February 6, 2014, New York, NY -- February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month,
a time when the entire Jewish community comes together to raise
and support efforts to foster inclusion of people with disabilities
and their families in Jewish communities worldwide. Shelly Christensen, a
member of the
URJ Faculty, founded Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM) in
2009 with this mission:
The goal of Jewish Disability Awareness Month is to shift our
attitudes to see that having a disability is part of the human
condition-and to see that
humanity in each person we meet. Jewish Disability Awareness Month
is universally recognized in February, but the need to belong and be
included goes on
month after month, day after day.
The Reform Movement is observing JDAM by promoting resources to help
congregations be at the forefront of communal inclusion. Throughout
February, ReformJudaism.org's blog
will feature posts on disability-related topics; as will RJ.org,
blog, several Reform Movement newsletters, as the entire Movement
comes together to elevate our values of inclusive, diverse and modern
"The URJs pledge to audacious hospitality includes a firm
commitment to help our congregations become the safe, welcoming and
loving spiritual homes
they are meant to be so that every individual, regardless of
ability, feels that they were created btzelem Elohim, in Gods image, said URJ President
Rabbi Rick Jacobs.
To foster broader cultural change, the Reform Movement is partnering
to advocate for public policies that ensure equal rights for all.
Today, the RAC and
Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA) are hosting the annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, where participants lobby their
officials directly on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and for swift passage of the ABLE Act.
URJ Camps are committed to providing a Reform Jewish summer
experience to all children, including those with disabilities. Inclusion
professionals hired by each of the URJs 14 camps, are prepared to
work with caregivers and professionals to plan for and provide a
experience for all children.
In addition, URJ Camps offer several specific programs for young
people with disabilities. URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY, offers an
summer-camping experience for teens ages 13-19 diagnosed with Autism
Spectrum Disorders. Camp Chazak, located at Eisner and Crane Lake Camps
Massachusetts, was developed for kids entering fifth through eighth
grades whose social delays impair their ability to function in a typical
And now, during JDAM, the URJs Camp Coleman in Cleveland, GA, is
pleased to announce the Chadash program for young adults ages 18-24 with
and/or developmental disabilities. Chadash will provide vocational
training in a supervised work setting along with an opportunity for the
join in a wide range of recreational, social, and educational
components of camp life.
"Over the past several years, Camp Coleman and other URJ camps have
taken steps to ensure that campers with developmental and intellectual
can fully participate in our camps. Because of these efforts, we now
have a population of young adults with disabilities who want to remain
or become part
of our camp staff, said URJ Camp Coleman Director Bobby Harris.
Not only will the Chadash program teach important skills that these
young people will be
able to take away from camp, but the entire camp community will also
see how the Reform Movement recognizes the contributions of every
Below are several programs,
opportunities and resources the Reform Movement is pursuing as part of our commitment to inclusive Jewish life.
The URJ recently announced a new Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Initiative,
which offers education to
counter misconceptions about disabilities among community leaders
and clergy, Jewish professionals, organizational leaders, and
congregants, and to ensure
full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities and
their families in every aspect of Reform Jewish life.
Reform congregations are also invited to join the Disability Inclusion Active Learning Network,
a 4-month program that offers opportunities for
congregations to learn from professionals in the disabilities
community, as well as from congregations that have successfully
strategies that enrich congregational life, increase membership and
strengthen sacred relationships among members.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaisms resources Disability Rights page
shares material for communities and congregations, articles,
and information about the Reform Jewish community's advocacy efforts
around disability issues. The Reform Jewish Movement has urged Congress
to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and called for swift
passage of the ABLE Act. Advocates can continue to contact their officials
directly with our online advocacy actions: