Beth Torah joins Jewish national special needs inclusion initiative

By Ben Tinsley

RICHARDSON — Beri Kaplan Schwitzer, Congregation Beth Torah’s new director of Congregational Learning, recently spoke about how her Conservative synagogue is one of only 16 across the country to join a new initiative to make Jewish communities more inclusive and welcoming to people with special needs.
Schwitzer is talking about the USCJ Ruderman Inclusion Action Community, which involves a partnership between the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the movement’s umbrella organization, and the Ruderman Family Foundation.
In response to being selected, Beth Torah has put together a special group for strategic planning and special needs instruction.
“We will find ways to provide physical, emotional and intellectual support for those with special needs from all areas,” Schwitzer said.
Beth Torah is the only Texas synagogue to be appointed to the committee on the published list. Other members include Peninsula Sinai Congregation of Foster City, California; Congregation Bonai Shalom of Boulder, Colorado; Emanuel Synagogue of West Hartford, Connecticut; and Adas Israel Congregation of Washington, D.C., among others.
The appointment was made a few months back, but the comprehensive list of 16 Conservative congregations seems to have only recently appeared online at
Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue, said in an issued statement also on this site that inclusiveness is definitely important.
“Thanks to the support of the Ruderman Family Foundation, we’ll provide the expertise and consulting that will let congregations enact the vision of one of Judaism’s essential teachings, that each one of us is created in the image of God and each life has intrinsic value,” Rabbi Wernick said.
Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation — also in an issued statement — agreed.
“Working toward the goal of building an inclusive community, our foundation is proud to partner with United Synagogue to help encourage the establishment of inclusive synagogues across North America and thereby making our Jewish community more welcoming for all,” he stated.
Schwitzer agreed.
“We want our students to feel comfortable,” she said.

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