By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, Director, Whole Community Inclusion

On Wednesday, the Jewish Special Needs Consortium of Greater Philadelphia met to finalize plans for Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM), which takes place in February.

While all of the Consortium members agree that creating a more inclusive Jewish community is a year-long effort, we also appreciate that February is a time when we can focus our attention on providing meaningful inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities and their families in Jewish community.

To that end, the Consortium is sponsoring several important events next month that we invite you to participate in, including:

  • An online Expressive Art Gallery: We are inviting children and teens from across the Greater Philadelphia area to create a work of visual art in response to this statement: Including People of All Abilities Looks Like… For info on how to participate, click here
  • A special breakfast just for rabbis, focusing on the ways that rabbis can welcome people of all abilities and their families into their congregations
  • A special breakfast for synagogue executive directors and congregational lay leaders focusing on inclusion as it relates to building issues, communication and membership
  • Our online calendar of events for people with special needs and their families

Facilitating the Special Needs Consortium is part of what Whole Community Inclusion (WCI), Jewish Learning Venture’s initative that engages people with special needs and their families, does—but by no means is it all! WCI will be very busy this month hosting:

WCI logo

  • On January 25th: A panel discussion with the Friendship Circle featuring parents whose children of all abilities have become Bar/Bat Mitzvah
  • On February 16th: A Sensory-Friendly Access Event with the NMAJH and JCHAI, providing a specially-designed tour and supported craft project at the museum
  • On February 19th: A special gathering for synagogue professionals and inclusion committee members, focusing on successes and challenges within your congregation

Finally, we are doing a survey for clergy and tutors who train students for Bar/Bat Mitzvah to find out what supports are needed for working with children who have learning disabilities. If you do that work (or know someone who does), please take a moment to complete our survey.

Whether it’s during #JDAM15 or anytime during the year, I am delighted to talk with you about making our Jewish community inclusive for all of us.