Where are the curb cuts in the Jewish Community?


I’m particularly happy to bring you a thoughtful post from the 2012-2014 Joshua Venture Group Ruderman Fellow, Elana Naftalin-Kelman.  Elena has been thinking deeply about inclusion as she ramps up her Fellowship project: Rosh Pina, an inclusion-certification program for Jewish institutions.  We’ll bring you more news about Rosh Pina in the future, but today we at the foundation are thinking about Jewish curb cuts with Elana.

How can the Jewish community expand accessibility and inclusion in ways that will benefit us all? What do you think?

–Jay Ruderman

Where are the curb cuts in the Jewish Community?

By Elana Naftalin-Kelman, Director of the Tikvah program at Camp Ramah in California and founder of Rosh Pina

Walk outside toward the corner closest to you.  As you approach it, notice the slight decline in the pavement.  You might feel some raised bumps beneath your feet and without thinking your whole body recognizes that you are about to enter the street and you stop.   You have experienced the curb cut, the depression in the curb that allows us to enter the street safely.

First designed in the 1940’s in Kalamazoo Michigan to support wounded veterans to find meaningful work in the downtown area, curb cuts have now become a not-very-often-thought-about part of every city.  In the 1940’s curb cuts were not thought of as a cutting edge design that needed to be worked and re-worked in order to implement.  They were considered a necessity in order to allow universal access to the community for people of varied abilities.

Curb cuts now have become something that is expected in all neighborhoods and used by everyone: from young to old, from someone walking to someone in a wheelchair, from the delivery guy to the kid on a tricycle, from the person pulling a suitcase to the parent pushing a stroller.  Curb cuts were initially created for a relatively small number of people in our community, but they have ended up benefiting everyone and have changed how we all access our own cities.

They were created to benefit one type of person, but have benefited us all.

So, where are the curb cuts in our Jewish community?  What modifications can we make that will, in the end, benefit all members of our communities?  By addressing the needs of those in the margins, how can we make our communities better?

How would the Shabbat experience change if the synagogue service tolerated more noise from its congregants?  How can we make sign language interpretation an expected part of our classes and services?  How would adding a ramp to the bimah in a synagogue change the feel of the room?  How could modifications to the Day School Curriculum support all students?  How would a more inclusive youth group augment the very nature of the youth group for all of its participants?  How would increased housing opportunities for adults with disabilities enhance our understanding of what makes a community?

And this is just a beginning.  Possibilities for Jewish communal curb cuts are endless.  Let us re-think what we do to assure inclusion: what modifications can we make that increase accessibility and access for everyone?  Like curb cuts, let us make the changes that help shape the very fabric of our community into one that is inclusive of all.

1 Comment

Filed under Disabilities Trends, perceptions of disability, Uncategorized

One response to “Where are the curb cuts in the Jewish Community?

  1. Thank you for this perceptive analogy, Elana. Curb cuts are now expected and routine, and everyone routinely experiences their benefits, as you point out (suitcase pullers, stroller pushers)–not just the veterans with disabilities for whom they were initially intended. From this, we can predict that ALL will benefit from more inclusive policies and practices in every aspect of our lives as Jews.

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