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New York, NY, March 21, 2017 - The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) today announced the strengthening of their important partnership supporting the URJ’s vital work around disabilities inclusion.
The RFF has contributed close to $1 million to the URJ in a unique partnership for disabilities inclusion awareness work, including a new $300,000 grant over two years for the URJ RFF Disabilities Inclusion Initiative.
The new focus of the partnership will be bringing together evidence-based disabilities inclusion information and the exceptional wisdom and experience of URJ leadership and program experts to enhance understanding of this issue among the entire URJ staff. The work will be aimed at supporting Reform movement staff in working effectively toward full inclusion of those with disabilities.
To advance this work, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs is launching a new URJ Presidential Disabilities Inclusion Initiative. The Initiative will be led by Rabbi Edythe Mencher, who has headed up the URJ’s disabilities inclusion work during the first three years of the URJ-RFF grant initiative, and who was the driving force behind the renewed partnership. Joseph Robbins will become Assistant Director of the Initiative.
“By working across the URJ’s strategic priorities – Audacious Hospitality, Strengthening Congregations, Tikkun Olam and Youth – the new URJ RFF partnership will allow us to work effectively with individuals and communities in more profound ways than ever,” said Rabbi Jacobs. “The URJ thanks the Ruderman Family Foundation for their continuing and evolving partnership and support, and we applaud Rabbi Mencher and Joseph Robbins for this outstanding recognition of their exceptional and ongoing work. We are grateful to be able to join with others to create a more just and compassionate world in which every person is valued, welcomed, and provided with the means to fulfill their spiritual, emotional, educational and social potential.”
“Reform synagogues throughout the United States and Canada have become more inclusive of people with disabilities, and our Jewish communities have grown stronger as a result of this work,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Our partnership with the URJ will be a powerful catalyst to expand this work. We will work with URJ leadership and staff to help them to bring inclusion awareness and skills to all URJ efforts, so that the message of inclusion reaches synagogues, youth programs, camps, and more. The Ruderman Family Foundation is excited to continue on this journey with the URJ, to make our Jewish community more inclusive, welcoming, and just.”
The URJ will continue the popular online Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center, open to all, and the Exemplar program to recognize congregations that excel at developing inclusive attitudes and practice. Other continuing partnership elements include robust disabilities advocacy and education programs through the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and ongoing efforts to advance inclusion in URJ youth and camping programs.
“This new approach, elevating inclusion in everything we do, is an important step beyond undertaking discrete projects focused on disability inclusion,” said Rabbi Mencher. “We will be guided in all of our endeavors by the wisdom, experience, and contributions of people with disabilities and by the leadership of the Ruderman Family Foundation. We are ready to move our work on disability inclusion to the next level, and grateful to the Ruderman Family Foundation for this opportunity to advance learning, understanding, and action.”
About the Ruderman Family Foundation
Guided by our Jewish values, the Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community. Our mission is to develop effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in the following areas: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community, Israel, and beyond; fostering a more nuanced understanding of the American Jewish community among Israeli leaders; and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.