February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month
Happy JDAIM! If you haven’t heard, February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month. While this may be a bit of a mouthful, it is certainly worth the tongue twister. In 2013, a survey of the American Jewish community was conducted by the organization Respectability; this survey found that those with intellectual and developmental disabilities were dramatically underrepresented among those engaged in Jewish life. The results indicated that most people with disabilities opt out of Jewish life after feeling alienated by Jewish organizations. Fast forward to 2019, and in my opinion, I feel that we have made leaps and bounds since those survey results came out. There are adults with disabilities employed at Jewish owned businesses, popular camps are structured to be more inclusive, and some synagogues host sensory-friendly services.
JDAIM was kicked off in Atlanta with The Power of One event. The Power of One was created to honor those who have made an impact in their organization in the area of inclusion. This year, 31 different honorees from local synagogues, schools, camps, and programs were represented at this event. Around 400 community members showed up to support these honorees and rally around the concept of inclusion. The turnout was truly amazing.
Those who work with me have probably heard me use the phrase “Honey, don’t stare syndrome”. As adults, we teach children not to stare at those differ from us. While this is done with the best intentions, it can lead to children not acknowledging those who are different than themselves. It is up to us to lead by example, to be curious about those we may not understand, and to promote inclusion everywhere.
"Do not look at the container, but what is in it" (Pirkei Avot 4:27).
Community Access Program Manager
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services