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People with disabilities and mental health conditions, and those who love them, just want what everyone else wants – to belong.
We are reminded in B’reishit 1:26 that all of us are created in God’s image. It doesn’t say “only some people are created in God’s image”; it says that each one of us has a place to belong, just by being human. When you meet someone who lives with a disability or mental health condition and you look into their eyes and see yourself reflected there, you will know that you both share something precious and holy.
February 2020 marks the eleventh time Jewish communities around the world will join together to recognize Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). JDAIM is a catalyst, nudging us to examine our beliefs and attitudes and how they unintentionally shut people out of Jewish life. JDAIM has illuminated our path, replacing actions that cause pain with ones that support people to share their gifts and talents and to practice Judaism how, where, and with whom they choose.
The result is that Reform congregations have embraced inclusion all year long, in many ways.
With JDAIM 2020, we advance the two pillars of an inclusive community: the spirit of belonging and the structure of inclusion. Belonging is something we all want in our lives; inclusion focuses on what our organizations can do to foster that sense of belonging.
As you bring JDAIM to your synagogue and community, ask yourself: What does belonging mean to me? After you’ve thought about it, ask the same question at all your JDAIM events, and listen with an open heart to peoples’ responses.
May we see the day when all people feel that precious sense of belonging in Jewish life.
Ken y’hi ratzon, may it be God’s will. And in the words of the great Jewish disability and civil rights champion, Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg, z’l, may it be our will, as well.