Celebrate Special Needs Awareness Month with JFS
Photo: Lorraine Friedman
Leading Shabbat B’Yachad services are Temple Emanu-El’s Director of Learning and Innovation Rabbi Amy Ross, Institute of Southern Jewish Life Fellow Margo Wagner, song leader Ian Simpson and Associate Director of Learning and Innovation Hannah Rubin-Schlansky. The Feb. 22 Shabbat B’Yachad service is one of many programs scheduled in partnership by JFS for Special Needs Awareness Month and Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month.

Events slated throughout February

By Deb Silverthorn
Hearts flow around the world when February arrives, and locally, those hearts are expanded greatly as Jewish Family Service presents programming to honor Special Needs Awareness Month and Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month. Events are planned to encourage learning, understanding, inclusion, integration and inspiration of, by and for those living with special needs and their families.
“While the special needs movement is a year-round process, February has become a focal point to highlight challenges, to build broader community awareness and to take additional steps to make our community inclusive and engaging for all,” said JFS’ Director of Special Needs Partnership and Programs Lorraine Friedman. “With our community partners,” said Friedman, “we can touch hearts and minds, furthering the mission of awareness, inclusion and empowerment.”
Events are slated across the community all month. They include:
Monday, Feb. 3, 7-9 p.m., at JFS, 5402 Arapaho Road, Dallas
With the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education, JFS presents “When Worry Takes Hold: How Teachers Can Help their Students Cope,” for teachers. JFS clinicians, Drs. Liz Ener and Jamie Smith, will speak about how stress affects learning, implementing targeted strategies and how teachers can help build their students’ emotional resilience and ultimately positively impact learning capacities. To RSVP, email lfriedman@jfsdallas.org.
Friday, Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m., at Congregation Anshai Torah, 5501 Parker Road, Plano
Congregation Anshai Torah hosts Kabbalat Shabbat services with guest speaker, Amy Kelton. Head of upper elementary grades at Shelton School, Kelton, a licensed dyslexia and academic language therapist, will speak about “The World of Exceptionalities: How We Can Help Our Children and Adults Shine.” Dinner will follow services.
“Our world is replete with those who are ‘exceptions to the rule.’ Those exceptionalities are our responsibility and we have so much to learn,” said Anshai Torah’s Rabbi Stefan Weinberg. “We welcome Amy as we deepen our appreciation for those needing our attention, care, love and understanding, reminding ourselves how we can impact their lives and their families.”
RSVP to Congregation Anshai Torah by calling 972-473-7718 or email receptionist@anshaitorah.org.
Wednesday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m., at Studio Movie Grill, 1170 N. Central Expwy., Dallas
“Normie,” a documentary, follows Dallas millennial, Annemarie Carrigan, who is seeking independence and intimacy and grappling with the illusion of normal and the realities of living with Down syndrome. Carrigan and the movie’s producer, Kurt Neale, will follow the screening with a question-and-answer session. To order tickets for the “Normie” screening, email lfriedman@jfsdallas.org.
Saturday, Feb. 22, 11 a.m., at Temple Emanu-El, 8500 Hillcrest Road, Dallas
Temple Emanu-El invites the community to Shabbat B’Yachad, a “no shush” service for all including those for whom attending traditional services might be challenging. Standing, jumping, sitting on beanbag chairs are all part of bringing more shalom into Shabbat.
“We are honored to serve all the families of our community. We want to be a part of the Jewish journey of those who have special needs and their families and help them find their connection to God and this incredible community we share,” said Rabbi Amy Ross, Temple Emanu-El’s director of Learning and Innovation, who oversees Youth Learning + Engagement. “We invite everyone in our community to come and pray with us, come and sing with us, come and be a part of community without any of the concerns that might keep them away from a typical service. Together we find joy, and that is something everyone can share in.”
Sunday, Feb. 23, 3-4:30 p.m., at Shearith Israel, 9401 Douglas Ave., Dallas
The Celebration for ALL Abilities is an afternoon of activities including arts and crafts, games, dancing and bingo. The afternoon is presented by Special Needs Partnership of Jewish Family Service, Shearith Israel, Friendship Circle and Yachad. To RSVP for the Celebration for ALL Abilities, email Sarah Lipinsky at slipinsky@shearith.org.
“We are excited to once again share with our partners as we created this event to help bring Jewish people of all abilities together within the broader Dallas community to foster friendships in a welcoming, inclusive space,” said Sarah Lipinsky, Congregation Shearith Israel’s director of education. “We’re bringing back favorite activities and it is an event not to be missed.”
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at Temple Emanu-El, 8600 Hillcrest Road, Dallas
Parents, educators and all faith leaders are invited to JFS’ Faith Inclusion Network of Dallas (FIND) symposium. The collaboration of churches, synagogues and mosques will identify exemplary programs and create awareness, benefiting those living with special needs, within all faith communities. To register for the FIND symposium ($65 includes kosher lunch), visit find2020.org.
Building and creating awareness and understanding, sensitivity and inclusion and empathy and compassion, JFS’ Inclusion Experience, a hands-on, multisensory simulation, allows participants to experience realities faced by people with specific disabilities. With year-round scheduling available, BBYO International Convention goers, members of JFS’ Young Leadership Board and Temple Shalom Religious School students will participate in February.
“For more than a decade, JFS’ Special Needs Partnership has been convening Dallas institutions to drive a culture change in how we include people with special needs in our community,” said JFS’ CEO Cathy Barker. “We’re gratified that many of our schools and religious institutions have special needs resources, programs and budgets to enable us to be successful.”

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