April 4, 2022

New Language for Our Next Century

Marian Marlowe Director of Local Partnerships

Written in collaboration with Rebecca Wanatick, Manager, Community Inclusion & Program Services

Our Federation will be turning 100 next year. It’ll be a moment of celebration and reflection as we take a look back at the many changes our community has experienced and feel gratitude for its many accomplishments. It’ll also be an appropriate time to think about our next 100 years. While none of us can predict the challenges the next century will bring, we can take hold of this moment to consider the future we want to build.

One way our Federation is starting to do this is by continuing a conversation about the language we use when we talk about older adults and individuals with disabilities.

The adjectives we choose signal how we want to be perceived. They should indicate that diversity exists among older people and among those with disabilities, just as it does among the cohorts of GenXers or millennials. Implicit in our language should be the understanding that whether we simply become older, we are born with a disability or we acquire a disability, every one of us is likely to need some assistance at some point in our lives. When we recognize this, we can acknowledge that we all have a stake in how our community treats older adults and people with disabilities – and in how our community describes them.

Recently, Federation prepared materials relating to our Centennial. It listed “Creating a Caring Community” and “Creating a Vibrant Jewish Community” as two causes for which it plans to raise vitally needed funds. Into which of those categories would you put “services/programs for older adults” and “disability/inclusion”? We are proud that here in Greater MetroWest, they fall under “Creating a Vibrant Jewish Community.”

Our Federation believes that people of all ages and all abilities are a part of – and we hope will be contributing members of – a vibrant Jewish community. We need everyone and we recognize that being older or having a disability does not necessarily mean one always needs help. Yes, of course, some seniors and some individuals with disabilities do indeed need care. Our community strives to accept its responsibility in this regard. Some older people are vulnerable; some are not. Some folks with disabilities need our assistance; some do not. We believe that we should not presume an individual’s needs and that the adjectives we choose matter. Federation further believes that all community members should be viewed as having the potential to contribute to the vibrant Jewish community that is Greater MetroWest.

For the next 100 years, we seek to build a community made stronger with the contributions – of ideas, of financial capital, and of day-to-day work – of all its diverse members.