Some communities just get it: They understand that inclusion a mindset, a way of thinking about how we treat one another, ensuring that everyone has a place. These communities understand that inclusion is who we are and who we want to be. I've been fortunate to know and work in a few such communities - like URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA.
In this, the 26th year of the ADA, I hope the wider Jewish community will vow to raise the consciousness of synagogues everywhere, so when they meet such a child or adult or family, their hearts and arms are already wide.
The modern cantor has a place in all of Jewish communal life. The cantor interacts with everyone in the community, and therefore, the cantor has a great opportunity to affect positive change for people with disabilities within the community.
Within our congregations are individuals who live with disabilities, as well as family members and friends and people who support people with disabilities. As Jewish leaders, we simply cannot ignore a fifth of our community or treat them as marginal members.
We know it’s important – and invaluable – to create a seat in the classroom for every child. But saying is easier than doing. How can we use the rules of improv to make inclusion happen in our congregations?
At the heart of the Reform Movement’s commitment to the concept of “audacious hospitality” is the belief that we will be a stronger, more vibrant community when we fully integrate the diversity that is the reality – and the future – of modern Jewish life. Jewish Disability Advocacy and Inclusion Month give us the opportunity to strengthen our commitment to social change and highlight the need for ongoing awareness.
Rather than planning separate programming for people with disabilities, take a look at what your community already offers and view it through an inclusive lens. Ask, “What can we do to make this more inclusive?”