Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) is a worldwide effort among Jewish organizations to raise awareness and foster inclusion of people with disabilities. It was established in 2009 and is observed every February. For the more than 40 years that I have been the camp director at the J, inclusion was always a value we held. A quote I have often used is, “Inclusion of kids with disabilities at camp is not a ‘program’ — it is a philosophy and a culture.” Belief in this philosophy is important for all and the experiences children have with all sorts of differences makes them more accepting and welcoming.
Reformjudaism.com is a wonderful place to start learning (or relearning) what Judaism has to say about welcoming. The Reform Jewish Movement’s effort on all diversity and equity is called “Audacious Hospitality” and this effort is making a difference. Here is Audacious Hospitality in text and action:
“In Leviticus, chapter 19, verses 14, we are taught, ‘You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.’ Stumbling blocks come in many forms, from less-than-accessible buildings, Shabbat services, prayer books and web pages to health care that is harder to access or isn’t sufficient for people with disabilities. We are obligated to remove these stumbling blocks; this is why Judaism cares so deeply for the rights of people with disabilities.
“And in the first chapter of Genesis, we read that each of us is created in the image of God. These verses influence Reform Judaism’s commitment to disability rights and to creating Jewish communities that are welcoming and accessible to all. From our work on behalf of disability rights to groundbreaking work on involving people with disabilities and their families in Jewish life, Reform Judaism strives to make each congregation a ‘house of prayer for all people.’ (Isaiah 56:5)”
JDAIM’s mission is “to unite Jewish communities worldwide to raise awareness and champion the rights of all Jews to be accepted and included in all aspects of Jewish life like anyone else.” The purposes of the “designated month” are education, encouragement, advocating and supporting. It is wonderful and necessary and ideally more than a month! Where do we begin? Our children learn to accept others when those who are “different” are in their midst — “This is just my friend!” Let’s start with a month of awareness and opening our eyes to others. Everyone must have a seat at the table.