Last year, RSIP launched with three pilot synagogues:
“I kept hearing from many people over the years who did not feel welcome at their synagogue," says Sharon Shapiro, Trustee of the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Boston office. "When these families felt turned away, they left their synagogue and often the Jewish community altogether. We wanted to do something about this and in partnership with CJP, we created the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project. We are thrilled with the Project's success and are so happy to welcome our new partners. Our goal is to engage every synagogue in the Greater Boston community in this essential movement.”
The Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project (RSIP) is a partnership between CJP and the Ruderman Family Foundation to support synagogues in creating communities where people of all abilities are valued equally and participate fully. RSIP provides funding and other resources for innovative programs, improvements and training so that synagogues can become more welcoming and inclusive.
This year, eight new Congregational Partners and six new Affiliates are joining in. Congregational Partners have applied for and will receive grants to help implement their inclusion efforts. Congregational Affiliates have demonstrated a significant commitment to inclusion in their communities.
This year, the new Congregational Partners are:
Why is inclusion important?
Inclusion is the opportunity for people of any and all abilities to be a part of their community in meaningful ways. It’s also recognizing that we are “one” even though we are not the same.
“Inclusion is not simply about remembering to include people with disabilities or people with different needs; it’s that we can't afford to lose all that they offer,” says Molly Silver, the manager of the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project. “The heart of RSIP is valuing every contribution of every member, and as a result creating really lasting, effective and broad change across our community.”
Recognizing the challenges
One in five people in the United States has a disability – and it's more than likely that at some point you or a family member, or someone you know in your community, will be affected by one.
“How can we make sure we are doing our best for every person who walks through our gates?” asks Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz of Temple Emanuel. “We hope our partnership with the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project will allow us to do right by all the persons who enter our community.”
Rabbi Dr. Meir Sendor of Young Israel of Sharon agrees. “We have instituted inclusion programs, but there is certainly more we can do. We would like to put together a robust educational program, with speakers and projects, to run for several years, so that the principle of inclusion is fully internalized and realized in our membership. We are grateful to the Ruderman Family Foundation for this thoughtful and compassionate inclusion project.”
With RSIP congregations gaining access to local and national inclusion experts, as well as events and opportunities for congregational communities to teach, network and share best practices, they’re taking strides that benefit everyone.
“I am thrilled that we have been selected as a partner congregation in the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project,” says Rabbi Toba Spitzer of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek. “We are looking forward to fostering a learning environment at our religious school where every child can be celebrated, challenged, and appreciated for his or her unique gifts. We will also explore ways to make everything from Shabbat morning services to communal meals accessible to all who wish to attend.”
This year, the six new Congregational Affiliates are:
Coming together in celebration
On May 23 at Temple Emanuel in Newton, the new Partners and Affiliates were officially welcomed at “Celebrating Inclusion: Opening Doors to Jewish Community.”
The program featured keynote speaker Professor Julia Watts Belser, who is assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University. Her talk, “Disability and the Arts of Midrash,” explored how disability can be a powerful source of "embodied Torah" — opening up new perspectives on Jewish ethics and new ways of imagining God’s presence in the world. The evening also featured a special performance by international musical sensations Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson, who opened and closed the program with a joyful a cappella performance in support of inclusion for all people in Jewish life.
Find out more and RSVP for Celebrating Inclusion: Opening Doors to Jewish Community
Learn more about the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project
About the Ruderman Family Foundation
Guided by our Jewish values, we advocate for and advance the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community and around the world; foster a more nuanced understanding of the American Jewish community among Israeli leaders; and model the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide. MORE