On behalf of the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project and the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, we invite your congregation to participate in Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM).
JDAIM is a unified effort among Jewish organizations worldwide to raise awareness and foster inclusion of people with disabilities and those who love them. Established in 2009 by the Jewish Special Education International Consortium, JDAIM is observed each February and seeks to:
- Raise awareness of how people with disabilities have been regarded by Jewish and secular society.
- Underscore the importance of choosing one’s own Jewish journey.
- 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.
We hope that your congregation will consider pursuing some of the following ideas for JDAIM:
- Study Torah citations in our text that help us wrestle with inclusion.
- Give sermons on inclusion topics and relate them to the Parashah. Engage worshippers through discussion.
- Offer a “Lunch and Learn” following Shabbat services that features a speaker on inclusion.
- Start a JDAIM Reads! book club.
- Host a congregational Shabbat dinner to kick off Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. Invite all members of your congregation, as well as other members of the community.
- Host a congregational Havdallah service with activities. Advertise this to your entire community. The music and the scents of Havdallah provide a beautiful setting for art activities, games and stories.
- Host an “allergy-sensitive” Kiddush that includes accommodations for people with food allergies. Make sure people using wheelchairs can have proper access to the food.
Integrate Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month into other activities:
- The youth group could provide afternoon activities for children with disabilities so parents and siblings can have special time together.
- The men’s club or brotherhood could sponsor a breakfast and invite a speaker from the community to talk about disability issues (such as training service dogs).
- Coordinate a program for parents of children with disabilities to bring them together and minimize isolation. Invite a speaker from Jewish Family Services to lead a parent education group. Provide childcare.
- Organize a program for siblings, such as SibShops, or invite a family life educator to talk about sibling needs.
- Offer age-appropriate programming for students focused on the concept of B’zelem Elohim – we are created in the Divine image. Read books and stories written for a diverse range of abilities. Prepare teachers to try a different teaching strategy to engage all learners. Invite parents who have disabilities to come to class and share their families’ story.
We also encourage you to submit any of your congregation’s JDAIM activities to our events listing page. This is a dedicated site maintained by Gateways that features all community JDAIM events plus links to the JDAIM Guide, JDAIM Reads! books, and general resources.
Thanks for all you do to support people of all abilities to actively participate in Jewish life. We look forward to this month of learning, self discovery and reflection on how to better include all people in Jewish life.