Kudos to UJA-Federation for celebrating the first ever “Inclusion Shabbat” two weeks ago! The event was written about recently in The Jewish Week, and it was described as an opportunity for synagogues from all over the New York metropolitan area to come together and “raise awareness about issues surrounding the inclusion of people with all of kinds of disabilities into the broad fabric of the Jewish community.” At JOI, we want to lower barriers and help everyone feel comfortable in the Jewish community, and the “Inclusive Shabbat” is exactly what our Big Tent Judaism Coalition strives to do; to welcome, engage and support all those who cast their lot with the Jewish people.
As Roberta Leiner, managing director of the Federation’s Caring Commission pointed out in the article, “We have an opportunity here to make sure that no Jew feels like they’re outside the Jewish community looking in.” She said that families with disabled members often feel like they are not part of the standard Jewish community, but more institutions are recognizing the need to “reach out to everyone in order to create whole communities.” Overall the Jewish community has come a long way in advocacy for those with disabilities by providing wheelchair ramps and elevators, large print books, and other aids for those with special needs. But there is still much work to be done. One way to start, if you haven’t already done so, is to sign up to be in our Big Tent Judaism Coalition. The Coalition is free, and by joining you are demonstrating your desire to embrace all those in the Jewish community and encourage their increased participation in Jewish life.