This February is the ninth annual Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). While many of the resources and contributions on this site are from a Christian perspective, there is also a richness of thought and insight from the Jewish community at the intersection of Disability and Faith. This month we hope to feature some of those insights. We look forward to your engagement, whichever faith perspective you represent!

On February 1st, Shelly Christensen wrote Change Your Thinking: A #JDAIM17 Call to Action for The New York Jewish Week. Shelly is the co-founder of Inclusion Innovations and JDAIM and wrote the Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with DisabilitiesHer new book, From Longing to Belonging: Empowering Faith Communities to Include People with Disabilitiesis due out in 2017. Shelly is also the Immediate Past President of the Religion and Spirituality Division of AAIDD.

In Change Your ThinkingChristensen describes the beauty of the community seder celebrated for people with disabilities, “The seders were lively, engaging affairs, with lots of music and singing of familiar traditional prayers and songs. I thought it was a great model for any seder because it truly engaged the attendees.” Reflecting on her time as community inclusion manager at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in Minneapolis, though, Christensen dreams of the day when this experience of accessible worship cascades into all aspects of community:

“What if the opportunities to experience the joy of community and the familiarity of long-ago learned rituals were open to them at any time, just like anyone else…Imagine if all of these people could participate in synagogue seders or at peoples’ homes. What if we didn’t have a community Seder at all for them? And what if they actually belonged to a congregation where they could go to services, study, participate and most important, feel that they belong?”

JDAIM is a month that looks forward to this reality, a reality where people with disabilities find true belonging in all faith communities. It is an opportunity to structure “action that moves our organizations from simply including people to creating a culture where people know they belong.”

I encourage you to read the full post over at the NY Jewish Week. You can follow along with JDAIM on Facebook or find numerous resources at www.JDAIM.org.

These include:

  • A JDAIM Program Guide
  • Style book with logos
  • JDAIM Reads! – A book club with author interviews, discussion guides, and previous selections
  • Information about My Hero Brother, the film selection along with recorded intro and talkbacks for the film.

Today, the Jewish Sacred Aging site posted a Podcast where Christensen discusses JDAIM. Not long ago they featured her post, JDAIM: Lessons Learned From the Sandwich Generation. Shelly has been an advocate and mother to Jacob, who lives with Asperger syndrome, for many years. He has gone to college and now lives a very independent life. In this article, Christensen reflects, “And now I find myself engaged in a similar journey with Mom, but with striking differences. I can only hope that I am as good an advocate and partner with her as I’ve been with my own child.”

We hope you will take some time to check out these excellent reflections and resources on what it can look like to welcome people with disabilities into Jewish faith communities, life, and practice! Thanks to Shelly Christensen for her continued work in advocating for others. Stay tuned, as we hope to offer a guest post from Shelly before the end of the month!

About Keith Dow

Husband, father, and thinker serving people with exceptional needs in Canada's capital and throughout Ontario. Connect with Keith on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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