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November 23, 2014 | 1st Kislev 5775

Union for Reform Judaism Puts Spotlight on Accessibility and Reform Jewish Life During Month of February

In observance of Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM), the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is devoting the month of February to highlighting the URJ's many resources to help Reform congregations welcome those with special needs and disabilities.

Contact: Annette Powers
apowers@urj.org
212-650-4154

 

Feb. 2011, New York – In observance of Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM), the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is devoting the month of February to highlighting the URJ’s many resources to help Reform congregations welcome those with special needs and disabilities.

Some of these resources include Special Needs camps and Israel programs; ideas for b'nei mitzvah planning, religious school, and congregational needs; and best practices from congregations across the continent. 

Reform congregations are paving the way in this arena. For example, Congregation Children of Israel in Augusta, Georgia had 8th grade students conduct an extensive handicapped accessibility survey, choose one improvement that needed to be made and raised money to accomplish that goal.  And Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City was recently awarded a URJ Incubator Grant for their special needs worship services pilot project, designed to provide families and children with special needs with the opportunity to worship together in an accessible, inclusive, and sensitive environment.

Details about these and many other projects can be found on the URJ disabilities page, which hosts a variety of resources including videos, blog entries, personal stories, educator resources, worship resources, best practices and more.

Additional items will be added to the webpage throughout the month and a comprehensive list of resources on special needs rights and advocacy can be found on the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's page. Twitter users can join in the discussion by following and using the hashtag #JDAM.

“Together we can use this month to break down physical, communication, and attitudinal barriers, educate our communities on what accessibility and inclusion really mean, and reach out to Jews with disabilities and special needs,” said URJ President, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie. ”Our goal is the full participation in the spiritual, educational and communal aspects of synagogue life for people living with disabilities and for their families.”

The Jewish International Special Education Consortium started promoting JDAM in 2009.

“JDAM promotes the idea that living a Jewish life is not dependent on one's ability but rather on one's desire to live Jewishly in the world,” said JDAM founder Shelly Christensen. “The number of congregations and communities recognizing Jewish Disability Awareness Month grows each year. Jews with disabilities and their families are no longer missing from the snapshot of Jewish life. Many people who were once on the margins of Jewish life are now deeply involved in synagogues and Jewish institutions as members, professionals, volunteers, leaders, students and worshipers.”

For more information, please visit the URJ resource on disabilities.

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