web analytics
June 30, 2015 / 13 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Disabled Deserve Full Share In Jewish Life


In February, Yachad/the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, an agency of the Orthodox Union, presented NAIM — North American Inclusion Month – as a national initiative to develop sensitivity and knowledge of what it means to live with disabilities and to educate communities on how they can do their part to make sure all Jews are properly included in all aspects of Jewish life.

How does one measure the achievements of such a mission? Is it even quantifiable? In addition to evaluation tools that can be helpful in identifying specific areas of accomplishment and where work needs to be done, one can gauge the mission’s success by the overwhelming response to it.

At Yachad we knew we had our work cut out for us, for there are many hot topics in the Jewish community that need addressing- the shidduch crisis, the economy, astronomical yeshiva tuition, to name a few. With all that going on in the Orthodox world, combined with the hectic schedules of Jewish institutions all over the continent, how were communities going to respond to the concept of NAIM?

Keeping in mind that Jewish institutions, especially those directed at youth, were going to be our areas of focus, we decided to come up with concrete ways to encourage their participation by creating a menu of opportunities for them to choose from.

These opportunities included fascinating speakers, renowned scholars-in-residence, sensitivity training, inclusive Shabbatonim, sermonic material, educational stories with questions, information pamphlets and much more. The NAIM website made many of these resources downloadable and easily accessible.

Now came the hard part — getting institutions to come on board and sign up to participate in any way possible. With the help of Yachad’s twelve national chapter program coordinators and a variety of OU departments, including Synagogue Services, Day School and Educational Services, NCSY, and Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, we were able to reach out to the broader community. As soon as word started getting around about NAIM, we began to receive lots of inquiries on how communities could participate.

As the message spread, inquiries began doubling and tripling – even from Jewish communities that were not on our radar. We coordinated more than 50 guest speakers all over the United States and Canada, more than 75 events and more than 200 partners. Most of the speakers were parents of children with disabilities and some of them were self-advocates, individuals who themselves have a disability and a strong message to share.

Tikvah Juni, 27, a Yachad member who eloquently addressed the OU annual dinner in December honoring Yachad’s 25th anniversary, spoke on two occasions for NAIM. “The feedback received about Tikvah’s talks and panel discussions was very positive,” said Tikvah’s father. “Many folks were inspired . She presents well and is a powerful discussant; not only did the community gain but Tikvah felt she gained a lot from the experience and the interchanges.”

One of the communities that contacted us was the Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford, Connecticut, which wanted to do a special Shabbat for NAIM with a guest speaker and sign language interpreter, as the congregation has some members who are hearing impaired. We eagerly filled that request. After the program we received this response from a deaf woman in the audience: “Truly, I was very impressed with the interpreted Mussaf service. Tears ran unbidden through most of it, through the Kiddusha and the interpreted talk and the conversational give and take with the congregation. ”

An important aspect of NAIM was our mission to Washington, arranged by the OU’s Institute for Public Affairs (IPA), to advocate for disability rights. Opportunities to meet and greet congressmen were set up to discuss four pieces of legislation that if approved would drastically improve the lives of families with children with disabilities. These bills include the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and the Able Act, which allows families to set up tax-exempt accounts up to $500,000 to save for their child’s future and to help cover their child’s expenses.

Many of Yachad’s families from all over the country, as well as staff and advocates, participated in this mission. One parent’s words resonate with me. She said, “I know getting bills passed in government is a big process, and am unclear how my lobbying can affect its turnout, but something today gave me hope for the first time I feel like maybe I can make a difference.” Sure enough, a week later we received an e-mail from a congressman who expressed his change of position on a bill based on our meeting with him. Shortly after, one of the bills, HR 4247 – Keeping All Students Safe Act — passed in the House.

In every community that responded to the message of NAIM, there is an opportunity for lives to be enriched. We have already started planning and looking into what can be done to expand our efforts. NAIM, in fact, spilled over into March because there were so many events. Perhaps next year we will have an opportunity to call it NAIM+ — North American Inclusion Month Plus.

However much time it takes to get out the message, Yachad will be there on behalf of its constituents and their full inclusion in Jewish life.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Disabled Deserve Full Share In Jewish Life”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
The new security fence is under construction along the Israel-Egypt border.
Israel to Extend Security Fence Along Eastern Border
Latest Indepth Stories
Menachem Zivotofsky sued the U.S. government because the U.S. refused to include "Israel" alongside "Jerusalem" as the place of his birth on his passport. So far the courts have sided with the government.

The problem with US treatment of Israel did not start with Obama but with birth of Jewish State

Activists on the Marianne boat that the IDF made sure to arrive in Ashdod instead of Gaza.

The pathetic failure of the Marianne to reach Gaza is the best thing that has happened to Israel since Hamas mis-fired a rocket on its own civilians.

Pres. Rivlin and PM Netanyahu with the justices of the Supreme Court

Wonder why Israel has the world’s most insane rules of engagement imposed on its military? Read on..

obamatargetiran

Think political Islam’s a problem now just wait until an Islamist nuclear umbrella covers the region

Fiorina’s wrong about Islam which embraces our death&destruction confusing pc theories for hard fact

Bangladesh PM Hasina is fighting terror not only for her nation but for the entire civilized world.

No necessity to redefine marriage, just address equal rights for couples in non-nuclear families

PM Netanyahu has pledged the nation won’t rest until the hero Eli Cohen is returned home to Israel

“Palestinian armed groups” & “local authorities” are named in the report; Hamas’ absence stands out

Dating apps have really changed the way many young Jews approach dating.

The families of those slain even publicly forgave the murderer. Charleston was serene and at peace.

Changing plans needn’t be a frustrating experience. Sometimes the new path proves far more rewarding

Seventy-one members of the Assembly, including Glen Cove Assemblyman Chuck Lavine, who heads the New York chapter of the National Association of Jewish Legislators, joined in the effort to secure a majority to protect the rights of Jewish voters.

Students in New York City schools are protected by publicly funded security guards, so it would seem a no-brainer that students attending non-public schools be similarly protected.

More Articles from Dr. Michelle Orgel

In February, Yachad/the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, an agency of the Orthodox Union, presented NAIM — North American Inclusion Month – as a national initiative to develop sensitivity and knowledge of what it means to live with disabilities and to educate communities on how they can do their part to make sure all Jews are properly included in all aspects of Jewish life.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/disabled-deserve-full-share-in-jewish-life/2010/04/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: