Including Everyone Together

William DaroffBy: William Daroff

Promoting independent living and community inclusion for people with disabilities is a central reflection of Jewish communal values. Our sages teach us, “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2:5), and the tradition of bringing together Jews in the community from every background lives on in America today.

That is why many Federations have a long history of working to promote inclusion within their communities, and why The Jewish Federations of North America and the Ruderman Family Foundation recently announced a new opportunity for federations to employ people with disabilities and promote the concept of inclusion through providing people with meaningful employment opportunities.

But inclusion is about more than just providing an opportunity to work.  Inclusion is about every facet of Jewish life.  It’s about providing a continuum of services and settings appropriate to the needs of the individual, enabling them to benefit from and find satisfaction in his/her meaningful participation in the Jewish community.


Inclusion means ensuring everyone can access Jewish institutions in our communities and all of the activities held within them, and understanding that each one of us has a role to play so that all people are welcome and can participate in meaningful ways.  To accomplish this, we must make all possible efforts to adapt our programming and institutions to allow people with disabilities to actively participate, and ensure everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

Many Jewish communities observe Jewish Disability Awareness Month each February, which is a great opportunity for everyone to come together to promote inclusion, address the challenges the community faces, and celebrate the strengths of people with disabilities and the contributions they make to our communities.  But our commitment to these goals must extend beyond one month a year.  We must dedicate ourselves to an effort to shift our thinking to ensure we recognize, appreciate, and invite individuals with disabilities and their families into the mosaic that makes up today’s Jewish world.

Each and every one of us has a Jewish neshama (soul) that it is incumbent upon the Jewish community to help blossom.  No person with disabilities – and no family-member of a person with disabilities – should feel unwelcome to participate in any aspect of Jewish life.  This ethos is what drives the Federation movement to promote inclusion and move the broader Jewish community towards this important goal so that one day soon, we can celebrate an ever stronger sense of Jewish unity through diversity.

William Daroff is the Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America. He is on twitter at @Daroff.

Read our last post: The Abysmal Truth About Abuse And Disabilities

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One response to “Including Everyone Together

  1. This is very good news indeed. Since 1993 Beit Yael located in Tsfat, Israel has offered a Residential Rehabilitation Program to Israel’s vision impaired. This month long program has been proven to enhance the lives and ability of those who are vision impaired as they function in their daily lives both at home and at work.

    Over the years I have contacted many Federations offering this program for those in their communities who are vision impaired. This program can be provided in English along with tours of Israel for two weeks as well as for one month.

    Sadly in almost all cases I was told that the Federations that I contacted had no connection with those who were vision impaired. They were not interested. This seems to be done by the general rather than the Jewish community.

    Knowing the need for programs such as ours as well as the needs of the vision impaired, I truly hope that more will be done by Federations to serve what seems to be a long overlooked community.

    All the best,
    Mrs. Rena Dvorkin Cohen
    Beit Yael

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