By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, Director, Whole Community Inclusion

February was a busy, energized, engaging month full of activities connected to Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month from Jewish Learning Venture’s “Whole Community Inclusion” initiative.

I want to take this moment to thank all of our partners and participants who are working with us to raise awareness about disability inclusion is our Jewish communities. Some highlights of the month include:

  • Our Family Mitzvah Club in partnership with Beth Am Israel and Philly Friendship Circle: Too often, people with special needs become someone’s else mitzvah project. Instead, we create child-friendly mitzvah projects with extra supports so that children of all abilities can do projects to help those in need.
  • Whole Community Inclusion Clergy Breakfast: 25 Rabbis and Cantors joined our important interfaith conversation with father Ed Hallinan, a local priest from St. John Chrysostom Parish who has been leading disability inclusion efforts and making significant changes in his community and took away resources to use in their communities.
  • President’s Day Sensory Friendly Access Event at the National Museum of American Jewish History: This was our third year of partnering with the NMAJH to create a quiet setting for art activities, story time and a specially designed tour at the museum.
  • Community Panel on Greater Inclusion for Individuals with Autism In partnership with NMAJH and JCHAI, we closed the month with a community panel and book discussion about Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the 2017 selection for One Book, One Philadelphia featuring Beth Rosenwasser, Director of Community Engagement for JCHAI and a panel of autism self-advocates participated on the panel.

New this year was “JDAIM Shabbat Across Philadelphia.” The Jewish Special Needs/Disability Inclusion Consortium of Greater Philadelphia invited synagogues across the area to dedicate a Shabbat this month to focusing on disability inclusion issues. We are so proud of and grateful to our ten congregations who participated in our pilot year! They are:

Ohev Shalom of Bucks County Inclusion B’KavodAdath Israel on the Main Line Old York Road Temple-Beth Am Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El -Our House, Your Home Mishkan Shalom Congregation Kol Ami, Elkins Park, PA Kol Tzedek Synagogue Congregation Beth Or Temple Sholom in Broomall and Germantown Jewish Centre.

In addition, the consortium created two resources for our synagogues and schools that were widely used:

I was personally delighted to attend Jewish Disability Advocacy Day in Washington with a number of consortium members as well as a wonderful inclusion lunch with violinist Itzhak Perlman. Additionally, I was delighted that an Op-Ed written by our WCI consultants Jaime Bassman, Rabbi Michelle Greenfield and Rabbi Margo Stein and I was shared in last week’s Jewish Exponent—if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, check it out here.

We have more exciting Whole Community Inclusion events coming in March and hope to see you soon!