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On Disability Issues, Let's Move from Intention to Action

On Disability Issues, Let's Move from Intention to Action

In Judaism, intention (kavanah) is most often discussed in relation to prayer. From the Hebrew root meaning to direct, intend, or focus, kavanah can be thought of as the way in which one opens his or her heart to God. Intention enables us to experience prayer as a part of our ongoing relationship with God.

But intention goes beyond prayer in our lives as Jews; intention is also the mindfulness that we bring to our choices, decisions and actions in the world around us. Sometimes we live up to our intentions; sometimes we fall short.

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak of Pshi’scha, taught, “Good intentions alone, if not accompanied by action, are without value, as it is the action which makes the intentions so profound.”

Mindful intention is necessary for the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in our Jewish communities. This, too, is kavanah in the purest sense – opening our hearts to God to see that which is holy and special in each of us.

And yet, as Rabbi Pshi’scha teaches, when it comes to truly including those on the margins of our Jewish communities, we must do more than speak of our intentions; we must act.

As Jewish Disability Awareness Month comes to an end, here are some great resources to help you move from intention to action all year long:

  • Hineinu: This guide is an innovative collaboration of the disability professionals of the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, and Reform Jewish communities to share resources, support, and direction in order to increase disability inclusion in our synagogues for people of all abilities.|
  • Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities, by Shelly Christensen, is an essential resource for Jewish organizations seeking to provide a supportive and inclusive environment for people with disabilities.
  • Zeh LeZeh (For One Another): The blog of the Ruderman Family Foundation brings myriad voices to the discussion on inclusion, living with disability, policy, family, and much more.
  • The New Normal: Blogging Disability: Hosted by the New York Jewish Week, top bloggers and experts in inclusion and disabilities blog about their experiences across the spectrum of Jewish life.

Lisa Friedman is the education co-director at Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, New Jersey. This position includes overseeing an extensive Special Needs program within the Religious School designed to help students successfully learn Hebrew, learn about their Jewish heritage and feel connected to their Jewish community. Lisa also consults with congregations to develop inclusive practices for staff, clergy, and families through dialogue, interactive workshops and awareness training. She blogs at Removing the Stumbling Block.

Lisa Friedman

Published: 2/28/2014

Categories: Jewish Life, Health & Wellness
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