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Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month

Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month

#JDAIM17 #JUSTASK

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A Call to Action:

Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) is a unified effort among Jewish organizations worldwide to raise awareness and foster inclusion of people with disabilities and those who love them. JDAIM is a call to action for all of us as we act in accordance with our Jewish values, honoring the gifts and strengths that we each possess. Established in 2009 by the Jewish Special Education International Consortium, JDAIM is observed each February.

The Mission of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month

The mission of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month is to unite Jewish communities worldwide to raise awareness and champion the rights of all Jews to be included and to participate in all aspects of Jewish life like anyone else.

Why You Should Participate in JDAIM

  • Raise awareness of how people with disabilities have been regarded by Jewish and secular society and how that impacts our actions in our own lives.
  • Underscore the importance of participating in a Jewish journey.
  • Encourage Jews around the world to become genuinely empathetic and welcoming toward people with disabilities.
  • Urge Jews to welcome people with disabilities into their communities and personal lives.
  • Include people with disabilities in ALL aspects of communal life.
  • Advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.
  • Offer people with disabilities the opportunity to make their own decisions about how they participate in their Jewish community.

Why is JDAIM in February?

In May 2008 the Jewish Special Education International Consortium held its annual Colloquium in Minneapolis, MN. Two members, Lenore Layman, of the Partnership of Jewish Life and Living in Washington, DC, and Shelly Christensen, of the Jewish Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in Minneapolis presented the idea of selecting a specific month in which all of our communities, far and wide, would hold conferences, events and community wide programming. Lenore and Shelly thought that if we all came together during one month we could raise awareness to a broader extent as well as share resources and ideas for programs.

All members thought this made tremendous sense. “What would be a good month?” they asked. The members looked through the calendar and concluded that a month that doesn’t follow or precede the High Holidays, Pesach, Shavuot, the start or end of the school year, or summer could work. February seemed to be the best option, and that is why JDAIM is recognized every February.

But the truth is, while JDAIM brings the issues of disability inclusion to the forefront, inclusion is something that we must keep focused on the rest of the year.

What is the history and significance of the JDAIM ribbon?

The blue and gold intertwined ribbon that forms the Magen David was created for the second Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month in 2010. The logo links communities and creates visual awareness about JDAIM. The design illustrates how inclusion is woven into every single aspect of Jewish life and community. The logo is available for free download at www.JDAIM.org. Please use the logo in all JDAIM events and programs.

What You Can Do for JDAIM

How can you raise awareness about inclusion of people with disabilities in your community? Here are some ideas that will boost awareness and make your Chabad community a leader in supporting inclusion!

  • Host an Inclusion Day, a Shabbos of Inclusion or a Havdallah service with activities. Advertise this to your entire community, and encourage people with disabilities and their families to attend. Include people with disabilities in planning for Inclusion Day or Shabbos of Inclusion—nothing about us without us!
  • Arrange for an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter to be at your next event.
  • Ensure that people who use wheelchairs, walkers and canes can access your bimah.
  • Acquire at least one large-print siddur and one Braille siddur.
  • Install written and Braille signage directing people to different parts of your Chabad House: office, sanctuary, bathrooms, kitchen, social hall, etc.
  • Learn and teach your community how to sign six phrases in ASL (Welcome! Bruchim haba’im! Shabbat shalom! etc.).
  • Invite a person with a disability to speak to your community on any topic BUT that person’s disability.
  • Make a “quiet space” in your Chabad House and let people know they are welcome to use it when necessary.
  • Invite people with disabilities to participate in the preparation for kiddush and meal functions.
  • As an outcome of your Inclusion Day, organize a disability inclusion committee to focus on making your shul or Chabad House more inclusive.
  • Promote Inclusion. Use traditional media plus social media. Use #JDAIM17 and #JUSTASK to share on Twitter and Facebook!
  • Extend personal invitations to people who may be on the margins of the community.
  • The Torah parshiot during JDAIM are rich with study material. Include study of the text at committee and board meetings, Torah study and Hebrew school sessions.
  • Panel discussions featuring people with disabilities, family members and disability experts can generate food for thought.
  • Invite people from group homes or your local Jewish program for adults with disabilities to services. Make the service accessible. Most important, greet and welcome them. Sit with them. Talk with them. Remember Avraham and Sara welcoming strangers. Think about inviting them to services the rest of the year. JDAIM isn’t just a “Taste of Judaism!”
  • Integrate Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month into other activities:
    • The youth group can provide afternoon activities for children with disabilities so parents and siblings can have time together.
    • Coordinate a program for parents of children with disabilities to bring them together and minimize isolation. Invite a speaker from Jewish Family Services or another community organization to lead a parent education group. Provide childcare.
    • Organize a program for siblings, such as SibShops, or invite a family life educator to come talk about sibling needs.
    • Lunch and Learn following Shabbos morning services or on Sunday afternoon brings people together to talk about what they have learned and experienced from JDAIM.

    • Your Hebrew school can have age appropriate programming for students focused on the concept of B’tzelem Elokim. Read books and stories written about children with a diverse range of abilities. Prepare teachers to try a different teaching strategy to engage all learners. Invite parents of students who have disabilities to come to class and share their family’s story.
    • Be responsive to concerns expressed by people with disabilities and their families. Is there something that would be appropriate to address with programming during the month?

JLI Course: Toward Inclusion

Perspectives on Disability, Social Responsibility, and Belonging

Inclusion as a movement advocates for the opportunity for all people to fully participate in society. Toward Inclusion: Perspectives on Disability, Social Responsibility and Belonging is afour lesson course developed by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. The course is predicated on the understanding that real and enduring societal change is achieved by transforming individual minds and hearts.

Learn more about Toward Inclusion: Perspectives on Disability, Social Responsibility and Belonging. Contact JLI at inclusion@myjli.com for more information on this remarkable new course!

Shelly Christensen, MA, FAAIDD, literally wrote the book on inclusion—the Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities. She is a member of the RCII core team, and the co-founder of the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion. Shelly lives in Minneapolis, Minn., with her husband, Rick. They are the parents of three adult sons, one of whom lives with an autism spectrum disorder.
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