Slingshot has released Slingshot '14 – '15, its tenth annual guide to North America’s most innovative Jewish organizations this week. Over the last decade, the Guide has become a go-to resource for volunteers, activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects in the Jewish community.
This year, Slingshot did not produce a supplement focusing on disability and inclusion, but instead integrated a number of organizations whose mission includes supporting people with disabilities and their families into the main guide.
Permit me to challenge you to look at inclusion from a different perspective.
I think it is time to stop viewing inclusion as a chesed — an act of selfless kindness — to benefit only the individual with special needs. I believe that the inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of mainstream life benefits society as a whole, and has a profound impact on everyone who takes part in it.
On Thursday night and Friday we will celebrate Simchat Torah. Amid singing and dancing, we complete the reading of the Torah and, without pause, begin the Torah reading cycle again. I have often marveled that, like a massive oak growing from a small seed, our religion has developed from a portable scroll.
During Yizkor on Yom Kippur, I remember my father, who always made us laugh and I also remember my best friend Carla Meyers, who used to say, “In humor there is truth.”
So when I recently came across this joke in the Joseph Telushkin book Jewish Humor, I recognized the sad truth buried within a joke that causes discomfort in me because it should be so far from reality.
The joke: A Jewish mother is walking down the street with her two young sons. A passerby asks her how old the boys are. “The doctor is three,” the mother answers. “And the lawyer is two.”
We can laugh at the joke, but I do believe that we are ready to move beyond the thinking behind it.
The Jewish Funders Network disabilities peer network, made up of funders who are working to build more inclusive and supportive communities, is commissioning a guidebook on how to use Jewish texts to talk about disability rights and inclusion. JFN plans to distribute the guide to Jewish and international human rights communities.
Editor's Note: We recently a new study that shows how mindfulness practice reduces stress, anxiety and depression in parents of children with special needs. Rabbi Yael Levy integrates mindfulness practice into Jewish worship and offers suggestions for how we can use mindfulness to prepare for the High Holy Days.
The time leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time of introspection and intense planning. We think about the past year and reflect on how we have changed and grown. At the same time many of us are juggling work, getting kids ready for school, making travel arrangements, planning out the menu, buying brisket and baking challah. Most of us are not thinking about how we are going to get through services. For a parent of a child with a disability this thought might be on the top of their list. There might be a feeling of apprehension about the community’s ability to welcome their family in an inclusive way.
The Yom Kippur Haftarah portion describes God’s reaction to rituals that are practiced without regard to people who need help and deserve respect.
“To be sure, they (worshippers) seek Me daily,
Eager to learn My ways….
They ask Me for the right way,
They are eager for the nearness of God:
"Why, when we fasted, did You not see?
When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?"….
Because on your fast day, You see to your business, & oppress all your laborers! ...
Such a fast (will not) make your voice heard on high.
If you read a lot of blogs and articles, particularly those focused on disability inclusion, it may seem like there a lot of “shoulds." This is how you should treat people with disabilities; this is how you should speak about people with disabilities; this is how you should include people with disabilities.
Maybe you read these “shoulds” and they spark within you an idea of a possibility and you are inspired to make a change. Or maybe you read them and find yourself feeling guilty.