One Step at a Time
Right before Passover I was invited to give a two day training initiative for the Boulder Jewish Community. So great is the interest in becoming an inclusive home for Jews with disabilities and their families that twenty Jewish organizations and 3 non-Jewish organizations were represented at the training. That is a great number by anyone’s standards and quite remarkable considering the time of year.
Inclusion of people with disabilities and their families is settling on the front page of the national Jewish agenda. So when the Boulder community decided to take the step by bringing me in as their consultant, they recognized that it was time to act.
Your community can take a page from the Boulder playbook to enhance your own inclusion initiative.
I led a comprehensive 2 day training on becoming an inclusive community. The participants were all leaders in their organizations including clergy, staff, lay leaders and funders. Every participant identified their own role in creating inclusion initiatives both within their own organization and in the community. Lively discussions occurred all day long as we discussed text, concepts and actions that inform inclusive practices.
Rabbi Joshua Rose of Har HaShem, our host for the training, opened the conference drawing from the wisdom of our Passover rituals. We open our seders, he said, by welcoming all who are in need and by caring for them. We end our seders by opening our doors to the sacred presence as we invite Eliyahu HaNavi to our tables. So should it be in our congregations and our Jewish communities. Judaism demands that we welcome the stranger, and those who wish to belong, recognizing the holiness in each person.
Our Boulder journey continued as I led the participants in a visioning session. The leaders learned how a credible vision of inclusion must be based on the current situation in one’s own organization. As with all worthy journeys, we can only know how to get to where we want to be by knowing where we start. Following an example of a visioning session, I led a conversation that was enhanced by our daylong session which helped clarify next steps.
The following day I met with education directors, teachers, youth workers and special educators. I shared my own graduate school thesis in an interactive session on parenting a child with a disability. I have learned throughout the years that this information enhances effective communication between those who support our young people at home and in formal and informal educational settings.
Finally, as Shabbat arrived, Rabbi Rose invited me to the bimah. I shared the most meaningful part of my work—how people have achieved their goals of belonging to the Jewish community, overcoming barriers and biases, and bringing their congregations and community along as partners on this great journey of inclusion. It was a moving and fitting way to begin Shabbat and to say “Shalom” to the Boulder Jewish community.
NEXT BLOG: Volunteers with Vision: Susan Glairon.