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Time to Be More Inclusive!

Vayakhel

February 28, 2016

Dear Readers,

For years, the trend in education was to segregate children with special needs, but nowadays, we try to include them in conventional classrooms as much as possible.

Inclusion, mainstreaming, integration—these are all different ways of how children with different needs are included in traditional classrooms.

So, is inclusion beneficial, and for whom?

Research over the last fifteen years indicates that with the necessary support and proper training, its benefits seem to be overwhelmingly positive for everyone.

Students with special needs gain from increased social opportunities, higher expectations resulting in increased skills and achievements, increased self-respect and confidence, and better preparation for adult life.

But the benefits surprisingly were equally shared by students without special needs. They too gained in greater academic success, enhanced feelings of self-esteem from mentoring students, increased appreciation of their abilities, and a greater acceptance that all people have unique abilities. They learned sensitivity and empathy as well as strong collaborative skills.

In the workforce, a similar idea is gaining traction, as employers are starting to acknowledge the importance of diversity. The effectiveness of human resource systems designed for a homogeneous workforce is being questioned as employers recognize the contributions of all different kinds of intelligences, personalities, and talents.

So it looks like we were created as diverse human beings for a reason: we all have what to contribute.


In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Moses gathers the nation of Israel and lists the various materials that they can contribute to the Tabernacle, G‑d’s home on earth.

“Take from yourselves an offering for the L‑rd; every generous hearted person shall bring gold, silver, and copper…” (Exodus 35:5)

Each of these materials represents a different persona in the nation. Gold represents the purity of the tzaddik, the fully righteous individual. Silver (kessef in Hebrew, which also means “yearning”) represents the baal teshuvah, the returnee. Copper, the least expensive of metals, represents the sinner.

We might have thought that only a tzaddik, who is removed from the enticements and ensnarement of this world, has the ability of transforming it into something holy. Or, we might believe that only a baal teshuvah, who intimately knows the negativity of this world, can transform its lowliness into loftiness. But the Torah teaches us even the sinner must be included in this endeavor and has what to contribute.

Amazingly, G‑d’s home on earth is not complete without each of their contributions.

No matter our spiritual standing, no matter our intellectual abilities or our emotional intelligences, we were all handcrafted by our Creator to make our world a home for G‑d.

And, whether we consider ourselves low or high, righteous or wicked, someone with limited abilities or someone super talented, we are all needed. As counterintuitive as it may initially seem, each and every one of us has what to gain from the other!

What a golden (or is that copper?) idea!

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

What This Man Did With His Trash Is Unbelievable

February 14, 2016

Dear reader,

I recently returned from the West Coast. On my last day there, the woman who drove me to my destination in Riverside offered to show me around her city. Hiking with Brittney in mid-January along paths littered with towering palm trees and picturesque tropical flowers in sunny California was a huge treat.

Brittney is artistic, so she showed me some great art spots in downtown Riverside where local artists display their creations. Together we marveled at the intricate architecture in the buildings. And then, my awesome host offered to take me to a very unique and unexpected place.

Tio’s Taco is not a kosher restaurant, so don’t go there to eat. But do go there, as many tourists do, to view the incredible outdoor pathways set on an acre of land. I guarantee you that the sculptures and mosaics will leave you spellbound.

What makes the whimsical artwork so incredible is that every sculpture is made out of recycled everyday objects that you’d be more inclined to find in a junkyard. Beer bottles, soda cans, bottle tops, discarded children’s toys and shells are transformed into giant characters. Held together with simple chicken wire, this leftover trash tells a tale of ingenuity and creativity.

As a young child, the owner and artist, Tio Martin Sanchez, migrated with his family to California from a small town in rural Mexico. He describes how people of poor countries marvel at the trash of affluent, privileged countries. Back in Mexico, Tio created his own toys from whatever scraps of refuse he could find. Upon immigrating, he supported himself by selling oranges on the side of the road. Eventually, he worked his way up until he owned his restaurant.

Despite his success, his artwork attests that he never forgot the treasures that lay buried in what others may regard as trash.


The Kabbalists teach that every created thing possesses a “spark” of Divine energy that constitutes its essence and soul. No existence is devoid of a Divine spark; nothing can exist without the pinpoint of G‑dliness that imbues it with being and purpose. When we use something for a G‑dly end, we bring to light this spark, realizing the purpose for which it was created.

Walking through Tio’s Taco, I couldn’t help but think of the many things that we disdainfully discard as useless or purposeless. Even worse, how often do we treat people in the very same manner!

Tio’s Taco reminded me that if trash can be transformed into art, how much more so should we view each of our life experiences as a potential for something great, containing a wealth of learning opportunities.

And, most importantly, no matter at what state or stage, every individual we meet needs to be seen and treasured—as G‑d’s exquisite artwork.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
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