Empowering Young Adults: A Closer Look at Federation’s Impact on Disability Inclusion

This Jewish Disability Acceptance, Awareness, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), Federation’s Inclusion and Belonging Specialist, Rinat Kisin, is diving into our year-round work to build an inclusive and accessible Jewish community with a focus on disability inclusion.

In June 2023, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington announced our first-ever grant program to specifically support the inclusion of young adults with disabilities in Jewish spaces. The program aims to support organizations serving young adults to build their capacity and confidence in disability inclusion, bridge the gap between their values of inclusion and practice of inclusion, and remove barriers to participation for young adults with disabilities in their organization. Federation granted 16 organizations from across Greater Washington a total of $100,000 to support these initiatives.

“As our Jewish community becomes increasingly diverse in its backgrounds, experiences, and needs, it is imperative we continue to create space where all who want to engage and connect can find a communal home in Jewish Greater Washington. Federation’s investment helps organizations directly respond to the needs of the community and ensures people of all abilities are able to fully participate.”
–Federation CEO, Gil Preuss

As part of this grant program, Federation supported the Friendship Circle Young Adults Division Program, making a significant contribution to the program’s development. Friendship Circle is a community-based volunteer organization dedicated to offering friendship and acceptance to children, teens, and young adults with special needs regardless of their disability, while empowering teenage and young adult volunteers by building their leadership skills as we foster the values of altruism and volunteerism.

Photo courtesy of Friendship Circle

Seeing a need for opportunities for young adults aging out of existing programs and facing limited social options, Friend Circle created this initiative to meet that need. Federation’s grant helped the organization continue to grow the program, increasing participation by 15% in the first year by re-engaging past participants and welcoming new ones. They also saw a remarkable 50% increase in volunteer recruitment and retention, ensuring a consistent volunteer presence.

Federation’s grants also provided 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.

Federation is currently collecting data and information from these programs that will help us continue to focus on young adults with disabilities.

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. 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.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series discussing current and ongoing programs and initiatives to help create a more accessible Jewish community for those with disabilities.

Explore JDAIM resources