01 September 2023
What does it mean to feel comfortable and included in the Jewish community? What does it mean to be part of a Jewish community that is inclusive and accessible? For some, these questions arise periodically as they seek to engage in new ways. For others, they are a constant concern leading to trepidation and, at times, disengagement. For both reasons, we must continue to focus on inclusion and belonging in all we do as a Greater Washington Jewish community.
The shared Jewish spaces in our region – from synagogues to community centers, summer camps to schools, human service organizations, and every place in between – must be spaces where all who want to engage and connect can find a communal home. This is particularly true as our Jewish community becomes increasingly diverse in its backgrounds, experiences, and needs. Federation is deeply committed to the pursuit of inclusion and belonging in our work and across our partnerships as we seek to strengthen our community, and to building a Jewish Greater Washington where people of all abilities are able to fully participate.
To that end, Federation’s most recent investments included $100,000 in grants to 16 organizations focused on enhancing accessibility, building organizational capacity for disability inclusion efforts, and creating projects to engage young adults with disabilities in Jewish life.
This includes providing support for:
- Capital Camps to assist camp staff members with disabilities who work at camp in the summer and support a new job coach who will be working with them.
- Temple Rodef Shalom to create a Jewish cohort of young adults with disabilities ages 18-40 from different local synagogues to participate in the Empowerment, Advocacy, and Sexuality Education (EASE) program to increase relationships and friendships.
- Sixth & I to provide technology to connect members to live captioning, hire Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) for the High Holidays, and provide additional American Sign Language (ASL) services.
- Edlavitch DCJCC to provide ASL for programs and events, including their annual Gala; Theater J and film festival openings; second night of seder; High Holiday family event, and other programs during the year.
I want to thank the members of Federation’s Disability Inclusion Committee, specifically Naomi Yadin-Mendick, Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, Eva Cowen, and Issie Resti, and our Inclusion & Belonging Specialist, Rinat Kisin, for their vital efforts to make this initiative a reality. Federation could not do this work without the passionate commitment of our lay and professional leaders.
While there is much more to be done to ensure people of all backgrounds and abilities can participate and see themselves in the Jewish community, it’s important to recognize our communal accomplishments as well as our willingness to continue to grow.
I’m proud of and energized by this project and other efforts led by Federation and others to ensure local leaders and organizations are well-equipped to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse community. We must never lose sight of our commitment to ensure that the Jewish community is open and accessible to all who want to be part of it.