua Bennett said.

“It is important to support and sustain every member of our community by providing them a spiritual and physical home. Our relationship offers both for those with developmental disabilities in an organic and authentic way.”

Richard Loewenstein, CEO of JARC, explained, “Lauren has a powerful story to tell. Both of our organizations feel that her message about overcoming obstacles to achieve your dreams will be a valuable one to share with both young people and adults in our community.”

Potter’s message is a very positive one, despite the hardships she has faced.

“I really want audiences I speak to to see that if you have a dream and people who believe in you, you can do anything if you work hard,” she said. “I love being on the show and I love acting, but it’s also given me a voice to speak up for people with disabilities.”

Another way Potter gives people with disabilities a voice is through her work on President Obama’s Commission on Intellectual Disabilities.

“I want to work with the commission to help the president make good decisions for people like me and help people find real jobs and education and achieve a great quality of life,” she said. “I feel honored that the president trusts me to be on the commission.”

What Potter wishes more people understood about Down syndrome is that “people with Down are just like them. We want the same things in life, like jobs and friends. Different isn’t bad; this is just one way we’re different — and we’re all different in many ways.”

Her life is not that different from how it was before she started on Glee: “I still go to college, and I still have to do my chores,” she laughed, “but I do get to meet a lot more people, and I’m definitely a lot busier.

“Other than that, I’m pretty much the same girl.”

Potter spends a lot of on-screen time with Jane Lynch, who plays cunning cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. “I love Jane,” Potter said. “She is so wonderful and has helped me so much on set. And in real life, she’s so funny and nice — nothing like Sue.”

When Potter comes to Temple Israel to speak, she says she is excited to “meet really nice people in Michigan.” And, as she continues in her role on Glee and also pursues other roles, she said, “I hope the doors open wider and that more roles open up for other developmentally disabled actors.”

The event starts at 7 p.m. on Sept. 10. For reservations for the free program and the afterglow meet-and-greet ($36/ticket), contact Michelle Lichtman at (248) 661-5700.

For reservations to the intimate all-inclusive dinner ($300/ticket) and for information on corporate sponsorship packages, contact Lindsey Fox-Wagner at (248) 488-7524.

By Marielle Temkin/JN Intern

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