February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month. It's not just about awareness though, it's about what we do, and what we can do in the Jewish community to include and welcome everyone with a disability.
For those with disabilities, it is a reminder that Judaism recognizes everyone. "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who creates variety among living beings." It's a reminder that we are all welcome in our community, and should be included in everyday Jewish life, including being called to read Torah and serving on local boards and committees too.
But what does it mean to those who are lucky enough to not have special needs? Perhaps you could offer an earnest welcome to those in our community who may feel isolated because of their disability. Perhaps extend a hand at services, or offer to drive someone to services. Maybe invite someone to an event in the community. Perhaps volunteer at the next opportunity to assist others (JFCS loves the commitment of our many volunteers). Perhaps you might read a book that informs you about living with disabilities? You might read former Portlander and frequent national newsmagazine contributor Tom Fields-Meyer's book Following Ezra: What One Father Learned about Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from His Extraordinary Son. Or perhaps you could gain insight from Broken and the Whole: Discovering Joy after Heartbreak, by Rabbi Charles. S. Sherman, who talks about the change in his own thoughts on disabilities after one of his children develops a life-altering disorder.
At JFCS, we like to celebrate Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month every day of the year, by providing consultations to families with a new or changing diagnosis, by participating in community events with our clients who may have disabilities, and by helping everyone live a life of inclusivity in our community. As one recent client said, "I feel isolated sometimes, but when I'm with others who welcome me, I know I matter too."
For more information contact:
Corinne Spiegel, Disabilities Inclusion Specialist, at 503-226-7079 x155 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Stacy Buckley, Partners Program Manager, at 503-226-7079 x111 or email@example.com