The Jewish Federations of North America and the Ruderman Family Foundation will be placing young adults with disabilities in internships and fellowships at five federation offices in an effort to promote disability inclusion in the Jewish community.
In a small community in Pittsburgh, starting in 1910, there was a shift in mindset. The Pittsburgh Blind Association started to teach people with visual impairment how to make brooms, an item found in every home, but rarely given much thought. That year, in Pittsburgh, they thought a lot about brooms and about who would be the best person for the job of broom maker.
Recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as one in six may have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays. This is a daunting phenomenon, but for the Jewish community, it is also an opportunity, both in the context of Jewish values and the continuity of our faith, to welcome those who have been marginalized back into our community. We must dedicate ourselves to a continuous effort to shift our thinking to ensure we recognize, appreciate, and invite individuals with disabilities and their families into the mosaic that makes up today’s Jewish world.
Editor’s Note: This past school year, Alon and Gida, students in the Ben Yehuda School for children with special needs and Stav and Noam, students in the Tali Bet Chinuch School, were selected by their teachers to write about their experiences in LOTEM, an organization in Israel that offers hikes and educational nature activities to people with disabilities. Alon, Goda, Stav and Noam’s program brings together children with disabilities and those from a regular education class. They also wrote as a group about their experience. One of the students from the regular education class wrote while the other children dictated. Then Alisa Bodner, who works with both LOTEM and its partner, The Jewish National Fund, translated the piece into English and indicated which student made individual remarks.