FEBRUARY IS JEWISH DISABILITY ADVOCACY MONTH (JDAM)
Jewish Voices on B’Tselem Elohim
“As Jews we are taught that every human is created b’tselem Elohim, in God’s image. Every person is imbued with the divine spark, infinite in value and unique. Those words inspire us every day to respect and improve the lives of others….”Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, Senior Advisor on Disability Issues, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Jewish Federations of North America has designated the month of February for education and empowerment in support of people with disabilities. They are offering programs and workshops throughout the month featuring a different theme each week: Empowerment, Breaking Barriers, Creating Opportunity, and Disability Rights are Civil Rights. We will hear from thought leaders and experts on what we can do to promote the best inclusion and supportive care practices.
JDAM has over 180 national and local partners this year. Working together to educate, build solidarity, and provide empowerment, this strong Jewish community will be able to advocate effectively in support of people with disabilities to achieve maximum independence!
To register for this online event, go to Jewish Together.
“My House shall be a House of Prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7)
1 in 4 Americans live with a mental or physical disability. Some may be visible, and many are hidden. The work of ensuring belonging for all, irrespective of need, means making manifest the call of embrace. It means bringing both behavior and language into the center of congregational life that shows ours is a House of Prayer for all.
“Leaving many members of our community on the outside, looking in, is not an option. The full inclusion of people with disabilities ensures the continuity and future of Jewish communal life.”Jay Ruderman, president, Ruderman Family Foundation that advocates for the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community
Here at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, we follow Rabbi Levine’s longtime directive to be an “extended family who care about each other.” To be inclusive. Not just words, it is our mission—to make everyone feel welcome and able to participate in services, festival celebrations, and life cycle events. Our differences can only strengthen and inspire us. Our hope is to welcome people of all needs and abilities.
Comedian Pam Schuller is our special guest speaker for the Erev Shabbat service on Friday, February 26 at 6:00 PM. Then on Saturday, February 27 at 6:30 PM, we will present Purim After Dark featuring Pam performing her disability inclusion comedy.
Pamela Rae Schuller is an internationally known disability and mental health advocate and professional stand-up comedian. Her observations on disability, mental illness, dating, family, and past misadventures have led to brutally honest confessions about what it is like being 4 foot 6 (and a half) and having a whole lot of Tourette Syndrome.
Shireinu (Our Voices) was founded in 2010 on the belief that all voices are necessary in holy community. The service is warm, inviting, musical, and interactive with a Sign Language interpreter. Accessible and sensitive to families with different needs, it is open to the entire community and all ages are welcome. We also have a Shireinu B’nai Mitzvah Program that provides personalized multi-year learning experiences for youth with disabilities and special needs.
Rabbi Ben Spratt who leads the Shireinu services: “More than any other obligation, our Torah commands us to own the narrative of the marginalized and abandoned. It raises our responsibility to bring embrace and belonging as fundamental to our identity. And it makes the work of belonging, irresepective of need, foundational to our community.”Rabbi Ben Spratt
A thriving experiment in connection that has since turned into an influential model replicated by congregations around the world. Our Shireinu program was honored in 2016 with the URJ’s Exemplar Award, noting our services, instructional videos, and resources helpful to other congregations. Rabbi Ben Spratt who leads the Shireinu services: “More than any other obligation, our Torah commands us to own the narrative of the marginalized and abandoned. It raises our responsibility to bring embrace and belonging as fundamental to our identity. And it makes the work of belonging, irresepective of need, foundational to our community.” Previously honored in 2011 with URJ’s Incubator Grant and in 2012 with the UJA-Federation Caring Commission’s Synagogue Inclusion Award, the Shireinu program continues to grow and to find new ways to meet needs and build community.
Learn more about our Shireinu Services in this video and please visit the Shireinu website.
Many are currently finding it a challenge to maintain their own mental wellness in these uncertain times. COVID-19 has hit everyone hard and for those who have a disability or history of mental health conditions, it can be even more difficult. Those who are struggling may find a safe place among CRS’s clergy and within the congregation. Whatever mental health challenges congregants and their loved ones may face, Rodeph Sholom’s programs and healing services that enable dialogue on mental health issues try to help reduce stigma and offer support.
The Caring Community’s Mental Health Initiative offers various forms of support to caregivers and families that have a family member who is mentally ill. There are workshops, groups for caregivers, groups for family members with a mentally impaired member, and one-on-one counseling managed by our CRS senior social worker.
See a comprehensive list of resources and learn more about CRS’s Mental Health Initiative here.
Each Friday evening the Rodeph Sholom community joins together to welcome Shabbat in a joyful service of prayer, music, song, and moments of quiet contemplation. These services are ASL interpreted. Some of our clergy, congregants, and students have learned ASL.
Started by Dr. Nancy Crown and Cantor Shayna De Lowe, our Rodeph Sholom ASL Choir joins hands and voices together in song! One does not need to know ASL to join. There is a Song-in-Sign at select Shabbat services and events throughout the year. As well, the Choir is often invited to perform at special events presented by Jewish organizations including the JCC of Manhattan.
We provide an accessible, interactive, and sensitive environment. This includes ramps, a large elevator to the street, and other accommodations. The main entrance and all of the floors are wheelchair accessible, including the bimah in the Main Sanctuary.
We offer a link to Web Captioner, a web-based speech recognition tool that works with a microphone and Google Chrome to display a real-time transcription in your browser.
JDAM’S Curated Resources For the Self
The Reform Movement’s Position on Disability Rights
The Religious Action’s Center: Disability Rights Page
Learn about the Reform Jewish community’s advocacy efforts around disability issues.
RespectAbility works with employers, entertainment leaders, governors, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, non-profits, faith-based organizations, philanthropists and the media to fight stigmas and advance opportunities. Their Solution Center has a comprehensive list of free webinars on Jewish Inclusion.
JKidACCESS has inclusion resources and information for families raising Jewish children with disabilities.
The Gateways Haggadah: A Seder for the Whole Family
Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love From His Extraordinary Son by Tom Fields-Meyer
Hope Will Find You: My Search for the Wisdom to Stop Waiting and Start Living by Rabbi Naomi Levy
9 Kids’ Books To Read During Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (PJ Library)
16 Books for Kids & Adults on Navigating Disabilities & Special Needs