By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer,  Director, Special Needs and jkidphilly

Kol yisrael areivim zeh le zeh – All of Israel is responsible for one another.

A young child is diagnosed with a developmental disability and parents search to find an appropriate early childhood center to support their child’s growth.

An elementary-age student who has attention issues and learning disabilities struggles in his after school Hebrew program.

A twenty-one-year-old person with autism transitions from high school and begins the search for meaningful employment, a supported home and community.

For people living with disabilities and the families who love and care for them, these examples are just of few of the many moments in their lives when support, guidance and community are essential. Behind Jewish Learning Venture’s new initiative, Whole Community Inclusion, is the belief that in a Jewish community, we are all responsible for one another. Whole Community Inclusion engages people with special needs and their families and supports their ability to access a range of Jewish educational experiences from early childhood through the transition to adulthood.

Our program is divided into three main components:

1. support for families and people living with disabilities to find inclusive places in Jewish life and learning,

2. professional development to our educators working with students who have special needs, and

3. trainings and forums for community members.

This year, learning opportunities for families will include jkidphilly Sensory-Friendly Playdates (our first will be held on December 25th—details coming soon) and Whole Community Inclusion Seminars and Webinars.

Learning opportunities for educators will include Inclusion Practices Professional Development Meetings and Webinars; Azar Consultations with Occupational Therapist Jaime Bassman and the Teen Assistant Program (TAP)/Reta Emerson Fellowship.

Learning opportunities for community members and leaders include will include the Opening the Gates of Torah Inclusion Yom Iyyun (Symposium) and Inclusion Committee Support Webinars and Inclusion Committee Meetings.

Please email me at to join our Whole Community Inclusion mailing list.

My dream is that together we create a community in which people with disabilities and their families know that the Jewish community always has their backs.

Join the conversation: What additional changes would you like to see in our community to make it more inclusive?