On November 1 and 2, stakeholders in the disabilities community will gather at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center for the Ruderman Inclusion Summit. During this two-day event, attendees will hear from internationally known leaders in the field, including Senator Tom Harkin (Ret. D-IA), Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and writer Ron Suskind, Special Olympics athlete Loretta Claiborne, and Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist and public radio show host John Hockenberry.
We sat down with Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, to talk about the inspiration behind his work and to learn about the upcoming Ruderman Inclusion Summit.
What inspired you to advocate for inclusion in the Jewish community?
When our family made our first major commitment to Jewish education in Boston through CJP’s Day School Initiative, we realized that our Jewish schools were not inclusive for children with disabilities. As we delved deeper into other aspects of life in our community, we realized that we were excluding one out of every five Jews and 20% of the Jewish population with a disability and their families. We felt this situation was not only unfair, but working against the pursuit of Jewish continuity. We feel that we are filling a leadership role in explaining to our Jewish community why inclusion is an important value for all of us.
Why was it important for the Ruderman Family Foundation to launch the Ruderman Inclusion Summit? What do you anticipate to accomplish during the two-day event?
We have always been cognizant that our foundation is just one family advocating for a more inclusive community, and we feel that by drawing together 500 people from around the world who want to make a more inclusive society a reality, we will be fostering a powerful network of individuals who will be able to make that change happen. The Ruderman Inclusion Summit will allow everyone who cares about a more fair and just society to learn from powerful speakers, best practices and enhance their power by networking with others who share their goals.
What highlights will attendees experience during the program?
The attendees will be transformed on an emotional and educational basis. They will be inspired to be part of the next civil rights movement in our society, namely the rights of people with disabilities to be included in all aspects of community life. I expect the summit will leave them feeling empowered.
How has the Jewish community become more inclusive these past few years? What could we accomplish over the next 10-15 years?
I believe that our Jewish community is on the way to becoming more inclusive, but we have not yet reached the tipping point. Many of our Jewish schools, businesses, synagogues and community institutions have become more welcoming and inclusive for people with disabilities, but we have a long way to go. Many people see people with disabilities as a fringe group and not part of our collective future. They are wrong. If our community does not become more inclusive, we will be turning off the very young people we are trying to attract. In the next 10 years, I expect that all Jewish organizations will strive to be more inclusive or be left on the wrong side of history.
To learn more about the Ruderman Inclusion Summit and to register before the October 15 deadline, visit http://inclusion2015.org/.