February 1, 2023

Reflections on 14 Years of Inclusion Work

Rebecca Wanatick, Ed.M. Director, Disability Inclusion & Belonging

This year as we begin Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month (JDAIM), I’d like to take some time to reflect on the last 14 years we have honored JDAIM, both nationally and in our Greater MetroWest community.  

JDAIM brings together Jewish communities worldwide to raise awareness of the rights of all Jews to be accepted and included in all aspects of Jewish and community life. This national vision directly mirrors the work of our Federation through Greater MetroWest ABLE, the Federation department whose mission is to create and support a Jewish community in which all members have opportunities to meaningfully participate in all aspects of Jewish communal life.   

We have come a long way over the last 14 years in building a more inclusive Jewish community in which members feel a sense of belonging and we have a lot to be proud of!   

  • Families have the opportunity to have their children educated in their home congregations because we have community congregations that have made inclusion a priority by engaging children with diverse learning needs in their religious school and youth group programming. “Synagogue outreach by ABLE has opened doors to people with disabilities that had previously been unavailable,” said a synagogue leader. “Many more synagogue options are available now for inclusive worship experiences, as are training and resources for our teachers as they welcome children with learning differences into their religious school classrooms.” 
  • Our Federation prioritizes creating an inclusive community and plans events with an inclusive eye, accommodating the needs of community members so that they can more meaningfully participate in programs and events.  
  • Hundreds of teens have participated in inclusion training to better support their peers and children across the community. One teen shared, “I was able to learn new ways to deal with difficult and challenging situations. I also learned ways to make sure everyone was feeling included in the classroom.” 
  • More than 100 parents and professionals have participated in mental health awareness training to better support community members and know how to access support. One educator recently shared, “I just wanted to say how helpful the training has been for me – in speaking with students and identifying a need for a quiet moment as well. I never would have felt as comfortable without this training!” 
  • Individuals with disabilities have opportunities to meaningfully participate in synagogue life, competitive employment, and social and recreational programming, and are welcomed as active and contributing members of our Jewish community.   

These are just a few examples of how our Greater MetroWest community has grown into a more inclusive Jewish community over the past 14 years.   

We’re taught in Pirke Avot 2:5, “Do not separate yourself from the community.” As we begin to celebrate Federation’s first 100 years this summer, I am proud to share that our Centennial Mission will include members of our JSDD and JESPY communities, making our mission to Israel reflective of who we are as an inclusive community. Being a part of a community means that we each have the opportunity to gain from and give to others. I’m looking forward to experiencing the Centennial Mission with our diverse community members, learning with them and from them.  

For more information on all the ways our community congregations and Greater MetroWest partners are honoring JDAIM this year, please visit our JDAIM webpage and join us throughout the month. Come out and meet members of our community, socialize with and learn together. We are certainly stronger and better together!