Say Hello to the New Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month

Inside Leadership

Say Hello to the New Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month

White computer keyboard featuring three blue buttons with varying disability symbols

For more than 10 years, Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) has focused on awareness and inclusion. Every February, Jewish communities worldwide join to advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities and mental health conditions to be active participants in Jewish life.

But inclusion is a term that is interpreted along a spectrum. To some, it means that any program or service for people is inclusive. Others go well beyond programs and services to encourage and support people with disabilities, mental health conditions, and those who love them, so that they participate in Jewish life as they wish. And there are many variations of “inclusion” in between.

The truth is, people with disabilities and mental health conditions just want what everyone else wants: to belong!

That’s why we’ve incorporated "acceptance" into the JDAIM name. The logos reflect this, and I ask that you promote the new language, Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, this February.

Acceptance is not just a change in a name. It’s a change in attitude and practice.

Genuine acceptance is rooted in the inherent value of Judaism that we are all created in the Divine image. Acceptance is based on two key concepts. First, each one of us has something to contribute to our communities and our world, and second, our communities are not whole until all of us belong. We can only go so far if we focus only on awareness and inclusion. This year, let’s join with communities all around the world to focus on genuine acceptance by making our synagogues and our organizations places where people know they belong!

As your community prepares for Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month, download the JDAIM 2019 Program Guide. In it, you'll find:

  • Background information about JDAIM and messaging materials for your community
  • Information about Jewish Disability Advocacy Day in both the U.S. and Canada
  • Jewish values related to disability rights, inclusion, acceptance, and awareness
  • JDAIM planning tips for your synagogue or Jewish community
  • "15 Practical Ways to Recognize JDAIM in Your Synagogue"
  • "15 Events and Programs for JDAIM"
  • "A Prayer for All People to Belong," written by Rev. Kate Chips and adapted by Ginny Thornburgh
  • Ideas for community-wide programs to observe and celebrate JDAIM
  • Information about films, books, and other media related to issues of inclusion
  • And more! 

Finally, don't forget to check out Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher's new post, "11 Ways to Celebrate Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month in Your Synagogue." Tune in to the Inside Leadership blog all February long for continued resources, stories, and more related to JDAIM.

February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), a unified initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide. The Union for Reform Judaism is proud of its Presidential Initiative on Disabilities Inclusion, an ongoing effort to ensure full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in every aspect of Reform Jewish life. Visit the Disabilities Inclusion Learning Center to learn more.

Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the social network for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Shelly Christensen, MA, literally wrote the books on inclusion of people with disabilities: her new book, From Longing to Belonging: A Practical Guide to Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities and Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities. A popular speaker and leader in the field of disability inclusion and spirituality, Shelly co-founded Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) in 2009 and serves as its organizer. She also co-founded the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion at the University of Delaware. 

Shelly has co-chaired Union for Reform Judaism disability committees and presented at numerous URJ Biennials, as well as conferences of both Jewish and disability organizations. She directed the award-winning innovative Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities in Minneapolis for 13 years. She is immediate past president of the Religion and Spirituality Division of AAIDD and is recognized as a fellow for her work in the disability field.

Her writing is featured in numerous blogs and articles, and she is currently co-authoring a children’s book about Jewish inclusion. Shelly and her husband Rick are parents of three adult sons, one of whom was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

Shelly Christensen, MA
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